Tag Archives: biophilic design

25 Sustainable Projects to Celebrate Earth Day


Happy Earth Day! Sustainability is becoming a standard in architecture, and LEED certification is only the beginning. These projects prove that green design is the new frontier.

1. Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos Strikes All the Right Notes With Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia

Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos won a two-phase competition to design this center with their thesis that links music and architecture. Considering the ratio of glass to metal also became essential because of the layers of thermal insulation needed to create a sustainable and easily heated structure. But first Nieto Sobejano decided what the project shouldn’t have: right angles, a main facade, and a discernable front or back. Instead, what emerged was a pattern of “continuous links echoing the trees,” Sobejano says. Read more

2. Sustainably Designed and Architecturally Significant Buildings in Singapore

Not only is the entire 27-floor external facade wrapped in a natural vine covered sunscreen, but the Oasia Hotel Downtown also has four lush sky terraces, 1,793 large planter boxes, and four large structural cores that allow for good cross ventilation reducing the overall energy cost. Designed by WOHA and completed in 2016, the hotel is home to over 33 species of plants and 21 species of creepers. In addition, the 314-room property is notable for its striking interior design by Patricia UrquiolaRead about 7 more sustainable buildings in Singapore

3. Warmth and Modernism Are at the Heart of 3XN’s Design for Olympic House

Two of the most poignant concepts International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach wanted the design to articulate were sustainability and transparency. 3XN certainly delivered; the build is LEED platinum-certified, and has reused 90 percent of the concrete from the previous headquarters that was demolished to make way for the new build. Read more

4. ACDF Architecture Partners With Architecture49 for Mega Project Parq Vancouver

Six stories high, capped with a 30,000-square-foot roof garden, this contemporary structure “is an urban oasis,”ACDF Architecture CEO Maxime-Alexis Frappier says. ACDF partnered with Architecture49 and their response was not a looming hulk but rather a curving, low-rise presence wrapped in a mirrored facade that reflects its surroundings. Aluminum louvers, capturing sunlight, reflect pixelated images of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. The daylight resulting from abundant glazing contributes to the project’s LEED Gold status, proving Parq fits into the global environment, too. Read more

5. Annapolis Residence by Bates Masi + Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Waterfront House

When a prospective client in Annapolis, Maryland, told Bates Masi + Architects‘ principal Paul Masi that he and his wife had recently purchased a house on the water, he really meant it: The residence’s second-floor deck literally hung right over a cove in the Chesapeake Bay. However, the 1970s structure was sorely outdated, located in the flood plain, and didn’t meet current energy codes. Masi’s solution yielded a new, flat-roofed house, raised three feet higher than its predecessor—and LEED-certified to boot. Read more

6. TPG Architecture Makes Headlines With Its Office for the Associated Press in New York

The AP staffers have had a chance to settle into their new digs by TPG Architecture, which have since been awarded LEED Gold certification. As you might expect, good news travels fast. As Carmel says, the office “compliments who we are as an organization.” That includes a bit of spirit, as seen at the perimeter of the café. There the white floor tile bursts into a confetti of colors, as if celebrating the much-decorated news agency. Read more

7. Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Green

For Neri & Hu, this project entailed repurposing and renovating existing structures—including a former warehouse that now hosts a restaurant, a theater, and an exhibition space—as well as erecting new ones, among them a lakeside pavilion containing four of the 20 suites. “The rustic materiality and layered spaces redefine tradition via a modern architectural language,” says Neri. Read more

8. Studio Rianknop Creates Flexible, Sustainable Space for Amsterdam Tech Company

When an Amsterdam company that manages a file-sharing platform decided to move from the city center to a warehouse near the city limits, it shared a few tasks with local design firm Studio Rianknop: Create a flexible space for the company’s staff; make it sustainable; and take advantage of the industrial space in a relaxing, inviting way. In a clever nod to the wires funneling data across the globe, a “cable tree” grows from the lower level with branches powering first-floor public spaces and a tubular chandelier. Read more

9. The Center for Fiction by BKSK Architects Brings Books and Sustainability to Brooklyn

The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a LEED Silver-certified building in downtown Brooklyn by BKSK Architects. In the writers’ studio, locally-made custom wool felt panels are perforated with the Center’s logo, an open book. Read more

