“What is Biophilic Urbanism?”

“What is Biophilic Urbanism?” asked an architect at a dinner gala. A Professor replied “Paris”. And, it is apparently true. But I wonder(ed) what is it: Biophilic Urbanism?

(Rewind couple of weeks), I was attending a speaker event on “Sustainable Building/Biophilic Urbanism” organized by BGI (Bainbridge Graduate Institute). The speaker was Mr. Bert Gregory (CEO of Mithun). Biophilic Urbanism, a concept in building construction, is an art and science of blending building with nature. In general, biophilic design incorporates real or simulated natural elements in an effort to promote wellbeing . In speaker’s definition, it incorporates seven attributes of nature in construction: Sensory Richness (e.g. variation in light, temperature); Variations on a Theme (e.g. fractal geometry); Prospect and Refuge (perception of space – enhancing distance or enclosure); Serendipity; Motion; Resilience (response to changing seasons); Sense of Freeness.

To intuitively understand the logic and power of biophilia (and human connection to nature), we can look at circadian rhythm – the daily cycle of hormonal activity (e.g. serotonin and melatonin impacting sleep-wake pattern and mood) . In addition to creating physiological value and health benefits (emotional well-being, stress reduction, healing), biophilic design also improves the productivity of those dwelling in/using the building designed with biophilic elements. But how do you sell? Studies have shown positive financial returns for developers of biophilic projects . The concept of biophilic design is not only limited to individual buildings/structures but can be, and shall be scaled in order to achieve the sustainability benefits.

Currently, there is not a LEED equivalent to biophilic building. There exists no compilation of standards in which designers should aspire (though many sustainable building practices steer firms towards the goals of biophilic design). But lack of standards also means there are limitless possibilities to approaching biophilic building project.

Connecting the Dots:
Reading the chapter “What’s So Great About Skyscrapers” from the book “The Triumph of the City”, the transformation of Paris by Haussmann in late 19th century apparently incorporated the biophilic design elements (as the article goes on to say that “his work became an architectural icon not subject to revision”). The question that came to my mind after reading this chapter and thinking about biophilic design is “Are these two solutions (skyscrapers and biophilic design) compatible?”. I could not find a straight answer to this from my internet research, but features such as green roofing, indoor plant life, presence of organic forms, visual diversity possible in skyscrapers definitely seem to be biophilic Design-compatible/consistent.


1 http://greenmanual.rutgers.edu/newcommercial/strategies/biophilia.pdf

3 http://www.yardi.com/blog/news/biophilic-design/2706.html

Additional Resources:


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