Kirtsy Hammond explores biophilia and asks whether our innate need to connect with nature can help deal with a pandemic

“The most sustainable way is to NOT make things. The second most sustainable way is to make something very useful, to solve a problem that hasn’t been solved.”

Architect, Thomas Sigsgaard famous quote is a good starting point when we look at our relationship with the natural environment.

With our homes now being forced to operate in a multi-functional role, the COVID19 pandemic has highlighted many a shortfall in both our internal world and our connection to the wider environment.

How we live in our homes and operate in our immediate environment therefore needs to be addressed.

We must change our habits if we are to survive the next stage of living with an endemic.

Kirsty Hammond Kirtsy Hammond Publisher and editor of Specifier Review

Embracing nature

Looking back through history shows us that pandemics are not only prevalent throughout the centuries but that with each one comes a new domestic adaptation. 

Biophilia and immunity boosting design is increasingly coming to the fore during this one.

The inclusion of biophilia will now impact on our homes, our emotions and our health and wellbeing in both times of lockdown and afterwards.

Humans possess an innate desire to seek connections with nature and our natural environment. We need it. That is the essence of the Biophila hypothesis by Edward O. Wilson's, which reasons that humans are emotionally drawn to environments such as open, grassy landscapes – and responding to nature is part of our genetic makeup.

A love of living things

Biophilia means ‘the love of living things’ and it illustrates our dependence on nature, our satisfaction derived from direct contact with nature and the physical appeal of nature for inspiration and peace. It connects humans with nature and as a result improves our wellbeing and also includes many other health benefits such as air purification. 

In all areas of design, we naturally bring elements of the outside world in. Water, greenery, planting and natural light to name a few. This inclusion increases our exposure to nature and satisfies our health needs. 

Indoor air can be so much more contaminated than the outdoors due to a build-up of daily pollutants used within the home. Cleaning products, toxic paint, candles, adhesives, mould and bacteria, all contribute to an unhealthy environment. 

There are several high tech solutions to our air filtration issues, but simply introducing plenty of leafy houseplants can have an immediate and positive effect.

Plants are naturally amazing at air cleaning and by designing homes with a green wall or planting area we can introduce an improvement of air quality and a reduction of pollution within our homes. Plants alone can't solve a building’s air quality problem but can be used in conjunction with clever technologies.

A good investment

New construction has the opportunity to design with this in mind, with good air quality becoming a good and essential investment in a post COVID19 world.

Constructing homes that are ‘passive’ means using technology that allows our homes to be airtight, with hi tech ventilation systems that regulate the air inside.

Smart air conditioners use WiFi technology to allow us to control our homes remotely. Smart sensors can provide alerts when pollutant levels become too high in certain areas and fresh air can be let in to tackle the problem. A simple carbon monoxide monitor can alert you when toxic gas is present.

Smart systems have sensors that monitor and measure harmful airborne particles. They remove particles such as pollen, bacteria, and possibly viruses. The data collected can be delivered to you via an app allowing you to react immediately. 

Smart technologies

Maintaining good air quality is vital in light of COVID, by utilising smart technologies such as air purifiers, energy efficient mechanical ventilation and air conditioning with filtration, we can work to keep our homes contaminant free.

Air purifiers have gone through a huge process of development over many centuries. Some of these technologies have even been transformed into nanoscale architectural coatings that are able to clean the existing pollution on a huge city scale.

For example the ‘Giant Mesh Wall’ in Mexico, designed by a German company called Elegant Embellishments has been built around a hospital.

The wall acts as a giant filter and can tackle air pollution and smog. The cleverly designed openings slow down any external wind and create a turbulence that attracts more air particles. The main material is Titanium Dioxide which allows contaminated air to be broken down into clean air.

We must change our current and often relaxed habits if we are to survive the next stage of living with an endemic.

Developments in home building and hi tech solutions used to keep our internal environments comfortable, will be keenly watched and welcomed for our survival.

Kirsty Hammond is publisher and editor of Specifier Review