Biophilia and Beauty

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir, The Yosemite, 1912

“Beauty is an experience – it is not the property of an object. It is not a permanent state, but the response a person will have to something, another person or action, a feeling or object.”

Over the weekend I sat down to read and review Wellbeing In Interiors, Philosophy, Design & Value in Practice by Elina Grigoriou, recently published by RIBA. A book that is indeed a welcomed and fresh contribution to wellbeing within the built environment. I was struck on the alignment of my thinking with that of Elina in particular regarding ‘beauty’.

The latest edition of Living Building Challenge, 4.0, has moved biophilic design from the Health and Happiness ‘petal’ to Beauty. This takes a little understanding of the philosophy of beauty and nature, something Elina describes within Part 1 ‘Philosophy: prerequisites and outputs of wellbeing’

There is a caveat here., in that we should strive to be far less human-centric when considering biophilia and create buildings and spaces that are both regenerative and beneficial to nature and to humans. Seeing ourselves as part of nature not apart from, and nature as something that happens around us. In this thinking Biophilia would have found a better home in the Place petal, celebrating and recognising our inclusion within Ecology of Place.

Elina refers to the Living Building Challenge, noting the requirement towards creating aesthetically beautiful buildings and spaces, where beauty is a key requirement for a sustainable outcome.

a requirement that neatly explains LBC’s vision in nurturing designs that do not just elevate but celebrate peoples spirit and inspire everyone to be and to do better.”

The conclusion follows that if we design and incorporate biophilic principles within our buildings, we are creating beautiful buildings.

Wellbeing in Interiors also sheds light on another issue I am currently exploring, that of measuring biophilic interventions. Our COST Restore working group looking at KPI’s for interior comfort has identified biophilia as a key performance driver, and exploring indicators that observe successful biophilic designs.

Wellbeing in Interiors addresses this issue in the chapter defining project KPIs and UPA’s (User Profile Activities) within in the ‘Value in Practice: Measuring Wellbeing” section, and again, I am inspired with alignment on my thinking regarding the use of Maslow’s hierarchy (a commonly talked about but underused model) as the basis for inhabitant wellbeing when conducting POE assessments.

Indeed Wellbeing In Interiors provides much fresh thinking for moving the increasingly stale POE and ‘user’ evaluations into a modern, regenerative approach to measuring and monitoring the value of wellbeing interventions.

I look forward to exploring more of Wellbeing In Interiors in future review and insight articles.

Image: Google Earth

RegenerativeBIM … moving the GreenBIM debate

green bimBuilding Information Management offers huge benefits to Sustainability and to GreenBuild, but needs to move from GreenBIM to RestorativeBIM

Bringing together the two most important themes of todays built environment, Sustainability and BIM, the ThinkBIM and Green Vision programmes at Leeds Beckett are setting the agenda for GreenBIM.

However we need to guard against GreenBIM falling into a trap of being Sustainability and BIM as usual, but to move GreenBIM into the visionary, Regenerative Sustainability arena, as adopted by Green Vision through their association with the Living Building Challenge.

Rethinking BIM for the Ecological Age

It does seems a waste that all the creative and innovative thinking and energy being put into BIM should only incrementally improve built environment sustainability, and that we will be a little less bad next year, a bit more less bad by 2018

Aligning the innovation of BIM and the forward thinking of Regenerative Sustainability provides an immense opportunity that could and should powerfully push the overall built environment agenda forward. And, through the intelligence of a RegenerativeBIM, ensure that each element, not just the building, contributes in a net-positive manner, doing more good, not just doing incrementally less bad.

Where GreenBIM is today and where Green BIM needs to be, RegenerativeBIM.
Where GreenBIM is today and where Green BIM needs to be, RegenerativeBIM.

Imagine then if every building, indeed every ‘facility’ was designed, constructed and operated through a RegenerativeBIM, that;

> is designed and constructed specifically in relation to its ‘place’, positively impacting and benefiting its immediate environment.

> becomes a provider of water, cleaning all that falls on the building and providing clean water to adjacent facilities.

> generates more energy than required and contributes the net positive difference to nearby homes, community buildings.

> contains no harmful materials. There should be no place in a GreenBIM for materials on Red Lists. An intelligent RestorativeBIM could not allow materials or products such as PVC, formaldehyde, or SPF’s. Every Product Data Sheet would include the elements of the Living Product Challenge, with every product having a net-positive Handprint

>  are based on biophilic and biomimic principles. RegenerativeBIM would constantly ask the question, How would nature approach this?

> focus on a positive, salutogenetic health principle – on making people healthy, not as present on the negative stopping people getting less ill. (Big difference!)

> cleans the air, emitting better quality than intaking.

> delights and encourages creativity …

> intelligently and digitally inspires and educate the next …. BIM.

Such an approach is not only possible but arguably the responsible approach we must take. An approach that in a short time could be the accepted way of designing, constructing and maintaining buildings.

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These ideas will be explored further in upcoming ‘GreenBIM’ events hosted through Green Vision, ThinkBIM and CE Yorkshire.

Watch this space.