Biophilia is the idea that humans are genetically drawn to nature, that we are happier and healthier when feeling connected to the natural world. This brings forward another question; why are we drawn to the spaces that we are and how has evolution shaped that?

The Savannah Hypothesis discusses how our ancestors left the woodlands and went to the savannah (believed to not be a grassland but a beautiful mosaic of environments). This is where our evolution started and where the shift to walking on two legs began. It is believed that we find comfort in things that innately remind us of the savannah. Biophilia is important for so many spaces and has huge benefits for everyone involved. It has shown to have faster healing times in health care, increase test scores in school, and make people more likely to purchase a product in a retail environment.

Working to create a biophilic space is more than natural light and plants. It can also involve the choice of fabrics, sounds, smells, and images. Nature has math whether that be a fractal repeating pattern like a snowflake, fern, or ocean wave. This also includes contour orientation like grass, or animal fur, if you move the line orientation by a few degrees it targets a different set of neurons.

Masking sounds in ones environment helps in so many ways. As humans our brain constantly tune out noises, our ears pick up more than we register, and this is very distracting, so white noise often helps our brain tune out the undesirable sounds. The best sounds to use are water specifically waterfalls and a bubbling well this is related to the savannah hypothesis as we have always needed water more than food for survival; or bird sounds which promotes attention restoration and stress recovery. Olfactory like linen or lavender acts like valium which is used to treat anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms, and twitches. In the Perkins&Will building in Atlanta, Georgia they used vinyl decals with perforations to have trees displayed throughout the buildings on the windows like an advertisement on a bus. Even looking at a picture of nature for as little 40 seconds quiets down the pre-frontal cortex which regulates our thoughts, actions, and emotions. This puts us into the same soft fascination that we get while viewing live nature.

The nature of the space is also vital. In nature there is a sense of mystery like going around a corner in a foggy forest and not knowing what’s there. We can have this in built environments as well even though its less literal, this can entail not knowing where a sound or smell is coming from. There is risk and peril: back in the savannah we had to fight for survival and sometimes we still need just that little bit of dopamine but all while staying safe. An example of this would be in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum. The top has a small expansive overlook seeing the slope of the quarter mile walk up. As well, there is an incline moving us towards the paintings putting us ever so slightly off our balance, as his intention was to throw the visitors off guard. Another element that Frank Lloyd Wright was excellent at was the sense of awe think of the most amazing view, one found at the top of a hike. He did this by having small entry ways opening into expansive spaces which created a sense of grandeur for people entering the space. When people feel a sense of awe in a space they are more likely to be charitable or humble.

Biophilic design comes in many different forms and relates back to human evolution. There are many positive factors to why people should make it a priority to incorporate biophilic design into a space and how to make a place more biophilic by making it work better for the people occupying it in expected and unexpected ways.

Our team of workplace experts are here to help you create a beautiful biophilic office environment. Contact us today!

Guest blog writer: Anna Wright

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