Design with nature in mind

Photo: iStockphoto.com/Entienou
Incorporate biophilia in your home and discover amazing health and financial benefits

A recent report published by Terrapin Bright Green, entitled The Economics of Biophilia: Why Designing with Nature in Mind Makes Financial Sense, explores some of the amazing financial and health benefits humans can achieve when they design their homes, offices and communities to mimic nature. Biophilia, which is the attraction humans have to nature, is the concept behind their report. Terrapin’s philosophy is that by incorporating low-cost (or free!) biophilic design elements, building owners can reap sound financial returns.

First, consider the physiological impacts contact with nature has on humans. Stress, which is a primary cause of all kinds of human maladies, including cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disorders and even cancer, can be significantly decreased when we’re permitted to spend time in the natural world:

  • Lowers salivary cortisol (the stress hormone) by up to 15.8 percent
  • Reduces pulse rate by up to 6 percent
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases overall sympathetic activity (feelings of stress) by 19.4 percent
  • Lowers blood glucose levels in non-insulin-dependent diabetics by 39.7 percent

Evidently, there are major health benefits to being around nature. It stands to reason, then, that built environments that mimic or include nature would also have a positive impact on human health. And these homes have also had a positive impact on financial returns. Studies show:

  • Prospective homeowners will pay 58 percent more for a property with a view of the water, and 127 percent more for lakefront property
  • Green buildings experience 52 percent fewer felonies with 7- to 8-percent of that effect as a result of having access to nature  
  • Communities with access to nature spend 10 percent less on medications for ADD and/or ADHD
  • When classrooms have natural lighting, rather than artificial lighting, children progress through the curriculum up to 26 percent faster
  • 10 percent of all workplace absenteeism rates for companies are attributable to a lack of nature in the workplace
  • Hospital patients with a view of nature have stays on average 8.5 percent shorter than those without
  • Prices in retail stores are 25 percent higher when businesses are surrounded by nature because consumers regard them more worthy of elevated prices

It’s clear that study after study reinforces the principle that nature enhances human quality of life, productivity and overall wellbeing. So how do we apply this concept? What kinds of elements do biophilic building designs include?

Start by incorporating nature into your indoor space by using potted plants, flowing water, indoor gardens, aquariums and animals to add natural, dynamic features. Of course, ensuring your outdoor spaces and views are bursting with nature will also help.

Then consider natural elements in a building’s design that evoke nature. This might include; natural materials, like wood and water; furniture and artwork that evoke natural shapes; or other elements that stimulate our senses with touches, smells, sights and sounds of nature. Finally, a green home design may include “nature of the space,” such as elevated views, open spaces, protected spaces and so forth.

Clearly every homeowner should think about how biophilia can improve not only their sense of vitality and productivity, but also how nature may boost a home’s value. How have you incorporated nature in your home? What creative biophilic methods have you used and what benefits have you achieved as a result? We love to hear from you! E-mail editor@green-living.ca.

YellowBlue designs sells green house plans and blogs about ways to green your home.