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biophilic Preliminary Analysis Of The Biophilic Design

Attributes Of The Optimum Performance Home™
At The Sea Ranch
suggest that when we design and build without an under-
standing of this fundamental fact, we not only harm the plan-
et, we diminish the quality of human experience and lose the
wellspring of our health and well-being.
Some general strategies are described in this article, and
future issues will discuss the development of these and other
strategies that will be used to integrate biophilic attributes through-
out the Optimum Performance Home at The Sea Ranch.

design Sustainable design and development, in its many definitions

and interpretations, is gaining tremendous momentum in the
United States and around the world in both developed and
developing countries. Standards for sustainable building
Biophilic Design Attributes

As discussed in Issue 3, May/June 2006 of Ultimate Home

Dynamic natural light (rhythmical living light, patterns of
brightness and shadow, sparkle)
The most significant difference between our experience of

For The First materials and technologies, and environmentally responsible

design strategies, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s
Design, the new design paradigm that takes sustainable design
to the next level is called Biophilic Design. Biophilic Design
natural light and artificial light is that natural light is constantly
changing in direction and intensity. The overall rhythm of sun-

Optimum Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED®) rating

program, have made environmentally responsible design and
recognizes the inherent human need for nature together with
sustainable and universal design strategies to create environments
light moving from day to night and from season to season
reveals and highlights colors, patterns, and textures; subdues

Performance building more accessible and easier to evaluate. In the U.S.

alone, over 531 million square feet of commercial building
that truly enhance life. The Optimum Performance Home™ at
The Sea Ranch, one of two custom home projects in California
and constantly changes them; then reveals them again in an
entirely new way. Changing patterns of brightness and shad-

Home ™ space has been registered or certified under LEED since the
first LEED rating system was released in 2000. With the creation
of the new LEED for Homes rating system, interest in residential
in the LEED for Homes pilot program, provides an excellent
opportunity to study the process of biophilic design from site
development and landscaping to architecture and interior
ow, sparkle, and reflection capture and redirect our attention,
helping to relieve stress and mental fatigue.
The correct placement and orientation of windows and sky-
sustainable design is expected to soar in the next few years design. By utilizing certain design strategies called biophilic lights in buildings is critical to capturing dynamic natural light.
as homeowners discover that living in a healthy, resource-efficient design attributes, the design of the home will connect its Light should enter spaces from at least two different directions
sustainable home is not only possible, it is highly desirable. to enhance the experience of the sun’s movement, eliminate
However, sustainable design is typically regarded as a col- glare, and provide changing patterns of brightness and shad-
lection of “best practices” for resource conservation and
“Biophilic design recognizes the ow. Each of the four directions provide distinct lighting effects
Julie Stewart-Pollack, ASID, IDEC improved environmental quality that rarely addresses the inherent human need for nature and experiences. For example: southern exposure provides
physical, psychological, and social consequences associated warmth via passive solar gain; northern exposure produces
with living almost exclusively in built environments designed together with sustainable and flatter more diffused light; and eastern and western exposures
primarily to isolate and insulate us from nature. Although all afford the most dramatic experience of light movement.
sustainable design strategies and standards––including
universal design strategies to Light should also enter spaces from different heights. For
LEED––involve some considerations for human physical create environments that truly example, windows located high in the wall allow light to reflect
health, such as improved indoor air and environmental quality, off the ceiling and penetrate more deeply into the room. Light
many design professionals and environmental scientists enhance life.” from above via skylights, transom windows, solar tubes, and
believe that we must do even more. If sustainable design is to clerestory windows adds increased depth and movement.
be truly embraced by the public, it must expand its consider- occupants to nature and its many benefits in a variety of ways. The design of the Optimum Performance Home incorpo-
ations to include quality of life issues involving total human Biophilic design attributes are elements and qualities of the rates dynamic natural light in a variety of ways. The sun pene-
physical and psychological health and well-being. physical environment that connect us to the physical, psycho- trates into and throughout the three-building compound with
When Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson introduced to logical, and cognitive benefits derived from direct experiences primary living spaces oriented east, west, and south. Natural
the world in 1984 the concept of Biophilia (the inherent need with nature. We prefer these natural attributes in part because light enters all critical spaces from two or three directions
synopsis of humans to interact and affiliate with nature to achieve and they literally bring buildings to life physically through the use of (none are required or desired in the wine cellar and home the-

