News & Views
19 Aug 2021

Bringing the benefits of the outdoors in:
Biophilic design in residential developments

The word ‘biophilic’ means ‘love of nature’ and is a concept that focuses on our human attraction to nature, as well as natural processes. It’s an emerging trend for city accommodation  and could be a huge selling point for residents missing greener pastures. Incorporating biophilic design into development projects can not only have positive environmental effects but can also create a positive reaction from homeowners and visitors, helping to produce a harmonious environment that nurtures productivity and relaxation. But where do acoustics fit in to all this? Leading acoustics consultancy, KP Acoustics explains.

 

The United Nations predicts that 68 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050 and many countries will face challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations — including for housing.

 

In the UK specifically, the average person now spends 90 per cent of their time indoors and for city dwellers, they often find themselves surrounded by walls of concrete and steel, while green spaces are few and far between. It’s therefore no surprise that according to the Economics of Biophilia, people will pay 58 percent more for a property with a view of water.

 

Consequently, biophilic design is growing in popularity in residential settings, having previously been well documented in medical, education and work environments.

 

Harnessing the benefits of biophilia

Bringing nature into our homes is not a new concept, as evidenced by the garden courtyards of the Alhambra in Spain and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Despite numerous historical examples, it wasn’t until 1964 that the term ‘biophilia’ was first coined by social psychologist Eric Fromm.

 

Now, new research supports measurable, positive impacts of biophilic design on health, raising its priority level within both design research and practice. From material connections with nature to the presence of water, incorporating biophilic design in residential spaces is said to support cognitive function, physical health and psychological wellbeing.

 

For example, a study by Stanford University found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area showed decreased neural activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression, when compared to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting. So how can we bring the benefits of the outdoors in?

 

While nothing is a substitute for the real deal, elements that mimic nature are not without their benefits. Obvious examples of biophilic design in architecture include incorporating natural lighting, good ventilation and biomorphic patterns and arrangements seen in nature, but balancing this with acoustic design is equally as important.

 

Instinctively, many people prefer outdoor natural sounds, such as the babble of a stream, birdsong or the buzz of a bumblebee. For example, incorporating the sound of running water in an apartment lobby can have a real calming effect for residents. Using natural materials in a building’s structure will also have an impact on the acoustics. By incorporating plants into the structure of a building design, an acoustic consultant can profit from the superior sound dampening characteristics of these living organisms. Getting the acoustics right is integral to the success of a biophilic housing development.

 

Acoustic design can play a big part in the overall biophilic design of a space. However, adding multiple biophilic strategies may be counterproductive unless they are integrative and support a unified design intent. Afterall, not all aspects of nature are known to contribute to good biophilic design. For this reason, it’s important to seek out the services of an experienced acoustic consultant, to ensure every aspect of a building works in harmony.

 

At KP Acoustics, we can provide a bespoke acoustic identity creating a unique soundscape. Our Echotectonics service begins with an initial consultation to understand the exact needs of the building and its owner. Within this process, the team aims to understand the psychoacoustic factors of the building to create a harmonious soundscape. It’s only then, that residents can reap the real benefits of biophilia.

 

So, what do you think about the use of biophilic design in residential spaces? If you would like to discuss an upcoming new build project, contact us today.

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