How Can Biophilic Design Improve Modern Life?

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Britons are having a love affair with plants. From terrariums and cacti to Living Walls and hanging baskets, they want to tap into their affinity with nature. With urbanisation making the natural world more difficult to access, biophilic design is reconnecting people to nature in built environments.

There’s always been an understanding that being outside is ‘good for us’, but in February 2019, a landmark study proved that growing up in green spaces can reduce the risk of mental health issues. Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark studied data on almost one million Danes born between 1985 and 2013, finding that being raised without green space can increase the risk of developing mental health problems by 55%. The hunches began in the 1980s, when American biologist Edward. O. Wilson noticed that people moving from rural areas to city centres were experiencing physiological and psychological problems. Fast forward to 2019 and people are realising it’s not just childhood that is positively affected by nature. Businesses are wising up to the benefits of biophilic design which – as Oliver Heath, an expert in sustainable architecture and interior design, outlines – is a “framework of ideas that have been put together to allow us to improve the human connection to nature in buildings.”

Airspaces – described as diffused workspaces to coincide with elements of a home – has blazed the trail in liberating offices from their dull constraints. But today, it’s biophilic design elements that are everywhere. From bedrooms and boardrooms to airports and restaurants, people and brands are bringing Mother Nature into their interior spaces. By adding cacti (sales of which grew 34% through 2018), potted plants, natural light, or weathered wood, Britons – who spend 92% of their time inside throughout the week – are looking to reconnect with nature.

Sustainability is essential for many. The UK has declared a ‘climate emergency’ amid rising eco-conscious sentiments – 92% of Britons have even said that minimising their impact on the environment is important. But with only a third of people thinking they are likely to make future lifestyle changes to protect the environment, acting sustainably comes with its own set of challenges. That being said, people arelooking to reconnect in personal ways when possible. According to YouGov, the number of adults who visit nature at least once a week increased from 54% in 2010 to 62% in 2018. With two thirds of British adults experiencing a mental health problem in their lifetime, could biophilic design help reunite people with nature and, ultimately, improve the quality of their lives?

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