Biophilia? What’s That??

Literally, the term “biophilia” means “love of life or living systems”, or the extent to which humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life.

A growing number of organizations from Google to the federal government are incorporating nature into their office blueprints, not just to earn more green building certification points but to reduce employee stress, encourage creativity, and improve cognitive function. Workstations with views of nature, as well as interior waterfalls, aquariums, and living walls are all playing a major role in recognizing the human factor, and our need to be connected to nature, as well as a need for wonder and awe in our lives.Nature has the potential to amaze us, stimulate us, and to propel us forward to want to learn more and understand our world more fully. Nature adds a kind of wonder value to our lives unlike almost anything else.

The biophilic design movement emerged in the 1980s, and interest has accelerated in the past six to eight months, especially among the high-tech and healthcare sectors, with designs focusing on the people rather than the design of the building.

Tangible financial benefits are beginning to emerge as well. Using healthcare again as a specific example: research has shown that hospitals can shorten the amount of time patients spend convalescing by providing them a view of trees or other elements of nature from their beds. Financial benefit can be seen in real estate values and hotel room pricing as well. Rooms with a view of the parking lot are considerably less expensive than the rooms with ocean views.

Google has a strong interest in biophilic design, with the company having issued guidelines for designing sunlight and fresh air into workplaces wherever possible, according to Anthony Ravitz, Google’s real estate and workplace services green team lead. “We’ve found that Googlers with desks closer to windows are more likely to feel that their work environment lets them be more productive and sparks creativity,” he wrote. “This feedback reinforces our belief that building design helps reduce stress levels, increase creativity and improve performance, and we’ll continue finding ways to measure and support this.”