Spending time in nature makes us happier. Fact. So much so that a large-scale Danish study cited by NASA, no less, in 2019 found that people with the least access to green spaces were up to 55% more likely to develop a range of psychiatric disorders within their lifetime.
Why, then, do we keep nature outside? This is a question – and problem – that biophilic design seeks to address, and it’s central to what we do here at Volume. So here’s a brief introduction to biophilic design, why it makes us feel good and how we use it as a creative philosophy when we make our beautiful, bespoke interiors and products.
What is biophilic design?
The word “biophilia” describes our innate human instinct to connect with nature. Which we are, after all, a part of, despite increasingly segregating ourselves from it since the industrial revolution. Biophilic design, simply put, intends to reconnect us with nature. And that’s important since fostering a nature-health relationship has been found to improve our brain function, mood, attention span and overall psychological and physiological well-being.
Conversely, the unnatural way we’ve designed our living and working environments can have a detrimental effect on our health – an overstimulated nervous system and overproduction of stress hormones leading to all sorts of ailments, from anxiety to poor concentration to fatigue and high blood pressure.
Biophilic design is based on three core elements:
Nature in space
This refers to introducing natural elements, such as plants, water, light, sounds etc., into an indoor environment to bring about some of the same feelings and physical benefits we get from being outside.
Nature of space
This relates to how a space is designed to echo the great outdoors. So, for example, designing buildings with large windows for capturing views and including light, dark and quiet spaces to create different sensory experiences.
This denotes the use of natural materials, i.e. wood, stone, etc., and also shape, form and texture to mirror nature’s imperfect beauty – something that’s firmly embedded in our responsibly designed products and objects.
Why does biophilic design make us feel good?
It’s a bit of a no-brainer that feeling more at one with our origins makes us happier. And research strongly suggests that living alongside nature plays a significant role in our general health. Bringing plants, water, light and scents that mirror natural environments into indoor spaces, for example, has wellness-boosting impacts that include but aren’t limited to:
- Reduced blood pressure and heart rate
- Improved attentiveness
- Better cognitive function
- Reduced stress hormones
- Self-perceived improvement in mental health
- Increased sense of comfort
- Improved circadian rhythm
- Better concentration
So with that in mind and in a world with increasingly fragile natural systems, it’s essential that biophilic design principles are adopted when imagining indoor environments and even the objects that live within them. It can serve as a bridge between us and nature, thus boosting our willingness to protect it, and as a powerful tool for improving our physical and emotional health.
How do we use biophilic design principles at Volume?
Since day dot, everything we’ve done at Volume and Spared has placed nature front and centre. Needing to acknowledge that we’re part of something bigger and have a duty to preserve and restore it is why we founded the companies in the first place.
Whether we’re building a bespoke interior project for a client or creating a piece of furniture from waste materials, we’re fostering a sense of reciprocity with the natural world and, ultimately, a desire to be an agent of change and design for the greater good.
Some of the biophilic design principles we use in our process are:
Showcasing natural irregularities – elements that remind us of nature’s imperfections, which we think are gorgeous
Materiality – honouring natural materials and bringing their uniqueness and tactility to the fore, amplified by organic shapes
Views, airflow and context – bringing what nature does best to interior spaces and making a building part of the landscape rather than separate from it
We’re in continual conversation with our customers about how we can put nature first when we develop a project because this always ends in a better, healthier user experience.
And what we hope to do as we grow is bring biophilic design to the table as a bigger topic – in the same way that sustainability is on everyone’s lips at the moment – because the two are far stronger when they’re applied together. Bringing the outside in can help people embrace the idea of connectedness and planetary guardianship, and we need that now more than ever.