Biophilic Design in Architecture for Health & Tranquility

Biophilic architectural design which is harmonious with nature has proven to enhance the health and wellness of those living and working in such spaces.

There is feng shui, and there are meditation decks, white noise fountains, serenity pools, soft lights and harmonious neutral colors to create a peaceful haven in your home. And — there is biophilic design in architecture.  It’s all intended to optimize your life by creating a healthier, less stressful living space.

According to a recent post in Houzz, while biophilic design has been around for a long while (Frank Lloyd Wright often incorporated it into his architecture) it is experiencing a resurgence with today’s architects.  Biophilia literally translates as ‘love of life’. Examples of biophilic design date back to ancient civilizations, but it wasn’t until the 1980s, that the terminology evolved thanks to American biologist E. O. Wilson who proposed that evolution has soft-wired us to prefer natural settings over built environments. In Wilson’s words, we have “an innate and genetically determined affinity … with the natural world”. Proponents of biophilic design are attempting to satisfy this instinct architecturally.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an advocate of biophilia. “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you,” he advised, and many of his buildings bear this out. Notably, his game-changing creation Fallingwater (pictured above) is so integrated with nature as to be inseparable.

Essential to biophilic theory is the idea that buildings aid our physical and mental health only when they are designed holistically and in tandem with nature. Green building principles emphasize responsibility to the environment and efficient use of sustainable resources, and while biophilic design embraces these aims, it focuses more on the wellbeing of the people who use the spaces.

Today, the concept of biophilia is supported by a more scientific understanding of the psychology behind building-based wellness. Some pundits believe that the inordinate amount of time we spend in built environments may contribute significantly to feelings of isolation, tension and lethargy. So, there is a growing interest in designing restorative, productive and appealing buildings that better engage with nature and are more biophilic in nature.

Some of the components of biophilic design include:

  • Natural light from windows, skylights, walls of glass
  • Exterior views; psychologists claim that people with views have a healthier outlook on life, because there is more dimension to their perspective and a sense of connection to a wider ecosystem
  • Water features such as fountains and ponds that can be seen, heard and touched
  • Sensory stimuli that reference nature: scented plants, plants that change color seasonally; open flames; tactile materials and natural fibers that reflect local ecology such as stone and timber

In a concrete, urban jungle — In the absence of real natural environments — biomimicry can be a source of biophilic design as found in organic shapes in construction and furniture. If you stop to think, geometric shapes are rarely found in nature. Color schemes derived from nature – earthen and green, water and sky tones, even images of nature, including photographs, art, murals, and sculptures, can create a biophilic effect.

An undulating, cedar-clad ceiling for instance is, as one architect noted, “the antithesis of the ubiquitous flat, white plasterboard ceiling” and is replicating more environmental shapes and forms. A buffer of green landscaping in a causeway to the street enables connection and interaction with nature for occupants and passers-by. A central courtyard allows visual connection with other areas of a structure and creates a thermal ‘lung’ for natural cooling and heating. The results are living spaces that comfort the body as naturally and effectively as they do the soul. And that’s what a biophilic environment should do.

Zen principles which are often applied in design are attempting to do the same, reflecting balance, harmony and relaxation. Despite all of our modern conveniences today, well-being and contentment often evade us, and it may just be that our home and work environments have an influence. Bring on the biophilic and namaste all around.


Sto Studio Delivers Color and Design Concepts with Impact

Third in a three-part series on Sto Studio

Sto Studio has been providing tailor-made color digital models and illustrations of design and material options for facades and interiors for over three decades now.  Working closely with clients, specific architectural and aesthetic concepts are developed based on aproject’s underlying requirements, conditions and objectives. The final result is a series of color renderings to help the client determine the most appealing aesthetic choice. The following are examples of Sto Studio’s art in architecture in a range of residential and commercial projects – including both restoration and new construction.

The Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale was one of many Sto Studio projects for this hotel operator who is rebranding and upgrading the exterior of its properties.

The Embassy Suites Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida was another signature Sto Studio project in the hospitality sector. Sto Studio provided a big assist with a substantial shift in the exterior color palette from a predominantly canary yellow shade to one that was more understated and elegant.  This was the fourth Embassy Suites property that Sto Studio consulted on in 2016, and more are expected as the brand continues to refine its identity.

Restoration of Doubletree Hotel in Bay City, Michigan

Built in 2004, this 550-room property was slated for a much-needed facelift. Sto Studio provided color and design scenarios based on a sequence of requests made by on-site personnel, the owner group, contractor and our Sto distribution partner. By offering a range of options, the eyes of decision-makers were opened to possibilities they had not previously considered, and they were ultimately able to determine the ideal solution.

Seventy-thousand square feet of StoColor® Lotusan® was ultimately used to ensure optimal performance and lasting beauty. The project managers evaluated several vendors and were impressed with the alternatives presented by Sto Studio, which emphasized the contrasts between various colors. The chosen color scheme was less tone-on-tone, with a more deliberate contrast between surfaces, allowing for enhanced curb appeal and an opportunity to celebrate the building’s form.

