The architecture and design industry has always relied on the natural environment to promote health and wellbeing within the built space. In recent years, however, the advent of green architecture and sustainable buildings has increased the focus on integrating natural elements into building interiors, not only to promote wellness amongst building occupants but also to improve building performance to meet sustainability goals.

Biophilic design promotes positivity, reduces stress, improves mental health and helps create a happier and healthier environment. The role of the natural environment within buildings has never been more relevant than the present, with the recent global Coronavirus pandemic forcing people indoors for an extended period of time.

Living in isolation at home

With the entire world going into lockdown due to COVID-19, the definition of the home has changed. It’s not just a place one goes back to at the end of a workday or a school day – with social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine restrictions in place now, the home is also a workplace and a classroom. Staying in is no longer a lifestyle preference; it has become the new normal.

While the home still remains a sanctuary keeping us safe from the outside world, the global pandemic has left us isolated indoors with official restrictions limiting our exposure to the natural environment outdoors. The current level of isolation can have a negative impact on our mental health.

It’s not just the fear of infection that’s affecting people psychologically; it’s also the forced isolation thrust upon them by the pandemic. The post-COVID-19 world will see architecture and design professionals rethink and revisit conventional design principles to create future-proof spaces that are focused on health and wellness, and also suit the demands of isolated living in the event of another pandemic.

Biophilic design, therefore, has an important role to play when conceptualising the home or workspace of the future. Given the proven positive impact of nature on mental health, biophilia could be the solution to creating sustainable and mentally stimulating living spaces for the post-pandemic future.

Biophilia in building design

Biophilic design is derived from the word ‘biophilia’, meaning ‘the love of life’ in ancient Greek, and refers to the integration of various natural elements within the built environment to help reconnect occupants to nature using a multi-sensory approach. Biophilic design leverages the innate human affinity for nature through elements such as plants, daylight, natural materials, water features and sounds, creating a feeling of wellness and good health in the indoor space, while helping them overcome the disconnect brought upon by increased urbanisation.

This human-centred design approach delivers wide-ranging benefits to building occupants across health and cognitive functions, especially in spaces where they spend extended periods of time. Biophilic design in workplaces, schools and colleges, hotels and restaurants, healthcare and aged care facilities, and even homes enables – depending on the space – higher productivity, increased clarity of thought, better engagement and improved creativity while significantly reducing stress and recovery times.

Welcoming nature indoors

There are many elements applied in biophilic design to integrate the natural environment within the indoor space. For instance, the use of organic shapes and natural materials in construction, interior design and furnishings; natural lighting; water features; indoor air quality and ventilation; interior climate control for thermal comfort; acoustic comfort; and colour design are some of the opportunities available to designers to welcome nature indoors.

There are direct and indirect ways to integrate the outdoors in an indoor space. Elements such as plants, living walls, water features and light are some of the direct ways to create a natural environment indoors. The visual connection with these elements of nature has a calming effect on building occupants.

One can also achieve biophilic design objectives by using materials that mimic natural patterns, textures and colours, helping occupants connect with the natural world outside through visual or tactile cues – woodgrains or stone surfaces, for instance. This has an added benefit in design applications where the use of natural materials may not be practical. Natural timber, for example, is popular in interior design; however, it can also risk fire safety in a building apart from the ongoing maintenance hassle.

In such applications, timber look aluminium products present a compelling alternative to real wood in terms of a wide choice of realistic colours and textures, allowing designers to fully realise their biophilic design concepts.

Covet’s Ever Art Wood is a range of high quality timber look aluminium cladding products rated for excellent fire resistance, and assuring simple maintenance. With its timber finish delivering the calming benefits of nature while assuring maximum safety, the Ever Art Wood series helps designers achieve biophilic goals of comfort and wellbeing.

The Ever Art Wood series offers a broad range of realistic timber finish aluminium batten and panel cladding profiles.

The uncertainty of life in the post-COVID-19 future presents an interesting challenge to architects and designers in terms of designing indoor spaces that give due consideration to social distancing and isolation. Biophilic design does provide a desirable framework to integrate the natural environment into indoor spaces, helping create dwellings of the future that remain functional regardless of pandemics and enforced isolation.

Covet’s Ever Art Wood timber look aluminium cladding enables designers to connect built environments with nature, without compromising on the quality or performance of the materials specified to achieve their biophilic design goals.