Biophilia Gains Focus at CBE

by | November 5, 2019 0 Ideas

We recently had the fortune of attending the Center for the Built Environment’s Industry Advisory Board Meeting, joining in conversations we’re simultaneously having at SERA about biophilic design. CBE researches how innovations in energy and indoor environment will transform the building industry, and is based at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with an exciting announcement, the event yielded some important takeaways for designers.

The bi-annual gathering consisted of a day full of speakers and research presentations. Topics on human comfort and wellbeing ranged from thermal comfort and air quality, to control systems and the latest technology. Not surprisingly, many touched on a growing interest in the field – our connection to nature.

The big announcement of the day came from CBE’s Lindsay Graham: the organization is developing a new survey module that explores stress, satisfaction, and biophilia in the workplace. This is CBE’s first publicly accessible tool that measures the effectiveness of biophilic design from both an occupant and designer perspective. Part of it will be included as part of their WELL-compliant survey that was also just launched.

SERA has been a partner in creating the biophilia module alongside Valerie Green of CBE, and Judi Heerwagen from GSA. Right now, we’re looking for other organizations to pilot the survey, which will add to our dataset and contribute to the larger field of study in real-world applications.

The keynote this session was by Bill Browning, co-founder of Terrapin Bright Green and one of the foremost experts on biophilic design. After touching on the scientific basis for our positive connections to nature, Bill segued to the latest research and case studies that continue to reinforce the value that biophilia can bring.

Matt Piccone (center) co-leading a breakout session at CBE’s bi-annual meeting.

The following breakout sessions were also incredibly valuable. We co-hosted our session with Bill, and came up with a few key takeaways:

• In order to make biophilic design successful, it has to align with the particular client’s values. Case studies, quantifiable research, and occupancy surveys all contribute to a cost-benefit analysis and return on investment for each project. When generating design ideas, different disciplines should collaborate to create solutions that achieve multiple goals as to maximize the value to the project.

• A variety of spaces and experiences are needed in our projects to fully support human wellbeing and daily functioning. Bringing nature into these spaces can contribute greatly to supporting these different emotional, cognitive, physical and social needs. Attention should be given to those benefits early on in the design process, as we program spaces.

• Focusing on biophilia means designing through the eye of the occupant. Creating storyboards of how you want people to experience each space can support the intent of this approach, and help persuade stakeholders who might have difficulty connecting with typical drawings.

• In many project types, the design of a space can be an attractor. Bill explained many of the ways that using nature to attract people’s attention can positively benefit their health as well as the bottom line of an organization.

Overall, it was a great session, and SERA looks forward to future collaborations with the research teams at CBE – from the development of the occupant survey, to the ever-growing research on biophilia and how it will shape the design world!

Co-written by Matt Piccone and Mark Perepelitza

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