StoStudio View of a sample color scheme for the Camby Hotel in Phoenix.

Residential Restoration Upgrades Exterior

A single family, 6000 square foot residence in Portland, Michigan required remediation related to a failing wood-siding exterior.  With local experts available to consult with the owners, a solution was quickly identified: StoQuik® Silver. To support this decision, Sto Studio was contracted to illustrate color options incorporating the existing aesthetics. Two thousand square feet of this new Sto system was installed, ensuring the ongoing comfort of the owners, and improved performance of the exterior wall.

Aesthetic Opportunities with New Construction

Sto Canada has been pushing the (building) envelope with Sto Panel Technology and reached out to Sto Studio to illustrate options for a new development in St. Catherines, Ontario.  The project architect, Sto Panel affiliate [SkyRise], the general contractor and owner all funneled information to Sto Studio where it was distilled and cross-referenced to help generate a series of color and design renderings.  Understanding the aspirations of the development team and translating that into design deliverables proved an invaluable decision-making tool.


Architecture as Art – Sto Studio and the Built Environment

Working with Sto Studio, building owners, design professionals, engineers and contractors can review fully illustrated aesthetic options for a project long before construction begins.

First of a three-part series on Sto Studio

Creating the aesthetic character of a building is no simple task; nor is determining the engineering and science for a structure.  If you can bring these building elements together, the results are remarkable. And if you can see what it’s all going to look like before you break ground or start a restoration — not just one possible solution, but many choices — it’s magic. More importantly, it expedites informed decision-making.

Working with Sto Studio, building owners, design professionals, engineers and contractors can review proposed options, which illustrate the potential aesthetics for a project long before construction begins. Full-color renderings offer clients the opportunity to envision the future – to really understand their structure and its appearance in a variety of design scenarios. Sto Studio is, in essence, a service that facilitates design and color decisions.

Sto Studio has been providing these integrated design services for customers across the Americas, Europe and Asia for over three decades. Innovative claddings and other advanced technologies are essential for both new construction and renovations today (to ensure energy efficiency and sustain the buildings’ value),  but architectural treatments and color can be just as important.  A commercial real estate study revealed that architectural color can increase a property value from 25-40%.

This is the StoStudio rendering for the Christopher House Project in Pompano Beach, Florida.

By collaborating closely with clients, Sto Studio offers a unique, value-added service, providing tailor-made color and material concepts for facades and interiors. Architectural color concepts and solutions evolve based on a project’s underlying conditions, requirements and objectives, resulting in a series of color renderings to help determine the most appealing aesthetic option. From renderings and visualizations, to color presentations and color charts, local marketing assistance, reference tools, and technical advice, Sto Studio is an essential resource for design and building professionals.

The combination of technical expertise and design support often results in a holistic solution for any and all construction challenges. For instance, a bright red may be an ideal branding color for a building, but may not perform well due to it’s saturation level. It could create stress on the wall system and cause surface degradation. Therefore, art and science need to work hand-in-hand to ensure the ultimate realization of a building’s durability and curb appeal.

Next Week – Color 101 – a primer on color theory and an insightful, in-depth look at the StoColor System that is an integral part of Sto Studio’s design expertise.


Sto Werkstatt Features Alternative Glass Architecture by Space Popular

Sto Werkstatt in London is currently showcasing an exhibit featuring StoVentec glass that was created by the innovative design firm Space Popular.

Werkstatt – which means workshop in German – is a showcase and test center in London for Sto’s innovative facade and interior materials. In addition to the workshop’s extensive resource library, the center offers technical consultations, exhibitions, speakers and seminars.

The current exhibit, “The Glass Chain”, is by Space Popular, a Bangkok-based multidisciplinary design and research practice led by Lara Lesmes & Fredrik Hellberg.  The exhibit, which will run until December 14, features StoVentec Glass that can be used as an external rain screen cladding system, and as an interior decorative option. In their UK debut at Werkstatt, Space Popular has redefined the potential of the material with its colorful and energizing installation, which encourages the imaginative use of glass in building design.

The title “The Glass Chain” is a reference to the infamous exchange of letters by a group of German architects from 1919-1920 initiated by Bruno Taut, who fantasized about the vast possibilities of an incredible new construction material: glass. He believed that all architecture, and even furniture, could be made of glass. His vision of the material was never realized, and glass simply became a solution for windows and walls.

Now, almost 100 years later, Space Popular – inspired by Taut’s vision — is taking glass applications to a new level. Working with Sto technical experts, they have created a kaleidoscopic glass construction that explores different ranges of scale, playing with our visual perception of glass doorways as grand arches and small steps as giant pediments.

Curated exhibitions such as this at Sto Werkstatt are an opportunity to explore the changing nature of collaboration, between architects, materials manufacturers and applicators.

Materials on display include glass and rendered rain screen cladding, seamless acoustics, facade elements and intelligent interior and exterior paint coatings.


Material Selection Conference Yields Valuable Product Data

Sto product experts participated in Durability & Design’s Material Selection Conference last week which showcased the latest in high performance coatings and air moisture barrier products for exterior walls.

