Biophilic strategies grow sales and dwell time
by Joey-Michelle Hutchins
Material Connection with Nature: Natural materials are perceived to be warm and authentic. REI’s use of wood as both a structural material and finish material throughout NYC’s SoHo store takes advantage of that. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CALLISONRTKL
You’ve probably felt it—that instinctive connection between yourself and nature. And if you’ve felt it, you know how strong that pull of nature can be. You won’t be surprised, then, to learn that this connection is a scientific phenomenon. It’s called biophilia. Studies have shown that exposure to nature has numerous health benefits for humans, even in small doses. In fact, small, consistent doses of nature are much more effective than occasional long exposure; walking through a park on your way to work each day or living in an area with access to greenery can work wonders. Access to nature decreases stress levels and heart rate, elevates mood, and increases concentration and cognitive performance. It has even been shown to increase life expectancy.
And in retail spaces, the benefits of biophilia are well established:
- Access to daylight increases sales by up to 37%.
- Greenery and natural elements within retail spaces make them feel more inviting, decreasing customers’ stress levels and increasing dwell time.
- Plants also help purify the air and improve indoor air quality.
- Greenery also absorbs sound, reducing noise pollution.
With benefits such as these, it’s obvious why biophilic design has grown exponentially in popularity. In applying the idea of biophilia to the built environment, designers can capitalize on our inherent connection to nature to create a stress-free store that encourages successful shopping experiences for both customers and retailers.
3 biophilic categories
From left: Nature in the Space—Visual Connection with Nature: Green walls such as Chelsea Collective’s Refresh Wall provide a visual connection to nature by bringing the outdoors into the space. Plus, indoor plants improve indoor air quality by filtering and cleaning the air. Natural Analogues—Material Connection with Nature: Natural materials are perceived to be warm and authentic. REI’s use of wood as both a structural material and finish material throughout NYC’s SoHo store takes advantage of that. Nature of the Space—Mystery and Curiosity: The spiral staircase in Erno Laszlo’s New York store provides a sense of mystery, encouraging the customer to explore.
There are three categories of biophilic design strategies: Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues, and Nature of the Space.
Nature in the Space is the most straightforward of these categories. This strategy incorporates elements of nature directly into the space. This can be via plants within the space, views to nature outside, visual or aural connection to water or other natural elements, access to daylight and natural ventilation, and more.
Natural Analogues looks to nature for material and functional inspiration. This includes emulating natural systems and strategies through biomimicry, as well as using natural materials and biomorphic forms and patterns.
Nature of the Space looks at design characteristics of natural spaces, such as “Prospect and Refuge” and “Mystery and Curiosity,” and asks how those ideas can be incorporated into architectural and interior spaces.
Beauty and aesthetics are subjective. Different cultures have different standards of beauty, and different groups of people will find different types of environments and displays attractive. However, rich traditions of landscape art throughout many regions of the world point to a shared appreciation of the beauty of nature. Recent studies have found that our brains are hardwired to find nature and images that incorporate Nature of the Space beautiful. Our brains also react more favorably to images that are richly interpretable and contain elements we can associate with our memories and experiences. Natural materials as well as biomorphic forms and patterns provide this experience.
Potent design tool
Biophilia is a unique and potent tool in store design. Retailers want their store design to represent their brand and to attract their core customer base. Employing elements of biophilic design gives retail – ers the opportunity to attract a broader range of customers while still catering to their core market, all while increasing sales and dwell time.
Joey-Michelle Hutchinson, RA, LEED AP BD+C, CSBA, is associate VP of CallisonRTKL.