TG Escapes Blog

What is biophilic design and what benefits does it offer?

by Mark Brown | Feb 27, 2018 | Blog, Education

What is biophilic design and why does it matter?

“A love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms.”

Biophilic design is a series of principles that connect buildings to the natural world, aiming to create healthier, more pleasant interior environments for occupants, while increasing both performance and productivity. TG Escapes produces beautiful modular buildings for places like schools and leisure facilities, and our architectural team place biophilic design principles at the heart of everything we do.

In order to understand the clear benefits of biophilic design, we’re going to explore the origins of biophilia and the issues it addresses, before looking at some of the ways companies like TG Escapes can emphasise biophilic designs through their buildings.

What is the meaning of biophilia?

The phrase biophilia was first coined in the 1970s by German-born psychoanalyst and social philosopher Eric Fromm, to mean a ‘love for humanity and nature, and independence and freedom.’ In 1984, the US biologist Edward O Wilson published his work “Biophilia” in which he used the word to refer to ‘the rich natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms.’

Wilson's biophilia hypothesis proposed that the tendency of humans to connect and affiliate with both nature and other life forms is rooted in our genetic history, but has been eroded by industrialisation and modern urban environments.

What is nature deficit disorder?

Sterile modern interiors and fast means of transportation cocoon their users from the natural elements. More recently, the exponential advancement of the technological revolution has dramatically increased the amount of time we spend looking at screens each day, serving to further weaken the bond between humans and the natural world.

This is particularly relevant for today’s children and young people, who came of age in a world dominated by smartphones, social media, and perpetual connectivity.

A piece of work by Richard Louv, ‘The Last Child in the Woods’ (2005), defined a phrase applicable primarily to the modern child, growing up amidst the proliferation of modern technology, which he called ‘Nature Deficit Disorder.’

He uses the term to serve as a description of the human costs of divergence and alienation from the natural world. He theorised that spending less time outdoors and more time in front of a screen has had a detrimental impact on overall health and mental well-being with a corresponding negative effect on children’s behaviour and capacity for learning.

Getting back to nature through architecture

There is now a growing body of scholarly interest and architectural innovation that is involved in promoting the benefits of biophilic building design. At its core, the principle is to incorporate nature-based elements into a building's design at every available opportunity, offering its occupants a place to truly connect with nature. This concept applies across office design, recreational buildings, and learning environments alike.

Where possible, a building should be constructed using natural materials and textures that reflect or mimic those found in the outside world, helping bring nature to interior spaces. They should maximise exposure to and penetration of natural light, and provide for a healthy level of interior air quality. Wherever possible, they should provide both views of and access to the natural world outside of the building.

Planning requirements in workplaces and schools are increasingly focused on the environment and social value. Our eco-friendly buildings come with the option of green roofs, alongside biodiversity features such as bat boxes, birdhouses, trees and wildflowers to plant. This not only re-assures the planners but engages the wider community in environmental citizenship, and adds more biophilic design elements to a project.

Biophilic Design ideas

How the concepts of biophilic design benefit an education space

Biophilic principles can aid any interior space, which is why it has become so sought after within architecture for modern office designs, commercial spaces, and more. With specific reference to classroom design, a biophilic educational environment should seamlessly blend the work and pleasure of learning with the life-enhancing effects of the natural world.

Three of the most critical interior design elements are exposed to natural light, views of nature, and physical access to the outdoors.

Natural light

One of the best-known benefits of exposure to natural light is its proven role in stimulating serotonin production. Serotonin is vital for several physiological functions including appetite, digestion, and sleep regulation, whilst its psychological benefits are also significant.

It plays a vital role in maintaining mood balance and promoting a sense of happiness, with a demonstrable link between low levels of serotonin and depression. A biophilic building design would look to maximise natural light within interior spaces, through the use of large glass elements and features like sun pipes.

Biophilic design: Sunpipes and natural light by TG Escapes

Views of nature

Views of nature are increasingly shown to be a positive antidote to chronic, low-grade stress which has been identified by the WHO as one of the two leading contributors to premature death in developed nations. The second factor is low physical activity, an inevitable by-product of modern, sedentary, often screen-based internal classroom environments. This biophilic principle can be incorporated into architectural designs, with great natural views prioritised, or the use of features like green walls. Our team works to emphasise the presence of nature in each of our buildings.

Being outdoors

A classroom design that encourages pupils to get outside into the natural environment, whether it be for play or learning opportunities, will have a beneficial impact on physical and mental health alongside socioeconomic development. Exposure to nature has been shown to improve discipline and concentration, promote risk-taking and creativity, generate a sense of freedom and adventure, and encourage positive social interaction.

Biophilic design: Access to the outdoors and views of nature in biophilic classroom design

A classroom environment that has specific biophilic design features can bring significant benefits to a student’s learning experience, both in the space and indeed outside of it. Healthier, happier and more engaged children (and their teachers too) are far more likely to make the most of the educational opportunities open to them.

Biophilic design: The Learning Escape eco-classroom @ Rolls Crescent Primary School with natural wall mural and light for Biophilic design

We have produced a short download explaining the principles and showing examples of Biophilic building design and how they could be incorporated into TG Escapes Learning Escapes for education. Consultancy company Terrapin Bright Green also laid out their ‘14 Patterns of Biophilic Design’ in a detailed report, which offers interesting additional reading.

TG Escapes produces beautiful timber-framed modular buildings, working across the education sector and with commercial businesses. Our wholly bespoke design process allows our team of architects to make a building customised around your needs and space while prioritising biophilic design ideas and net-zero emissions.

We design, build, deliver, and install, offering a simple, professional, and friendly service to our customers. View our case studies page to see just some of the fantastic work we’ve done across the UK.

About the author

Mark Brown
Consultant at TG Escapes - Mark has spent time growing up with the army, studying computing before the internet existed, and founding The London Classic Theatre Company, self sustaining for over 25 years. He trained in marketing with Unilever before moving into advertising as a strategist with Leo Burnett, Creative Director at Starcom and founder of award winning creative agency Weapon7. He has a passion for eco buildings and helps run the social enterprise Street Wisdom, providing free creative walkshops around the world.

More posts from our blog

How Modular Buildings Speed up School Construction

Summer holidays are upon us, the perfect time to complete vital work around your school without disrupting education. We've put together this look through the many ways that opting for a modular solution can save time, with a greatly reduced on-site installation...

read more
Could Biophilic Modular Buildings Benefit Autistic People?

Could Biophilic Modular Buildings Benefit Autistic People?

TG Escapes is proud to be exhibiting at the 2024 Autism Show in London from the 14th to the 15th of June. We’ll be able to talk you through the many amazing projects we’ve worked on for autistic pupils and broader SEND needs. We’re also thrilled to see several...

read more

The Challenges Facing SEND Schools Across the UK

This year's National Conference will be a crucial place for SEND leaders to discuss some of the major issues facing specialist education across the UK. TG Escapes will be in attendance, with our team available to discuss the amazing work we’ve...

read more