Our innate connection with the natural world is born from hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution. Biophilic design—the application of that connection—is at the heart of much of ZGF’s work. Incorporating elements such as natural ventilation, daylight and circadian lighting, views, and natural forms and processes all support faster patient healing times in hospitals, higher rates of productivity at work, and better learning outcomes for students.
Three ZGF designers recently shared their perspectives on biophilic design at International Living Future Institute’s Biophilic Design Speaking Series. At separate events in Portland and Seattle, the series explored ways architects are using biophilic design in urban contexts to connect us to the places we spend time.
Chris Chatto, Principal, spoke about the connection between human experience and environmental performance. Chris shared past ZGF biophilic design interventions and how best practices can be applied to current projects.
Elizabeth de Regt, Urban Designer, delved into her forthcoming urban daylighting research. Using both survey data and computational design, Elizabeth’s new metrics help designers and urban planners more intuitively asses exterior daylighting strategies.
Sarah Wright, Architect, offered a glimpse into her research on net-positive energy in healthcare. Using biophilic design to evaluate and potentially minimize energy impacts of healthcare facilities, Sarah pointed to some of the most promising energy-efficient biophilic design strategies.
Gleaning from these three talks and a diverse collection of projects, ZGF’s approach to biophilia is centered on two key factors:
1. Achieving Project-specific Goals
Comparing past biophilic interventions with current project needs and aspirations further ensures that we are applying the most effective natural strategies that consider everything from materiality to MEP systems. It’s vital to look to the buildings and spaces that remain healthy and resilient due to biophilic design solutions.
Gathering insights from completed projects such as Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center and GSA’s Federal Center South Building 1202 offers living, breathing examples of buildings that continue to support healthy environments and strive toward a lighter environmental footprint. These precedents and on-going client relationships continue to improve our understanding of and expertise in the biophilic design space to ensure that our projects serve both clients and occupants.
2. Combining the Human Experience with Data
ZGF is focused on the next generation of biophilic design—more holistic design decisions founded in rigorous data collection and analysis.
ZGF continues to embrace and leverage the power of computational design. Especially as we apply metrics from neuroscience and eco-psychology, as well as user feedback, to client goals. Computational tools allow us to better predict how a building will perform and support occupants once it’s built, while simultaneously being more efficient as we work through biophilic (and other) strategies. This leads to more value for clients in the form of more meaningful user experiences and saved time and budget.
Recent examples of elevated biophilic design using computational tools include an optimized atrium shading system at UCSF’s Child, Teen & Family Center and Dept. of Psychology building that increases both building energy performance and comfort.
Optimized atrium design at the UCSF Child, Teen, and Family Center and Dept. of Psychology building
By leveraging wellness and occupant experience as design drivers, we integrate quantitative data into our computational models to improve our effectiveness regarding:
- Overall productivity, healing, and learning outcomes
- Optimizing sleep-wake cycles through natural daylighting and circadian lighting systems
- Visitors enjoyment of courtyard spaces and streetscapes through more-informed zoning and plant selection
- The use of biophilic principles to transform our buildings, campuses, and cities into energy producers instead of energy consumers
To learn more
We’re grateful to help lead this conversation through forward-thinking projects that improve the user experience and at events such as International Living Future Institute’s Biophilic Design Speaking Series. If you’d like to learn more about Biophilic Design, check out Terrapin Bright Green’s 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design and Stephen Kellert’s The Practice of Biophilic Design.