Biophilia is on trend for 2019! In with the living walls, natural tableaus and technicolor, landscape windows. It’s an exciting time to be a plant lover!
But biophilia is more than just a fad to get in a couple of cacti, which will be turfed-out in favour of an over-elaborate lamp next year. There’s a growing body of research to back up the benefits of biophilic design us humans. Bill Browning, of New York’s architecture and design firm of Terrapin Bright Green, has become a leading authority on the subject. He outlines a great many of his theories, speculations and findings in this extensive post, but for a great distillation of his corporate research check out Sophie Barton’s post from this last week over at Work In Mind.
There Barton suggestion that a biophilic workspace can reduce absences due to illness by almost 20%. Similar data for biophilic recovery spaces in hospitals suggests a reduction in recovery times at and average of 12%.
Oliver Heath is a UK expert in biophilic design; not only does he cite an 8.5% reduction in recovery times on this side of the Pond, but a 22% reduction in pain medication! And it’s not just less pain and faster healing; education services report 20-25% improvement in test scores and reduced impact of ADHD, hotels can charge as much as 23% more per room while retail and home-owners can expect somewhere in the order of a 10% increase in value.
Where Oliver’s data is coming from isn’t clear, but let’s take it at face value and instead ask…
Right well, Scientists have a theory. There is a measurable, calming influence that nature has upon us. Even an image of a natural vista (displayed to a test subject in an MRI scanner) can be seen to soothe the pre-frontal cortex and trigger the body’s natural abilities to heal and relax.
Barton claims this positive effect can be achieved with as little as 40 seconds exposure to ‘natural elements’. Stress levels are reduced and cognitive capacity is enhanced.
We’re exceptionally lucky here in London: this is literally one of the greenest megacities on the planet! 40% of its surface area made up of publicly accessible green spaces. Around the corner from even the most built-up areas, you’re likely to find a park or square to sit and catch your breath. But what’re you to do if your office isn’t a biophilic dreamscape and you’re too busy to get out of the office?
Barton believes that even the smallest ‘natural habitats’ can trigger our bodies natural response to de-stress. Bonsai trees and terrariums are great options for space-sensitive spaces if you need to restore your focus, one 40 second escape at a time.
We suspect that a small, beautifully designed biodiverse green wall may have more impact than a giant green wall planted as a monoculture.Bill Barton
Aside from the potential mindfulness-like calming and centring, there’s the boosted oxygen, the added colour and texture, and subconsciously the hint that, if a plant can survive here, so can you.
If you’re lucky enough to be designing a space, then the world is your deliciously sustainable oyster!
Try picture, bay and full-length windows to draw the outside in with a well-framed vista and allow natural light. Give yourself ceiling heights and columns that allow for indoor palms and vines. Got a bland, flat wall? There are now numerous living walls options, designed to make those striking features as achievable as possible. Desks and side-tables? All deserve a green touch. No surface? No problem: hanging baskets!
The ways of bringing biophilic touches into new and existing designs are as plentiful as there are species to adopt.
But be sure you do adopt! Don’t go artificial or fill your home with vases of decaying flowers! True biophilia is about surrounding yourself with life!
Yes, that means remembering to water (and not over water) the plants in your care. It’s a challenge (that we regularly fail), but a rewarding one: emotionally, psychologically, physically and even financially (in as much as you might be more productive, at least).
So get potting!
And if you need some inspiration on which plant varieties can give you the highest impact with the lowest maintenance, we’ve collected all our favourite species here.