Reconnecting our built environment to nature

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University of Wollongong

Biophilic design is based on the theory of ‘biophilia’ which contends that human health and well-being has a biologically based need to affiliate with nature. When this physiological theory is related to both our indoor and outdoor living spaces, it can be said that the modern architectural movement in the twentieth century inherently contradicted physical and natural processes of human physiology by imposing an artificial sense on the built environment.

Over the past millennium, the creation of places has reflected society’s aspirations; indeed the process of building is a political act. The major events of the twentieth century including two major world conflicts had a substantial effect on our relationship with nature, disrupting us from natural processes and cycles.

In redressing this balance, over the past last twenty years studies have linked interactions with nature with positive gains in learning and living. In relation to learning;

A recent study by American author Richard Louv says that when students learn about any topic in an outdoor setting – including those unrelated to the environment – they perform better.

“A study under way in California right now has shown that kids learning science, but in a mountain setting, did 26 per cent better on testing,” he says. ”Education research indicates that when nature is included in the curriculum, student achievement levels rise in core academic areas, including reading, maths and science, there is also a reduction in discipline problems and symptoms of [Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder].

In other words, contemporary biophilic design seeks to re-connect the built environment with nature through specific strategies

Human beings are designed to be at one with nature. We are at our happiest most energized, most alive and most productive when we embrace and have a positive relationship with the natural world. This concept is known as biophilia and it is one that can change learning and living spaces for the better.

The reduction of energy use of buildings is essential for a sustainable future and this strategy can go hand in hand with the principles of biophillia where the improvement of the conditions in which students for example learn, work, play incorporates the benefits of natural daylight and ventilation. These factors have been proven to improve student’s ability to learn.

Why is it important?

It is becoming more generally understood that people who feel more comfortable are more productive There is significant quantitative data that confirm the main points of the biophilia hypothesis, showing that greater contact with natural elements such as sunlight, outdoor air, and living plants has been linked to increased productivity in workers, improvement in learning rates in students, and reduced stress, faster recovery time, and decreased use of painkillers in patients. Additionally, many biophilic strategies also reduce energy use: More natural light means less power needed for artificial light.


Sustainability Monstor -Archinect

The Sydney Morning Herald


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