10. ASID Headquarters Becomes World’s First Space to Earn LEED and WELL Platinum Certification

The Washington, DC office, designed by Perkins + Will, is brimming with features that support health and wellness. One is a circadian lighting system that mimics natural daylight, paired with automated shades that follow the sun’s movement to help eliminate eye strain. The design team also implemented biophilic design strategies, for instance by using a range of natural materials and patterns. Read more

11. Mohawk Group’s New NYC Showroom Embraces Wellness

Located in a former textile factory in historic Chelsea, Mohawk Group‘s 13,000-square-foot showroom was designed by Gensler and incorporates LEED and WELL Building Standard qualifications, fully expressing Mohawk’s company ethos: Believe in better. Read more

12. Huntsman Architectural Group Downsizes McKesson for Maximum Efficiency

For McKesson’s San Francisco office, Huntsman Architectural Group went with undeniably contemporary furnishings. Sui generis, however, is a break room’s custom bench, a repurposed conveyor belt hinting at McKesson’s core business. Which brings us to the fact that the premises are going for Well Building certification as well as LEED Gold. Read more

13. Perkins + Will Creates a Contemporary Office for Nixon Peabody in New York

Perkins + Will designed this space to be easily reconfigured as needs change. A feature stair connects the office’s three levels with show-stopping views of the city, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls help foster synergy between practice areas. It was also awarded LEED Gold certification. In all, the office is a balance of functionality and design statement. Read more

14. Five Global Green Projects Pay it Forward

For Park + Associates‘s own office, minimal intervention transformed a 1960’s former school into a showcase of clean-lined design, thanks to vintage furnishings, a black-and-white palette, and painted-steel arches highlighting the reinforced-concrete barrel vaults. Read about all 5 global green projects

15. SKB Architects Creates Lively Lobby for Key Center Office Tower

No longer merely pass-through places, lobbies have become hotel-esque settings. They entice potential tenants to lease, and existing tenants get a perk that might entice them to stay. Such is the case at the Key Center office tower across the water from Seattle. After purchasing the 23-story building, Kilroy Realty Corporation opted to implement changes resulting in LEED Platinum certification and to transform the immense lobby into a “people place,” SKB Architects senior principal Shannon Gaffney recounts. “That’s our thing.” Read more

16. Mosa Tiles Enliven Venetian Villa by JM Architecture

Italian studio JM Architecture outlined a sustainable agenda to maximize the home’s energy-efficiency. Mosa’s LEED-contributing ceramic tiles, which received Cradle-to-Cradle® Silver certification, join the multitude of eco-friendly features that distinguish the villa, including inlaid photovoltaic panels and radiant floor heating. Read more

17. Venable by Alliance Architecture Wins 2017 Best of Year Award for Large Law Office

Moving to a gleaming LEED Platinum palace in the booming East End, this 117-year-old law firm left behind the endless dreary silos of its former headquarters and embraced a cultural shift toward wellness and ergonomics. Thanks to Alliance Architecture, sunlight penetrates offices with clear glass enclosures, every employee has a motorized standing desk, and the café opens onto a terrace complete with barbecue grills, a fire pit, a bar, and a bocce court. Read more

18. 1 Hotel’s Miami Beach Debut by Meyer Davis Studio

Meyer Davis Studio was charged with transforming the lower eight stories of a 1968 building into 1 Hotel Miami. “We paid homage to the natural landscape of south Florida,” Meyer notes—versus the art deco razzle-dazzle typically associated with the area. Moves large and small rack up points in the quest for LEED Silver certification. Uses of reclaimed wood represent a virtual forest preserved. Dialing down to details, Meyer andDavis specified organic bed linens, hemp mattresses, and clothes hangers molded from recycled paper, while bedside note pads have disappeared in favor of chalkboards. Read more

19. Lotus Square Art Center by Shenzhen Dae Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Outdoor

It’s basically common knowledge these days that installing a green roof on a building helps reduce its energy use, absorb stormwater, and combat air pollution. This practice has become increasingly mainstream in hotter developed land masses known as urban heat islands. One such is Hengqin island, overlooking Macau. That’s where this sculptural verdant roof tops an art exhibition hall. Read more