✎ Biophilic design attributes are elements and

qualities of the physical environment that
maintain optimum health and well-being), he laid the founda-
tion for the development of a new design paradigm. Based
design strategies and materials, and symbolically through an
understanding of deeply rooted affiliations, associations, and
atre). Southern exposure provides an infusion of bright, natu-
ral light through the solarium into the kitchen area and will
connect us to the physical, psychological, upon research in multiple disciplines revealing that interaction meanings. Biophilic design attributes include: dynamic natural provide passive solar warmth and ambient light to the kitchen,
and cognitive benefits derived from direct with nature provides a variety of physical, psychological, and light, natural ventilation, access to open and/or moving water, home office, and solarium. Skylights placed throughout the
experiences with nature. cognitive benefits rarely found in built environments, this new frequent opportunities for spontaneous interaction with nature, home provide infused, ever-changing light from above.
design paradigm expands significantly upon the definition of sensory connections to nature, complexity and order, mystery, As the design of the interior of the home takes shape,
✎ Biophilic design attributes include: dynamic sustainable design to include the essential relationships prospect and refuge, fundamental natural forms, and local materials that respond to changes in the light's direction,
natural light, natural ventilation, access to between human beings and nature, and between natural envi- natural materials. intensity, and color will be used to enhance the experience of
open and/or moving water, frequent ronments and built environments. The following preliminary analysis of the Optimum dynamic natural light. Artificial light will be designed to mimic
opportunities for spontaneous interaction Studies of our inherent need for nature suggests that the Performance Home’s biophilic attributes is based upon the natural light as much as possible and to provide individual
with nature, sensory connections with
natural world is a defining part of the human psyche; a major current site, landscape planning, and architectural design of the control over brightness and direction.
nature, complexity and order, mystery,
source of our sense of identity; physical, emotional, and cog- home as described in the first four issues of Ultimate Home
prospect and refuge, fundamental natural
forms, and local natural materials. nitive development; and an important foundation for develop- Design magazine. These attributes will be expanded upon and Natural ventilation (movement of air, changes in air tempera-
ment of our aesthetic and spiritual experiences. They further enhanced through the biophilic interior design of the home. ture, airborne scents)

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Human beings were not meant to live in closed and sealed move from space to space within the home. Visual and physi-
environments. We may be able to exist there, but we do not cal barriers between indoor rooms and outdoor spaces dis-
thrive there for long. The movement of fresh air through a solve into a mosaic of inside-outside spaces.
space changes everything. It alters our perception of temper- By using the walls and wings of the home to define “out-
ature, changes a static environment into one of subtle move- door rooms,” the experience of living is extended into a shel-
ment, and brings the world into our homes through scents tered natural environment. Both distant views and views of
carried on the breeze. nearby nature are important to this experience. Distant views
Few sites offer the potential for natural ventilation that The link us to the greater natural order of the site, while nearby
Sea Ranch site enjoys. The orientation of the home provides nature links us to the intricacies and immediate sensory
cross ventilation in all critical spaces through windows, doors, pleasures of the site.
and operable skylights through which fresh air from the The architecture of the Optimum Performance Home is
Pacific Ocean breezes will circulate. Interior materials and formed within, around, and about the natural features of the site.
design elements that respond subtly to air movement will be Free-flowing movement between indoor and outdoor spaces
used to enhance the experience of natural ventilation. is enhanced by multiple transition areas such as covered
walkways, courtyard, decks, and a garden that visually and
Access to open and/or moving water (visual, acoustical, physically extends the livable space into the natural environment.
symbolic qualities) Three levels of views will be enjoyed: controlled views that
Water is one of the most evocative, universally shared sym- look into the courtyard, private garden, or prepared places on
bols of life and a powerful biophilic attribute. We are instinc- the property maintained by the owners; local views that look
tively drawn to water as a source of survival, as well as for out onto nearby nature; and expansive views that look out to
aesthetic and recreational pleasure. In addition to human infinity and include the Pacific Ocean and “big sky” views.
beings’ historical patterns of habitat selection that have Pervious surfacing of the driveways, parking areas, and
always favored living near the water, some of our most cher- walkways maintain stronger connections with the natural
ished and revered buildings, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s immediate surroundings by eliminating solid pavement and
Fallingwater, use water as a primary design element. retaining all potential runoff in the immediate watershed. The
Distant views of the Pacific Ocean from a variety of inside natural flow from inside the home to the outdoor paths link the
and outside spaces link the Optimum Performance Home to home to nearby walking trails, gardens, stables, and riding
its symbolic associations with the sea. The planned excavat- trails along the 10 miles of coastline and further connects the
ed pond situated at the rear of the property serves not only a occupants to the site and its natural surroundings.
functional role as part of the hydrologic plan; it creates a bio-
philic focal point for the landscape surrounding the home and Sensory connections to nature (physical, visual, material
a habitat for local vegetation and wildlife. connections between interiors and nature)
Two private outdoor/nature areas are designed around water. While most built environments provide somewhat shallow
Within the courtyard and visible from select interior spaces such and limited sensory experiences as compared to nature, bio-
as the master suite, the in-ground hot tub provides both visual philic design deeply engages all of the senses––in much the
and physical interaction with water in a natural setting. The private same way as sitting near the ocean, walking through the for-
garden includes a water feature visible from the living room est, climbing a mountain, or working in the garden. It is not a
and the second-story library/music room. Additional interior passive experience, but rather one that reminds us every
water features will be designed to provide visual, acoustical, moment that we are alive and a part of the life of the planet.
and symbolic connections to the compelling proximity of the The four previously discussed attributes––natural light,
home to the sea. ventilation, access to water, and opportunities to encounter
nature from multiple perspectives––all directly enhance our
Frequent opportunities for spontaneous interaction with sensory connections to the natural world and are abundant in
nature, including other species (integration of and free-flow- the Optimum Performance Home. The surrounding natural
ing movement between interior and exterior spaces, visual setting of the home itself is so compelling, in part because it
and/or physical access to wildlife) provides such a rich source of these attributes, and the site-
Biophilic design views the site and building as a series of specific architectural design takes full advantage of each.
exterior and interior spaces woven together in a tapestry. By Interior materials, colors, patterns, textures, and artwork
integrating the natural elements of the site into the form of the will draw the qualities and features of the architecture and
architecture itself, we experience the unique relationships landscape inside enhancing a seamless interior/exterior sensory
between interior and exterior from multiple perspectives as we experience. This does not mean necessarily using exactly the

