World Transformation: Biophilia
picture 13 Jun 2004 @ 11:32, by ming

From WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: One design methodology that's gaining popularity in the green movement is "Biophilia". It's not a new idea--Edward O Wilson first proposed it twenty years ago--but in the last few years studies have begun to be done, showing it has significant and measurable effects on people's state of mind. The idea is that people function best in environments like the ones we evolved in, with other life around and with spaces that are more like habitats than like Cartesian boxes. Biophilia dovetails perfectly with green building because it involves giving buildings natural lighting and outdoor air, plants, water, and generally blurring the boundaries between building and landscape. Furthermore, it gives green building more of a soul than merely improving HVAC and fluorescent lighting.

In biophilic spaces, patients recover more quickly, students learn better, retail sales are higher, workplace productivity goes up, and absenteeism goes down. Sometimes the differences are up to 15 or 20%, which is huge (and retail sales can increase by a staggering 40% just from daylighting); in many workplace environments, the financial gains from even a 10% increased worker productivity can pay for a green retrofit two or three times over. This is a much more effective bargaining tool than energy savings, as most offices spend 100 to 1000 times the amount of money on salaries as they do on building energy.

Some success stories for Biophilia include Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (widely considered the most important piece of American architecture in the last hundred years), ING Bank headquarters in Amsterdam (where absenteeism went down 15%), and Village Homes in Davis, California (which local real estate brochures describe as “Davis’s most desirable subdivision”). A Rocky Mountain Institute article describes it further:

Judith Heerwagen... and Prof. Gordon Orians... surveyed people in a variety of cultures and locations around the world to see if there were a preferred image of landscape. What they and others found is that people prefer landscapes that have copses of trees with horizontal canopies, water, elevation changes, distant views, flowers, indications of other people or inhabited structures—all elements that indicate possible food, shelter, and places to explore (or, as Heerwagen and Gordon Orians describe it in The Biophilia Hypothesis, “habitability cues, resource availability, shelter and predator protection, hazard cues, wayfinding and movement”)...

biophilic [building] design attributes include:
- the use of dynamic and diffuse daylight,
- the ability to have frequent, spontaneous and repeated contact with nature throughout and between buildings,
- the use of local, natural materials,
- a connection between interior and exterior surfaces,
- natural ventilation,
- a direct physical connection to nature from interior spaces, and
- direct visual access to nature from interior spaces.

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