Modern spaces are frequently designed to increase our awareness of diminishing resources, sustainability, and the ways our built environments affect us. The pinnacle of sentiment like this is biophilic design, which is increasingly used for everything from a building’s façade to the materials used in its construction. Significantly, biophilic design aims to improve our lives and experiences of each and every space.
Biophilic design, according to an article by the Urban Land Institute, is simple: It is “the practice of connecting people and nature within built environments and communities.” The concept aims to prevent humans from feeling alienated from the outdoors while they are indoors. Tactics used to enable connections to nature can include anything from living walls, water features, access to outside views, and copious natural light. The use of glass in building design can be extremely effective.
Conversely, the concept of “burnout” has also become more prevalent over the years. People are working longer hours and spending more time in front of screens instead of being outside and connecting with one another. As such, is it easy to feel fatigued, uninspired, and less productive, especially in the workplace. Visual contact with nature can help alleviate this, prompting sensations of calm, invoking creativity, and improving mental health. Designers who are aware of a building’s impact on human well-being select specific materials and features to maintain significant connections to the outdoors.
Let’s study the example of The Sheffield Group Headquarters building in Hoover, Ala. A legacy building for a company owned by three generations of the same family, the design features glass heavily and the structure is located on green spaces, close to water. Not only does the glass allow for ample views to surrounding nature, it was also selected because of its capacity for heat and light regulation—a must-have when designing a sustainable structure with biophilic concepts.
“The building has large expanses of AGC North America Stopray Vision 50T solar-control glass to provide natural light and views of the surrounding lakes,” says Michael Mann, senior project architect with TURNERBATSON. “The design incorporates a low-tint, neutral color glass which limits the amount of visible light transmittance, reduces glare in the offices, and creates a healthy, dynamic work environment. The tint and neutral tone of the AGC glass struck the perfect balance between product aesthetics and performance.”
It was also important to the family that their employees’ health and wellness was taken into consideration during the project’s design phase. “The family aimed to emphasize employee wellness with a staff fitness center and personal chef. The natural light enhances the sense of well-being throughout the building,” Mann says.
As the lines between home and work are blurred, fortunately so are the distinctions between the structures we inhabit and our access to nature. Keeping humans closer to the outdoors can only show benefits, and the future of design will hopefully continue in this same, innovative trajectory.