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same materials, but rather materials Mystery arouses our intuition-driven continues today to provide the benefit geometric progressions, and patterns are that progressively rise vertically similar during construction to prevent the dis-
that embody the qualities and features curiosity and encourages us to interact of relief of mental fatigue and stress, as studied and translated into the forms, to the surrounding landscape. charge of sediment. Finally, local, natu-
most desired from the architecture and more fully with our environments. In well as for aesthetic experiences. progressions of scale and proportion, ral surfacing materials (floors, walls,
the landscape. nature, mystery is experienced, for Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard biologist and patterns of the building and interiors. Local natural materials (connect the countertops, cabinetry, etc.) will be
example, as we move through shad- and originator of the concept of Biophilia, This approach is based upon the site to the building and interior spaces) used in the interiors to further connect
Complexity and order (the relationship owed and shaded areas toward bright- Edward O. Wilson, observes our appar- science of Biomimicry introduced in 2002 Biophilic design emphasizes using the home to the site.
of variety and intricacy within underly- ly lit areas, where distant views are par- ent universal desire for conditions of by science writer Janine Benyus. She natural materials native to the site and
ing natural patterns of order) tially obscured through foliage or dis- prospect and refuge this way: “…it explains Biomimicry in this way: “The core surrounding to create sensory connec- In future articles, we will examine
Diversity and intricacy abound in the appear around a bend in the path. seems that whenever people are given a idea is that nature, imaginative by tions between the built and immediate how biophilic design attributes help to
natural world. From micro to macro, Biophilic designs create mystery in free choice, they move to open tree- necessity, has already solved many of the natural environments. Care must be provide many of the physical, psycho-
nature's almost infinite variety provides much the same way as nature does by studded land on prominence overlooking problems we are grappling with. Animals, taken during site preparation, construc- logical, and cognitive benefits derived
environments for all species to live, sequencing interior and exterior water…Those who exercise the great- plants, and microbes are the consummate tion, and specification of building and from the experience of nature, and how
learn, and thrive. But what makes it all spaces and elements so that some are est degree of free choice…congregate engineers. They have found what works, interior materials to avoid using endan- these attributes will be integrated in the
work are underlying natural patterns of partially screened from views (distant on high land above lakes and rivers and what is appropriate, and, most impor- gered local natural resources or interiors of the Optimum Performance
order that hold the diversity, variety, and near) as we move through and along ocean bluffs.” We are attracted to tant, what lasts here on Earth.... After resources that, by removing them for Home at The Sea Ranch. UHD
and intricacy together to maintain around the spaces. The compound lay- and appreciate these types of natural 3.8 billion years of research and devel- use, will diminish or threaten estab-
The Author
coherence. Natural patterns of scale out of the Optimum Performance Home environments because, as Wilson opment, failures are fossils, and what lished habitat for other species. Julie Stewart-Pollack, ASID, IDEC, is an envi-
and proportion, balance and harmony, at The Sea Ranch creates a series of explains, we are “responding to a deep surrounds us is the secret to survival.” Some of the strategies for using ronmental designer, interior designer, and member
of the design faculty and Coordinator of the Green
novelty and familiarity, help us to interior spaces interwoven with exterior genetic memory of mankind's optimal By examining and seeking to under- local natural materials in the site prepa- Design Area of Emphasis at Rocky Mountain
organize and make sense of the com- spaces that are “revealed” as one environment.” stand the forms, processes, and patterns ration of the Optimum Performance College of Art + Design in Lakewood, Colorado.
She is co-author of the ASID award-winning book,
plexity of the natural world. Biophilic moves through the home and sur- This is the environment from which the of nature, biophilic design is able to solve Home include: preserving the fertile Designing For Privacy And Related Needs and
design uses these same patterns to rounding exterior spaces. As the Optimum Performance Home derives naturally some of the challenges we layer of topsoil for use in landscaping author of the soon to be released book, The Need
