5 ways you can imbibe natural elements into the built environment

Surrender yourself to nature’s tranquillity and the kind of relaxation you will get is par excellence. Ever run along the seashore or did hiking in the mountains? Ever felt at ease by the side of a vast ocean or walked around a lush green forest? If spending your time outside lifts your mood, this is an article for you!

Nature has been all around us till time immortal. It is with us even today, but in a totally different manner. Today, around 54% of the population of the world reside in an urban setup which is estimated to increase to a whopping 66% by the end of 2050. That amounts to 2/3rd of the total population of the world! Usually, people spend 93% of their time within the four walls of a premise, away from the elements of nature. Well, this is nothing but merely the result of our unhealthy lifestyle. As you get more towards urbanization, people spend more and more time indoors, minimizing their daily interaction with quality nature. Eventually, this is blessing us with the potential to experience psychological and physiological damage it is causing. But how can we reverse this damage and contribute to our well-being? – The answer is Biophilic Design!

What is biophilic design?

Biophilic Design is a strategic approach of tapping in nature in the already built up environment. The biophilia hypothesis suggest that majority of the humans have an inborn love for nature – so much so that they miss it and can even develop health issues if they aren’t able to connect with it. This is where biophilic design helps. It is an applied solution to soothe this yearning for nature by involving natural elements and processes into the built environment. The best part is, you can implement the Biophilic design anywhere, at the community, building, or small-project level. And if done correctly, the design should generate positivity and well-being to the ones around it.

So, what’s the challenge?

The biggest challenges lie in defining the biophilic design and envisaging people’s response to its various opportunities. Numerous researchers have characterized biophilic design and acknowledged the biophilic space according to their beliefs and perceptions. However, the two of them, Stephen Kellert and Elizabeth Calabrese, recently divided strategies into three major experiences that include:

  • direct experience of nature,
  • indirect experience of nature, and
  • experience of space and place.

Direct experiences of nature

In the built environment, direct experiences of nature imply to any aspect that connects you directly with green elements. It can be plants, light, water, natural air movement, etc. It can be anything related to healthier greens. So, while working for clients from any sector, education, healthcare or industrial, we should focus on bring such green elements to their work environment.

— Plants are healthy and having more and more plants is good. Researches have proved that plants are living organisms and help enhance creativity, performance, and productivity- things everyone wants to increase in their office as well as home environments.

— Having the beautiful views of direct nature and experiencing daylight also strongly impacts the psychology. In 1984, Roger Ulrich conducted a study that suggested that healthcare patients with views of green nature recovered faster than those viewing a brick wall.

—In biophilic designs, water and airflow also play a crucial role. Creating a natural ambience involves these two elements and should be carefully chosen.

Since the individual buildings form a larger community, we should immediately start addressing these issues and try to incorporate nature in our daily experiences.

Indirect experience of nature

Where direct experience of nature is obvious, there are also various opportunities to experience nature through indirect elements in a biophilic design. This is where it gets exciting! It includes things like natural materials including wood and earth, or even images of nature, etc. Indirect experiences are excellent solutions to spaces where plants are not wanted or a natural view is not possible.

— The prospect and refuge approach creating a shelter for those who don’t want to be seen by others. This includes people who like seeing people but may dislike not having a shelter, more so against their backs.

— The biophilic experience is multi-sensory with sounds and smells contributing to it. Though most of the research focuses on the visual sense, natural sounds and smells also play a significant role in building design and operations.

Indirect experiences are not always controllable. They can only be beneficial, when the specific location, user group, and duration have all been carefully considered and analysed with respect to the usage and benefits.

Ways to bring nature to work

Now that we know the importance of building nature into the environment, let us have a look at the various tips and tricks to easily include them in the built-up work environment.

  1. Keep the blinds open: Though there might be glare at certain times the day, one should keep the blinds open and remember to open them up again after the glare is gone.
  2. Buy a plant (or more): Invest in a good plant like peace lilies, snake plants, etc. and you will thank me later for that. This corner is going to be the center of your attention whenever your eyes need wander over greenery, and your mind demands relaxation.
  3. Use the images of nature for decoration: Including awe-inspiring images of nature evokes curiosity to learn.
  4. Listen to natural sounds of running water or airflows: This is sure to bring tranquillity to your workplace but make sure to use headphones! After all, you won’t like to disturb your neighbour, right?
  5. Get outside: Move from your desk and experience the outer air. Though it doesn’t affect the workstation any bit, but it definitely affects you, that too in a larger amount. Sitting at the same place the entire day makes you dull. Even a 20-minute walk will help you in performing better and having a sound sleep at night.