20. Six Futuristic Projects Sprouting Green Roofs

From reducing storm water runoff and city dust to energy-efficient cooling, the benefits of green roofing go beyond beautification. As costs lower and technology makes installation easier, this environmentally conscious trend is increasingly defining the facades of both existing and new buildings. A 660-foot-long undulating wave of verdant green grass forms a rooftop park at Université Paris-Est’s technology and science center, the Espace Bienvenüe designed by Jean-Philippe Pargade. Read about all six green roofs

21. Kimpton Travels to the Caribbean

Amid the sea blues and sandy whites of this resort, there’s a good amount of green, too: A solar array generates electricity, rainwater is harvested for maintaining the landscape, and air-conditioning is geothermal. Read more

22. Mortenhals House by Stinessen Arkitektur Wins 2017 Best of Year Award for Green

The unusual configuration of this family compound by Snorre Stinessen, comprising multiple cabins, plays with the way that the visitor slowly discovers what’s hidden behind the wooden doors. Even the outdoor areas remain private, with only waterscapes or trees as neighbors. In addition to the aesthetic appeal of the design, it checks off all the eco-conscious boxes: The forest was protected during the building process, all wood was sourced locally, water is used with restraint, and electricity is primarily hydropower. Read more

23. HKS’s Loretta Fulvio Decodes U.S. Bank Stadium, Site of Super Bowl LII

When designing for a Super Bowl–sized audience, there’s no greater expert than Loretta Fulvio, lead interior designer for architecture firm HKS’s Sports sector. When tasked with designing the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Fulvio and her team sought to create experiences that extend far beyond Super Bowl Sunday. In the stands, visitors can feel good about making a positive impact: 91 percent of waste is recycled, composted, or donated, due to the concession stands using compostable packaging. And the entire venue is run on wind power. Read more

24. San Vicente 935 by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Rental Apartment Building

All apartments in this building have balconies overlooking the central courtyard. Its accessibility eliminates the need for interior, climate-controlled hallways, saving on energy consumption. For the solid faces, Lorcan O’Herlihy employed two materials that contrast each other for visual interest and also help to reduce scale. Siding is fiber cement made of recycled content. Screens, which act as a rain-shield system, are slats of ipe harvested from a local, sustainably managed forest. Read more

25. A Bamboo Kitchen Dominates This Super-Green House by Minarc

Built with prefab panels, this 2,500-square-foot structure by Minarc is sustainable to the max. Bathrooms overflow with eco consciousness. In the powder room, wood scraps stack up to form a vanity supporting a sink in recycled rubber. For a truly back-to-nature experience, right next to the soaking tub in the master bathroom, there’s a lush plant wall. Read more

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posted on 05/07/2018 By Kadie Yale

While not overwhelming, particular palm motifs consistently poked their head out from around booths during this year’s HD Expo, mirroring the notifications we receive in the form of press releases: palm fronds, abstracted and repeating, have continued to be used in the industry, particularly in the hospitality market.

Updated to match current trends, the use of palms has a very direct relation to the historic use of pineapples in American design. But why does the now-somewhat-kitschy use of pineapples and other lush tropical vegetation continue to be prevalent in American design, and what does it mean for contemporary interiors?

Interestingly, pineapples are one of the design staples brought over to the colonies from England. The fruit is said to have been brought back to Europe during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage, and its many versions–from candied to jam–became a must-have in the upper echelons of society. However, access to raw and unprocessed pineapple was a luxury even those at the top of the class structure could hardly get ahold of.

Transporting the fruit in time meant it had to be shipped on the quickest boats in the fleet, and few were able to make it before turning. Therefore, it became a status symbol to be able to have the fresh fruit. Even King Charles II commissioned a portrait with a pineapple in-hand. While transportation became easier along the North American seaboard as the colonies expanded, pineapples were still a costly commodity; they quickly became a preferred high-society hostess gift, thereby cementing its on-going legacy as a symbol of hospitality.

While pineapple motifs are still used, they somewhat lost their luster in the mid-20th century when technology and materiality allowed them to be incorporated into the growing middle class through goods like wallpaper and clothing textiles. The fruit took off in popular culture, due heavily to Hawai’i becoming a state on August 21, 1959. In the same ways that America saw Egyptian motifs in the 1920s after the discovery of King Tut or Japanese-influenced design in the mid-19th century, the welcoming of Hawai’i to the United States became exoticized.