For Nature: A Premise For The Design Of The Built
organize design elements and create design of the interior of the home pro- its form, its orientation, and its design. encounter when designing sustainable with native plants, and using natural Environment. Julie has published several articles
gresses, interior spaces will be The home overlooks the sweeping on sustainable design and the human need for
built environments rich with information. built environments. For example, using groundwater management so that the
nature and has an accredited CEU course entitled
The architectural design of the planned to further enhance the subtle prospect of the Pacific Ocean, shielded graduated repetition of scale is one unique watershed characteristics of the “The Need For Nature In Healing Environments
And The Workplace.” She is a frequent guest lec-
Optimum Performance Home varies in qualities of mystery that are found in from the road by natural buffers of native effective way to help meet a primary seasonally marshy meadow are main- turer and speaker on sustainable design and built
scale and proportion appropriate to the the surrounding natural environment by fire-adaptive trees, as well as meadow objective and challenge in building homes tained. In addition, damaged pines that environment issues, and is a member of the
USGBC and the Sustaining Design Task Force of
site and surrounding landscape fea- creating spaces and partially screened habitat brushes, flowering plants, and at The Sea Ranch: integrate the structure were cleared from the site were stock- the Interior Design Educators Council. As a con-
tures. The façade, fenestrations, and views that change and expand as one ground cover. Sheltered decks with with the site. Exterior elevations of the piled to be chipped to cover bare sultant specializing in sustainable design and edu-
cation, she works with architects, designers, edu-
surface details provide strong vertical moves through the series of indoor and panoramic views provide refuge and three buildings of the Optimum ground exposed after construction. cators, and institutions to increase awareness and
elements in patterns that contrast har- outdoor rooms. privacy. The home's design features a Performance Home illustrate how the These chips will also be used as much understanding of sustainable design issues, prin-
ciples, and practices.
moniously with the overall horizontal combination of inside/outside, large/small, buildings begin as low horizontal forms for mulch as a temporary site control
footprint of the home. Interior materials, Prospect and refuge (strategic shared/individual, and public/semi-pri-
furnishings, and details will reflect the viewing conditions from a position of vate/private spaces offering many char-
multi-layered but elegant complexity of
colors, patterns, and textures found at
The Sea Ranch site.
safety and security)
From the first crude shelters of our
earliest ancestors to the most
acteristics of prospect and refuge. The
library/music room on the second floor is
a particularly good example, with
Get Inspired...
Mystery (enhances the desire to
advanced, modern built environments
available today, our homes have
prospect in four directions via windows
on three sides and a dramatic skylight
books for better living
explore, discover, and learn from the
complexities of nature)
always been chosen and designed to
provide primarily a place of protection.
overhead. The interiors of the home will
use lighting, and furniture selection and
Available Now At:
The relationships of complexity and But all too often today that protection placement, as well as visual screening
order found in natural environments often almost completely insulates and iso- elements to further enhance the
take on the quality of mystery, defined by lates us from the natural world and the prospect and refuge experience. Universal Designed Homes That Heal
environmental psychologists Rachel and many benefits we gain from interaction “Smart” Homes By: Athena Thompson
Stephen Kaplan as, “Something in the with nature. The attribute of prospect Fundamental natural forms (biomimetic By: Charles Schwab Home Energy Diet, The
setting (that) draws one in, encourages and refuge combines the desired lev- models, fractals, natural progressions
Green Remodeling By: Paul Scheckel
By: David Johnston; Kim Master Good Cooking: The New Basics
one to enter and to venture forth, thus els of safety and protection with the of scale, rhythm, proportion, repetition, Art of Natural Building, The By: Jill Dupleix
providing an opportunity to learn some- ability to connect visually to a view of symmetry, gradients) By: Joseph F. Kennedy; Michael G. Sustainability Revolution, The
thing that is not immediately apparent our surroundings—an advantageous Biophilic design views nature as the Smith; Catherine Wanek By:Andrés R. Edwards; David W. Orr
from the original vantage point.” combination historically for survival that ultimate design model. Nature’s forms,

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