Today we welcome to the Mosaic Blog our Mosaic Research Assistant, Merve Basdogan. Merve is currently an Instructional Systems Technology PhD candidate at Indiana University. In this first blog of the summer, Merve shares a synthesis of the literature of the growing trend of biophilia in classrooms.
“The Greek word biophilia etymologically comes from the words “bios,” meaning life or living, and “philia,” love or fondness (Oxford Online English Dictionary, 2021). As introduced by the biologist Edward O. Wilson (1984), biophilia focuses on the critical bond between human’s wellbeing and exposure to nature. Biophilic design, on the other hand, is a philosophical design approach that promotes using natural elements in the built environment to evoke positive moods and decrease stress and mental fatigue (Kellert, 2005).
This Mosaic blog post focuses on the current body of the knowledge on biophilic classroom design. I synthesized two recent literature review studies’ findings on biophilic campus design and its impact on university students’ wellbeing.
First, Peters and D’Penna (2020) carried out a critical literature review of 32 empirical papers about the influence of built environment on university students’ physical health, psychological wellbeing, social relationships, and environmental comfort. The authors argued that university students experience certain types of stressors that might cause depression, social isolation, suicide, and mental fatigue. Based on the current literature, they suggested that biophilic design patterns presented in Table 1 might be used to tackle with these psychological and physical problems. For example, visual biophilic applications including landscape views or green views through windows, murals, posters and depicting nature, indoor plants, and the color green were identified as the visual biophilic evidence to cope with campus stressors for students. Similarly, it was noted that study areas with water features, nature-connected views, natural materials such as ornamental stones and wood, and natural light were effective places that students preferred.
Peters and D’Penna (2020, p. 7) added that “research about biophilic architecture is rarely studied through people engaging with actual experiences and is mostly examined through images of options for biophilic spaces. This is not ideal because biophilic design concerns far more than visual qualities and is multi-sensory and context-specific.” Based on this suggestion, outdoor classrooms might be ideal research settings for understanding students’ multisensory experiences with light, air, sound, water, color, and special configuration as well as cultural and ecological attachment to these built educational environments.
Table 1. Biophilic design patterns by Peters and D’Penna (2020)
In the second review study, Abdelaal, (2019) argued that an innovative-conductive university campus should have three core premises including (1) innovation, (2) sustainability, and (3) biophilia (see Figure 1). In this model, interaction with nature is considered as a fundamental element that improves individuals’ attention, mental fatigue, academic performance, cognitive performance, concentration, and memory.
Beside empirical studies, Abdelaal, (2019) also points out the theoretical studies that discuss the restorative effects of nature on humans such as stress reduction, increased self-esteem and mood, reduced anxiety, and reduced headaches.
Finally, nine values of biophilic design borrowed from Kellert (2005) and their impacts on students were discussed in Table 2 by Abdelaal (2019, p. 1452). The naturalistic, scientific, symbolic, and aesthetic values were recommended as empowering factors that might enhance campus students’ wellbeing.
Faculty and Student Perspectives on Biophilia
As indicated by the strong body of literature, identifying various biophilic design patterns on university campuses from the eyes of faculty and students might provide important psychological, physical, social, and environmental comfort and well-being for both learners and instructors.”
I would like to thank Tripp Harris for his assistance in editing and proofreading this study.
- Peters, T., & D’Penna, K. (2020). Biophilic design for restorative university learning environments: A critical review of literature and design Recommendations. Sustainability, 12(17), 7064.
- Kellert, S., 2005. Building for life: Designing and understanding the human-nature connection. Island Press, Washington, DC.
- Wilson, E.O., 1984. Biophilia. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
- Abdelaal, M. S. (2019). Biophilic campus: An emerging planning approach for a sustainable innovation-conducive.
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