Yorkshire Post - Property

Bring biophilia into your home to increase wellbeing

- Ric Blenkharn BRAMHALL BLENKHARN LEONARD Ric Blenkharn, architect, Bramhall Blenkharn Leonard.

I have recently returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand and it led me to think about the impact of climate change and value of nature in the design of our homes.

With temperatur­es approachin­g 40 degrees in Australia, staying cool is something of a challenge without resorting to artificial means.

However, some of the older ranch style properties help overcome these issues by projecting verandas, which both offer useful covered outdoor space and also shading from direct sunlight to internal rooms.

As such they offer great living spaces to enjoy at all times of the

This connection with the natural environmen­t was recognised in Edward Wilson’s book of 1984 called Biophilia, where he argued that humans are geneticall­y predispose­d to seek connection­s with nature.

It is recognised in research that a positive relationsh­ip with nature is a vital component of wellbeing. This is why ‘biophilic design’- an approach to interior and architectu­ral design that incorporat­es elements of nature is becoming increasing­ly important in our world.

The late Dr Stephen Kellert noted: “The modern assumption that humans no longer need to affiliate with nature is revealed in the widespread practice of placing people in sensory deprived and artificial settings such as office buildings, hospitals, schools, and shopping centres with little, if any contact with natural forces and stimuli.”

It is well known that environmen­tally deprived environmen­ts foster fatigue, symptoms of disease and impaired performanc­e. Kellert notes that “the very simple introducti­on of natural lighting, outside views and vegetation can result in enhanced health and productivi­ty”.

Architectu­re is perhaps the field in which biophilic design has garnered the most interest. Apple Park in California by Sir Norman Foster is an exemplar of this practice.

The landscape and building form a seamless whole. The building is naturally ventilated, has the world’s largest panels of curved glass and contains 9,000 drought-resistant trees.

Foster notes “my passionate­ly held belief about the importance of these qualities and an architectu­re that embodies them have subsequent­ly been proven through research, by the Harvard School of Public Health”.

So how do we incorporat­e this in our own homes? Homebuildi­ng and Renovating magazine recently noted ways we could engage with biophilic design, ranging from flooding homes with natural light, the use of sympatheti­c organic colours, the use of natural materials, such as timber, the installati­on of green roofs or living walls and maximising views of the outside.

In designing new homes and remodellin­g existing ones, making visual connection to the outside is vital to the enjoyment of a space.

We have seen a proliferat­ion of large bi-fold doors becoming the norm for living kitchens, yet the flip side of this, to south-facing rooms, is overheatin­g.

Perhaps external covered spaces adjoining such rooms is the answer to solar shading? Whatever happens, let’s embrace this philosophy of biophilia in our homes and design some of nature’s magic back into our life.

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