Biowhat now? A look at Bioclimatic and Biophilic design

This piece is taken from our newsletter "Force of Nature" see more and subscribe here.

In the green and natural building world we have a growing dictionary of terms that can keep things confusing. Passive House. LEED. WELL Standard. Living Building Standard. Net Zero Energy Building. Well hang on to your thesaurus because we give you now Bioclimatic and the related Biophilic design approaches.  

Both approaches, unsurprisingly, draw on and are inspired by the natural world. As the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Savings explains: "Bioclimatic architecture refers to the design of buildings and spaces (interior – exterior – outdoor) based on local climate, aimed at providing thermal and visual comfort, making use of solar energy and other environmental sources."  In many ways, this is an ancient practice, building to the local environment and focusing on low-energy passive systems (as well as more modern active systems of energy and heat management). The fact remains though that most buildings, at least in the west, ignore this practice. However there is a growing push to do more bioclimatic buildings. Inhabitat recently reported on a bioclimatic home in Italy that used local volcano ash and prickly pear fibers in a building. Wind direction and sun path were accounted for in the direction of the home and wide walls were built for strong thermal mass.

Biophilic design is related but in some ways is more broad. In an interview with Architect Design William Browning co-author of 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, explained “Bioclimatic design responds to the specific climatic and weather patterns of a site and biomimetic design uses nature as source of inspiration for design. Biophilia is the innate human need to connect with nature, with the result being improvements in our health and wellbeing. Biophilic design is focused on the enabling a human connection to nature in the built environment.” But practically what does that mean? Terrapin Bright Green and Browning attempt to answer that very questions. 

The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Browning and Terrapin Bright Green outline are: 

Nature in the Space
Visual Connection to Nature
Non-Visual Connection to Nature
Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
Thermal & Airflow Variability
Presence of Water
Dynamic & Diffuse Light
Connection to Natural Systems

Natural Analogues
Biomorphic Forms & Patterns
Material Connection to Nature
Complexity & Order

Nature of the Space

Examples from the patterns include "Auditory, haptic, olfactory, or gustatory stimuli that engender a deliberate and positive reference to nature, living systems or natural processes" (Non-Visual Connection to Nature); and "Rich sensory information that adheres to a spatial hierarchy similar to those encountered in nature" (Complexity and Order).

One can see a connection of this to the Living Building Challenge and the WELL Building Standard. All these approaches and philosophies are attempting to make buildings healthy for the occupants and the planet and a great way to do that is to look to natural systems.

Click the image below for a short video on Biophillic Design. 

Image above from 14 Patterns of Bibliographic Design