Nature has its ways of healing us. From naturopathy, Ayurveda, Unani medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and many other natural processes, there are plenty of ways that biophilia helps humans. The space we live in plays a huge part in our mental and physical well-being. Healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics are beginning to realize this and implement biophilic design.

The humanization of hospitals

The modern world aims at curing diseases and healing patients with advanced technology. These days, spaces we have around us have been replaced with high-tech, concrete buildings.

nature hospital

These buildings affect the experience of the patients and the visitors as they move between the places within. A hospital setting in an urban place should learn to adopt biophilia to improve happiness levels in their patients and visitors. The concept of humanizing hospitals is about paying attention to aesthetics and function in a more sustainable manner.

Humanizing the hospital includes providing external views, positive acoustics, natural light-weight, pleasant fragrances, bodily comfort, varied color, and personal house. All of these aspects relate to the principles of biophilic design. It is important for designers to understand how the patterns of biophilia can fulfill their design. 

“There’s an enormous amount of disease largely tied to our removal from the natural environment.”

— Peter Kahn

Faster rate of recovery

Historically, this idea of humanizing hospitals has been around for ages. There are various examples of improving the hospital with biophilia, as seen in Florence Nightingale’s environmental theory, where she places an emphasis on visual stimulus, nature, and color inwards. The concept of dehumanizing was also found in the early twentieth-century modernist hospitals, despite the tendency to align with modern designs, which are more building-centric than human-centric.

Florence Nightingale's Environmental Theory

Dr. Stephen R. Kellert suggests that bringing in nature within the built environment has a significant impact on patients. The experience for patients and visitors can be altered and improved. In the hospital context, internationally renowned architect Eberhard Zeidler believed that humanizing hospitals in their architecture and design were a way of helping the patients inside the long term. 

Meeting social and psychological needs

Within the realm of healthcare facilities, biophilia has proven to reduce stress contributing to a major determining factor of healing rates. Research also supports that when the patients’ wards face green spaces and have views of nature, the post-operative recovery is faster, and the patient’s stay becomes shorter. This has not only worked with actual plants or elements of nature but even with imagery. Pictures of landscapes, waterfall, sunrise, and such examples have been proven by research to have improved patient recovery due to stress reduction. 

aquarium biophilic design

Evidence shows that figurative pictures of natural elements like landscapes, gardens, and waterscapes will scale back stress and improve results like pain relief. One study by researchers Katcher, George Segal found that patients waiting for dental procedures exhibited lower anxiety levels once an aquarium of fish was given within the room instead of once it was absent.

Such examples illustrate that even if there is no direct association to nature, images of nature has positive advantages on patient health and well-being. This shows that biophilic design improves diagnostic and therapeutic functions of commercial, informational, and recreational features that have redefined the sense of space and the institution’s role in its territory. Research also highlights the advancement of scientific knowledge and the change in the relationship between humans, the built environment, and nature.

Biophilia is designing for humans

A few design principles have come into practice which suggests that humans should be looked at as non-technological, where we should create space that feels like home or a village to give rise to a community feel, create environmentally emotional and holistic needs. These are the basis of humanistic design. It is important to understand the needs of the city and its residents, along with the actual hospital requirements, before designing something. Architect D.J. Petty and senior medical office Robert Macdonald Shaw wrote:

There were a large number of interesting points we noticed which are only possible to touch upon. Perhaps one of the most striking was the very pleasant sense of scale achieved inside the hospitals. There was an air of quiet welcoming efficiency without any trace of the institutional feeling. We concluded that two of the reasons for this effect were the comparatively low ceiling heights … and the widespread use of naturally occurring timbers.

Shaw and Petty 1955

It can be concluded that a domestic scale proves well for a faster recovery of the patient, and the built forms help create a sense of interaction. Biophilic design helps bring vibrancy to the city and replaces the old and dingy style of hospital design with a modern and approachable aesthetic. The impact of biophilic design is numerous and by integrating them into our healthcare facilities, we can aim to help improve patient care by tenfold.

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