Biophilia is the evidence-backed hypothesis that humans have a natural affinity for nature and a desire to connect with it.
Furthermore, nature is fundamental to our health and wellbeing.
People are increasingly demanding environments that lower stress: living and working spaces that act to keep us healthy.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to show that biophilic environments trigger healing within the human body and invoke positive feelings of rejuvenation and relaxation.
In turn, patients respond to treatment with lower levels of pain, anxiety and fatigue
Our emotions also control a good deal of how we ward off disease.
So, a healing environment can work hand in hand with medical treatments to make them more effective, and in some instances mean that less pain relief is required.
Chronic pain sufferers and patients undergoing chemotherapy claimed that access to natural environments and views of nature lowered their pain levels.
Ironically, despite their objective to heal, hospitals are often perceived as high stress environments, both for patients and staff.
This might be due to anxiety surrounding hospitals or genuine phobias or aversions to needles or medical care, or the proximity to critical care.
Either way, when you combine this with the high levels of stress experienced by NHS staff and potential negative feelings in the workplace, a hospital stay is not the rejuvenating experience we need it to be.
However, by implementing elements of biophilic design into hospital environments, you can also harness the healing qualities that they naturally invoke.
This can be achieved by the increased presence of
- natural light,
- softer lines – more curves, no sharp edges.
- Indoor plants and even hospital/healing gardens.
The presence of planting can be seen as very therapeutic, thereby creating environments that foster a sense of calm, safety, and well-being for building occupants.
By considering the physical, social and psychological needs of the patients, hospitals and doctors’ offices become much gentler environments for patients and staff alike.
In this way, hospital treatments can be complemented and enhanced by biophilic design, improving stress reaction, the ability to heal and to avoid infection. The improved recovery time for patients results in shorter hospital stays. Not only is this beneficial to the patient and staff but results in more money saved in these hugely overstretched sectors.
This investment in the hospital environment extends to hospital staff too, as they will also reap the benefits of working in close proximity to nature and biophilic design.
Biophilia induces increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system – decreasing stress levels and improving an individual’s general sense of wellbeing.
The overall effect is to enhance the physical, sensory and psychological comfort of any person that enters the building.