The idea of biophilic design is not particularly novel; it has roots in the research of biologists Edward O. Wilson and psychologist Erich Fromm. Wilson in the 1970s. According to Fromm, people are innately drawn to nature, and a lack of that connection can have negative effects on both the physical and mental well-being of people. Wilson coined the term "biophilia" to describe this innate love of nature.
Stephen Kellert, an architect and author, started looking into the idea of biophilia in design and architecture in the 1980s. The health, happiness, and productivity of occupants could be increased, according to Kellert, by incorporating natural elements into buildings and spaces. He suggested that biophilic design should include elements like natural ventilation, water features, and views of the outdoors.
Cradle to cradle design, which aimed to create structures and products that were not only sustainable but also regenerative to the environment, was developed in the 1990s by the architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart. They claimed that biophilic design was a crucial component of this strategy because it would aid in the creation of structures that were more in tune with the natural world.
Because of the public's and the media's growing awareness of climate change and sustainability, biophilic design has attracted a lot of attention. Due to the convergence of the global pandemic, mass resignations, and global inflation in the previous two years, there has also been a significant emphasis on mental health. It is important to emphasise how nature and natural designs can play an important role in supporting our endeavours to solve many of our modern challenges above.
In terms of sustainability/biodiversity, mental health and human performance, biophilic design offers a number of advantages, including:
Benefits to sustainability:
- Reducing energy use: By providing natural light, ventilation, and shade, biophilic design can help buildings use less energy by reducing the need for artificial lighting, heating, and cooling.
- Air quality improvement: By removing pollutants and bringing in fresh air, the addition of plants and natural ventilation can help to improve indoor air quality.
- Water conservation: Biophilic design can incorporate water-saving elements like rainwater collection, green roofs, and water-efficient landscaping to cut down on water use and help protect this precious resource.
- Supporting local ecosystem: By incorporating native plants and providing habitat for nearby wildlife, biophilic design can aid in supporting local ecosystem thereby boosting urban biodiversity (it can also as an advocacy for biodiversity appreciation).
Benefits to mental health and human performance:
- Stress reduction: Biophilic design, which incorporates natural elements that have a calming effect on the human psyche, has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall well-being.
- Productivity: By minimizing distractions and fostering mental clarity, biophilic design can also aid in increasing productivity.
- Creativity enhancement: Studies have shown that exposure to nature and natural elements can improve cognitive function, problem-solving abilities, and creativity.
- Enhancing physical well-being: Biophilic design can also benefit one's physical well-being by lowering blood pressure, enhancing sleep, and enhancing the immune system.
While it is becoming less common for management to not recognize that content, healthy, and motivated employees produce the best work, it is still crucial to present a business case for the financial justification of implementing biophilic designs in the workplace. The effectiveness and profitability of contemporary corporations can be enhanced by biophilic design in a number of ways:
- Corporate saving: Biophilic design has been demonstrated to improve employee satisfaction and will-being, which can result in increased productivity and decreased turnover rates. Companies may save money as a result of enhanced tenure and reduce rehiring/retraining new employees.
- Enhanced customer satisfaction: Biophilic design can also increase customer satisfaction because people are more likely to feel at ese and relaxed in environment that feature natural elements. It may also result in more repeat business and customer loyalty.
- Enhanced brand image: Corporations that use biophilic design in their structures and environments can gain from a better perception of their brands as being more socially and environmentally conscious.
- Improved energy efficiency: Biophilic design can help buildings use less energy, which can save businesses money (and enhanced sustainability) by lowering their utility bills and maintenance expenses.
- Improved creativity: Biophilic design has been demonstrated to increase creativity (as mentioned before) and innovation, which is critical in today’s competitive environment. Such innovation can bring forth greater revenue and margins (profitability).
The aforementioned amply demonstrates how biophilic design can give forward-thinking corporations a competitive advantage by nearly all aspects of value creation, including creating long-term customer satisfaction. Businesses can gain a number of advantages that can enhance their long-term success and profitability by designing healthy, useful, and sustainable buildings and spaces.
To read more about biophilic design in ASEAN/Asia, here are some references you might want to consider:
- "Biophilic design as a paradigm shift in tropical Asia" https://blog.interface.com/en-au/biophilic-design-asia/
- "Sacred Sustainability: Singapore Greening and Biophilic Design" https://thediplomat.com/2021/04/sacred-sustainability-singapore-greening-and-biophilic-design/
- "Biophilic Design Case Studies" https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/report/biophilic-design-case-studies/
illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.
Alex Hong has more than 20 years of professional experience in the education space (Executive, Tertiary Education) and has led cross-tertiary education teams in development, curation, faculty/programme management and business development in multiple education and eLearning projects. He is actively involved in the Climate/Biodiversity/ESG-related business matchmaking and conferences regionally. Alex is recognised as LinkedIn’s Top Voices (Green) in Singapore 2022. Alex was appointed as the Global Blockchain Business Council's (GBBC) Ambassador of Southeast Asia. Alex is part of the Youth Networking Business Committee of Asia (YNBC) and was appointed the Chief Sustainable Coordinator, overseeing the development of sustainable activities in the network. He is also been recently appointed the 1st Global Ambassador in Singapore for Ideax Ventures, a global consulting firm for technology, innovation and finance. He actively contributes to his community by volunteering as a mentor for a Singapore-based start-up incubator.