III Design Pillars

In my last post I talked about biophilia as the next frontier in the design of truly functional spaces for people. Integration of biophilic concepts with building design has the potential to create more healthful and productive work environments.

III (three) Design Pillars serve as the tenets of biophilic design. The III Pillars are:

  1. Nature in the Space

  2. Natural Analogues

  3. Nature of the Space

I. Nature in the Space refers to the incorporation of natural elements into the built environment. Elements that incorporate movement (flowing water, swaying grasses, plants and trees, etc.) produce the strongest biophilic reactions. Examples include potted plants, water features, aquariums, and courtyard gardens, as well as views to nature from the inside of a building.

Courtyards, common in traditional architecture, give building occupants either direct access, views, or both to natural elements. One study: Heschong, Lisa. Heschong Mahone Group. “Windows and Offices: A Study of Office Worker Performance and the Indoor Environment.” California Energy Commission: Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Fair Oaks, California. 2003c

compared productivity rates between workers with views and those without. Performance of those employees with views was 6% - 7% better than those without. In fact, based on a 6% worker productivity improvement, the study calculated that the fiscal gains were still cash positive even after accounting for the costs to implement views.


II. Natural Analogues are materials and patterns that evoke nature and are characterized by four broad types:

  1. Representational imagery

  2. Ornamentation

  3. Biomorphic forms

  4. Use of natural materials

Natural analogs can be images of trees, plants and water. They can also be building elements that encompass biomorphic forms by mimicking the patterns found in shells, leaves, branches and the like. Furniture with organic rather than geometric shapes, and visible wood grain also fall into this category.

III. Nature of the Space, refers to the way humans respond psychologically and physiologically to different spatial configurations. Physiological research indicates that our bodies react most positively to savanna-like settings with moderate to high depth and openness. The design concepts of prospect and refuge—elevated views coupled with protected spaces—as well as enticement and peril—exploring unseen space and evoking pleasurable distress—are examples of Nature of the Space.


Shameless Promotion Section

SoftForm Lighting provides tools to assist the designer to implement biophilic design concepts related to Design Pillar II in three ways:

  1. Our white fabric diffuses and softens the luminance of our LEDs. Using our light forms for ambient lighting, you experience a more uniform, highly diffuse light distribution which is analogous to the experiences of sitting in the shade of tree on a summer day.

  2. Printing on our fabric diffusers enables the utilization of natural elements, like images of trees and water. This is especially useful when bringing the benefits of these natural elements by incorporating the real deal, an atrium for example, falls outside the scope of the project.

  3. Printing also gives access to the use of natural biomorphic forms. Either as images of nature or organic repeating patterns.

For print suggestions visit our gallery or if you have specific images in mind, we can print those as well.


In my next post I'll dive a bit deeper into the 3rd Design Pillar, Nature of the Space.


- Mark