Philosophy of Green Design
Discussions about green design often get technical, but rarely do they get philosophical. We all want news about the latest and greatest sustainable resources, methods of installation, and the hottest new products, but sometimes it is nice to step back for a second and consider why it is important to “go green” in the first place. As you can imagine, there are many answers to this question, but the bottom line is green design can make you feel better, healthier, stronger, and more at ease.
Biophilia, a term describing the extent to which humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life, is expressed in biophilic design, an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn, providing humans’ need for nature in a deep and fundamental fashion. This is based on the belief that for too long we have been building without considering any of our human senses. We rely on our five senses to survive, yet the structures we build too often create synthetic environments. Researchers have found remarkable, positive effects from environments that connect occupants to nature, ranging from employee productivity to hospital patient recovery time.
Biophilic design makes a lot of sense when we consider some of the simple, everyday experiences we all have in our homes. For instance, why do people love spending time on their porches? Not only do we enjoy all the comforts of home there, but we also experience the sounds, sights, and smells of nature are right at our fingertips. It is amazing how soothing and entertaining a backyard can be.
Don’t people positively yearn for spring to arrive so they can crank open their windows just a bit and let in fresh air? I know I do. Another example is the amazingly snowy winter we’ve had this year. It has been spectacular seeing the way icy, snow-covered lawns reflect sunlight and floods our houses with unbelievable “winter” light. The light is brighter than any summer day. Biophilic design recognizes all these moments, or experiences, we have in our homes that connect us to the natural world and encourage us to foster or create more instances where we can reconnect with the outside world.
Consider the following recommendations for adding a bit of biophilic design to your own home. They are simple, I promise.
• Let natural light in. Consider your window coverings. Are they providing more privacy than you really need? Many times we walk into a room that feels dark and closed off and the main culprit is over-done window treatments. Roman shades are great because they are fully operable and allow you to raise and lower the shades as needed. Sheers work well during the daytime if you want a layer of privacy and they can be easily incorporated into a multi-layer window treatment with a double curtain rod.
• Let natural air in. Open your windows and, if you can, create a cross breeze. If you have a room with windows on more than one side you should be all set. Not only will you save money on cooling but your senses will comes alive.
• Bring nature in. Plants are an easy, wonderful way to bring some of the outdoors inside. The best thing about plants is that there is really something for everywhere. No excuses! Have no direct sunlight? Get a low-light plant. Hate to water? Get a cactus. Trust me, a single plant can completely transform the feel of the space and make it feel a bit more awake and vibrant.
• Use organic materials when possible. Hardwoods are a great place to start. Any natural, non-manmade material will add to a home’s overall feel. Look for products that use natural fibers such as leather, wool, cotton, linen, or even silk. These fabrics remind us of our dependence and connection to our planet’s natural resources. Stone is a great way to add an elemental texture to your home while glass is a great way to bring in the ethereal.
• Choose furniture and accessories that mimic natural shapes, forms, and patterns found in nature. These shapes make a big difference in the overall look and tone of a home.
• Use an “earthy” color palette. Think greens, whites, muddy oranges and reds, muted blues, etc. Choose natural colors as the foundation colors for a space and then add accents of punchy pinks, purples, and so forth. Think of your space as an open field accentuated by a few blooming, vibrant flowers. By doing this, you will create a space that feels connected to nature and organic.
• Lastly, if you are considering building a house or are looking to renovate, design for your site specifically. Take time to understand your plot of land. Get to know the views, get to know the trees. Make decisions that will help foster the beauty of the site rather than require additional work to make the site beautiful again.
—By Kate Gray Fudim
Editor’s Note: Kate Gray Fudim is an interior designer with Beth Haley Design. Kate has a master’s degree in Interior Architecture and Design with an emphasis in sustainable design. Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm, focuses on remodeling and revitalizing established homes, as well as creating stimulating, functional, sustainable spaces in new homes.. E-mail your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bethhaleydesign.com.