The Role of Daylight in Biophilic Architecture

Humans have an innate connection to nature that is often lost in the modern urban environment. However, many architecture, landscape, and design professionals have turned to biophilic design to return us to our roots. By incorporating natural elements such as daylight, greenery, and water features into the built environment, these designers aim to create spaces that enhance human health and wellbeing, increase productivity, and foster a sense of connection to the natural world. 

 

What is Biophilic Design?  

Biophilic design is an innovative approach to architecture that incorporates natural elements to create unique and inspiring spaces that enhance the human experience. One of the key elements of biophilic design is the use of daylight, which not only creates a pleasant and inviting atmosphere, but also has a positive impact on our health and well-being. With the right combination of natural features and innovative design, biophilic spaces can transform the way we live, work, and interact with our environment. 

Earlier this year, the University of Minnesota Design School created an exhibit called Biophilia + Well-being + Design that looks at the relationship between biophilic design and personal and community health. The exhibit showcases various biophilic design projects that incorporate plant life into homes, hospitals, academic buildings, and airports, and how they have a positive impact on human and environmental well-being.  

The Benefits of Biophilia 

Biophilic design incorporates natural elements such as plants, water, and natural light into built environments, and has been found to have numerous benefits for human health and well-being. A study by the University of Exeter found that adding plants to an office space increased productivity by 15%, while a report by the World Green Building Council suggested that biophilic design elements can improve cognitive function, reduce stress, and enhance mood and well-being. Further studies have found that exposure to natural light and elements such as plants and water in indoor environments can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, and speed up recovery times for patients. 

Some major buildings that have incorporated biophilic design features include the Amazon Spheres in Seattle, Washington which are three glass domes filled with over 40,000 plant species, and the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon, which incorporates natural light and ventilation, rainwater harvesting, and extensive use of recycled and locally sourced materials. Right here in Minneapolis, Daylight Specialists provided the daylight devices for the biophilic lobby of the historic Hotel Emery.  These projects and others have reported benefits such as improved air quality, reduced energy consumption, increased productivity, and enhanced well-being for their occupants. 

Daylight’s Vital Role in Biophilic Design 

Daylight plays a significant role in human health and well-being. Exposure to natural light can improve mood, increase productivity, and promote good sleep. In addition, daylight is an important regulator of the circadian rhythm, which affects physiological processes such as hormone secretion, metabolism, and immune function. A lack of natural light or overexposure to artificial light can disrupt the circadian rhythm and lead to a variety of health problems, including sleep disorders, depression, and impaired cognitive function. 

In biophilic design, daylight is often used to create a connection between indoor and outdoor environments. Large windows, tubular daylight devices, skylights, and other forms of glazing can bring natural light into interior spaces, while also offering views of nature and creating a sense of openness. Biophilic design also considers the orientation of buildings and the use of shading devices to optimize the amount and quality of daylight.  

It’s More Than Aesthetics 

Biophilic design often enhances the appeal of a building and creates a more inviting and comfortable environment for occupants, leading to increased satisfaction, productivity, and overall well-being among occupants. But beyond the initial look and feel, biophilic design can also have economic benefits. 

Research has shown that incorporating biophilic elements into a building can increase property values and improve marketability. For example, a study by Terrapin Bright Green found that biophilic buildings in New York City commanded a 16% premium in rent compared to conventional buildings. 

Moreover, biophilic design has incredible environmental benefits. By incorporating natural elements into design, buildings can reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainability by reducing their energy costs, improving air quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, and more.  

Looking to add daylight in your next biophilic build? Partner with us at Daylight Specialists to bring light to your designs. 

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