At Durability + Design’s inaugural Material Selection Conference last week (Sept. 26), the themes that prevailed were data collection and communication. Though different challenges were discussed — from air leakage to moisture damage — the resounding message was: know your materials inside and out.

The one-day forum focused on the capability of coatings to manage moisture intrusion into exterior walls, and how liquid-applied air barriers can limit heat, air and moisture transfer through walls. The effect of permeance on exterior wall coating performance, as well as how specific coatings and water repellent brands performed on exterior walls were also discussed.

Manufacturer representatives participating in panel discussions offered their opinions on a variety of scenarios and recommended applicable products. Chuck Duffin, Ed Telson, and Tyson Lodge, representing Sto Corp., participated in these panels, educating attendees on how Sto coatings and air moisture barrier products perform on exterior walls in different conditions and circumstances.

Andre O. Desjarlais, program manager for the Building Envelope Systems Research Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, discussed the importance of WUFI software (an acronym for Wärme Und Feuchte Instationär—which, translated, means heat and moisture transiency) and why this hygrothermal modeling is valuable based on the wide range of materials available today consistent with the drive for energy efficiency.

While WUFI models yield a lot of data for designers of durable building envelopes, understanding this data and using it appropriately are critical for achieving the construction of energy-efficient, moisture-resistant walls, roofs and basements. Again, the need for knowing your products and how to apply them was reiterated.

The value of using the web-based Energy Savings Calculator developed by ORNL, along with quality assurance and installation requirements for liquid-applied air barriers, were also discussed to ensure building envelope energy efficiency and air tightness. It was noted that air leakage rates of a building depend on multiple variables, including envelope airtightness, HVAC system operation, occupancy, weather and the stack effect. Fluid-applied air barrier products and installation considerations were also debated.

The overall objective of the event was about making buildings last longer by integrating design objectives with exterior performance objectives, selecting materials wisely and knowing those materials. Regardless of which products are selected for durability and design, the manufacturers, architects and contractors in the audience seemed to agree that working closely with, and consulting, manufacturers regarding air barrier and wall coating products was the best way to ensure successful project outcomes.

 

 


Designing for Resilience–Part One

Key West, Florida, underwater.

Key West, Florida, underwater.

As the frequency of severe weather events escalates, resilient design solutions need to be found to safeguard people and the economy. With the recent devastation of Hurricane Irma, clearly coastal cities are increasingly exposed to the risk of flooding.

It isn’t just about hurricane winds, flooding and rising tides however. Resilient design must also address the shelter-in-place realities of tornadoes, blizzards, and heat waves. We are going to address all of these in our current blog series.

Living with Water

From Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to Hurricane Irma this year, coastal cities are increasingly exposed to the risk of flooding and rising coastal tides. With sea levels rising in almost every coastal area in America, even without an epic storm like Irma, large percentages of urban coastal areas face the threat of flooding. Living with water seems to be a new reality and the risks facing coastal cities must be addressed with resilient design.

While current flooding strategies exist in many coastal areas, most do not thoroughly address future challenges. The resiliency of coastal cities relies on architects and engineers and city planners rethinking how they design cities but also the multitude of individual spaces that comprise the urban environment. Extreme weather heavily impacts our infrastructure and real property, creating unique issues for developers and owners.

Resilient Design Solutions & Sea Level Rise

Should traditional mixed-use buildings by redesigned to move restaurants and retail to higher floors? What impact does that have on consumers and what do the street-level spaces become? If you build high enough in a flood zone, the building and its occupants may be safe, but the building will be inaccessible in flooded conditions.

Climate resilient strategies include wet-flooding (letting buildings flood without damaging major equipment or the structure and continuing operation even without power) and dry-flooding (keeping the water out with tight envelopes). Wet flooding requires materials that are capable of being submerged in water for 72 hours. So how long can a material be submerged without compromising its integrity? Can biomimicry be used to develop flood resistant materials? Are today’s water resistant products also resistant to submergence? There are no simple answers to these challenges. Both proactive and adaptive strategies should be examined for the future of our built environment.

Rather than wait for disaster, many coastal communities are tackling the issue of resilient design. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Resilient by Design Challenge is asking residents, community leaders and organizations to submit ideas that will shape a collaborative research process where design experts work with community experts. The idea is to develop new, creative and implementable design solutions that will protect the Bay Area’s most vulnerable shoreline communities from increasingly severe storms and flooding — while also addressing critical issues such as disparities in housing, income and access to open space.

The Venice Environmental Studies Program at Boston University is exploring these questions  as well looking at how scientists and policy makers in the famous Floating City are collaborating to develop mutually beneficial solutions to protect against sea level rise. For instance, could a sea gate such as Venice’s flood barrier system Modulo Sperimental Elettromeccanico (MOSE) be built in Boston and how would it change that city’s architectural vernacular?

Because climate is no longer predictable, design professionals need to explore and consider an entirely new set of factors. Ignoring the reality of new and extreme climate variables could mean that the huge investments made in city infrastructure and buildings lose value over time.

More on resilient design next week!