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Bring nature in and enjoy the benefits

Written by
Amy Earley

What’s cooler and better for you than a hipster’s lightly-chilled Mason jar of kale-infused organic kombucha?

Why biophilic design, of course.

Pardon? Bio what?

Unless you are an architect or an office plant specialist, you may be unaware of this design movement, but it’s becoming a major force.

Biophilic design brings nature indoors in a way that improves our physical and mental health. Green walls and office plants are part of it, but the philosophy and principles go way beyond that.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, back in 1973 psychoanalyst Erich Fromm described biophilia as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive”.

The term was later used by US biologist Edward O. Wilson in his work Biophilia (1984), which suggested the tendency of humans to relate to nature has some genetic basis.

Biophilic design, which developed out of these ideas, incorporates natural materials, natural light, vegetation, and other links to the natural world.

One of the experts in the field, Stephen R. Kellert, said: "The fundamental goal of biophilic design is to create good habitat for people as biological organisms inhabiting modern structures, landscapes, and communities."

So plants, natural light, fresh air, natural materials … it seems a pretty obvious way to make life better, right? But if this is such a no-brainer, why do so many of us still work in such depressing places? No one wants to spend their working day in a dingy, viewless office that stinks of acrylic carpet and photocopier fumes, but many of us do.

But at least employers are beginning to realise the benefits of creating a healthier, more productive workplace, while biophilic design is also being incorporated into public projects.

Melbourne’s five new Metro stations have been designed with biophilic principles in mind.

Dr Phillip Roös, a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Deakin University, was principal technical advisor for sustainability to the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority when its Metro Tunnel Project went out to tender and championed an innovative approach to the underground stations’ design.

“This isn’t just about low-impact features like green power or water recycling, it is also recognising that humans are drawn to the patterns inherent in living things, so if we can create something that follows these rules of nature, humans will benefit as well as the planet,” he told Australian Design Review.

“By connecting us with nature, we believe biophilic design can reduce stress, improve well-being, help us think clearer and even assist with self-healing.”

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