Today, information can be easily found on the history of pineapple motifs in interior design, but for the most part, their use has continued more often because of the mid-20th-century inspiration. Ask an interior designer why they’ve chosen to use tropical foliage or a manufacturer why it’s entered their line, and the answers are typically in response to the fun aesthetic and relaxing aura pineapple and palms give off.

It’s an easy connection to say that pineapple icons evolved into the use of other tropical plants in decor, but I believe we can take it one step further to interweave the current importance of health and wellness into the reemergence of tropical prints.

As clients and end-users become more familiar with biomimicry and biophilic design, interior designers are searching for ways to bring nature indoors. With nature-inspired design on the rise, florals were reintroduced into interiors, but while pineapples mostly harken back to images of a 50’s father in a Hawaiian t-shirt next to the grill in a newly-developed suburb, florals have a tradition of easily crossing the line into appearing matronly (most likely due to gender bias, but that topic deserves its own article). Companies such as Tarkett have been able to release floral products in recent years, but they come alongside more abstracted designs to tone down the flower patterns.


Working with flowers, and working with flowers well is a special skill few possess.

Tropical motifs, however, haven’t had the same type of gender bias that flowers have. The historical tie-in to hospitality may not be as direct as it was in the past, but the image of palms, pineapples, and birds of paradise still inspire the feeling of luxury, relaxation, and getting away from it all. Eliciting these emotions while also pulling in biophilic design principals packages the whole aesthetic into the perfect “Wish you were here!” statement.

Two notable instances during the HD Expo show were the use of more mid-century design and repeat by Innovations, and an abstracted block-print-like design by Fil Doux. In particular, these two examples show the main ways in which interior designers are using tropical greenery: in traditional, realistic ways (Innovations), or by breaking down the pattern to only its geometric elements (Fil Doux).

Designers can expect to continue to see pineapples, palms, and more tropically-integrated products in the coming years. While they may not take center-stage or be the highlight of the collection, they will continue to emerge.

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How Biophilic Design Helps Bancroft’s Autistic Students

How Biophilic Design Helps Bancroft’s Autistic Students

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Connecting students to the natural world can prove therapeutic, especially to those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This is where biophilic design can make a positive impact on students’ experience and why it was the guiding philosophy behind the recently opened 80-acre, $75 million, New Jersey-based Raymond and Joanne Welsh Bancroft Mount Laurel campus.

Continue reading How Biophilic Design Helps Bancroft’s Autistic Students

Cement — technically, concrete — is the next cool touch in interior design

  • By Todd von Kampen// World-Herald correspondent
  • 0
Cement — technically, concrete — the next cool touch in interior design
A student-staffed design lab led by Min | Day used design features and materials to complement concrete in the reception area of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.



Even as office-design experts tout a “green” resurgence in today’s workspaces — in plant life and environmental sustainability — the next trend already is on its way.

Green and living, it is not.

In writing last August about the “Hottest Office Design Trends of 2018,” an Ambius.com blogger took note of a “Cement Everything” trend gaining steam since 2016, even as plant- and sunlight-friendly “biophilic design” reigns supreme.


“No longer relegated to the outdoors, you’ll find cement in homes, restaurants, offices and just about anywhere and everywhere these days,” wrote Zack Sterkenberg. “Traditionally non-cement features such as floors, countertops, plant containers, sinks and shelving are now being built and intricately designed using cement and inlaid with wood, stonework or even paint.”

In singing the praises of cement, the major ingredient in concrete, Sterkenberg called attention to its “simple, minimalist aesthetic, clean and smooth lines, well-documented toughness and surprising versatility.”

To be scientifically accurate, this “cement” aesthetic ought to be called “concrete,” said Dana Vaux, director of the interior design program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

No matter the name, she added, the trend is reminiscent of Bauhaus design, which emerged after World War I, and the more current mid-century modern movement.

Pairing concrete walls and floors with green plants and neutral colors to break up the light color of the concrete promotes what Sterkenberg called “a stunning juxtaposition that stands out as modern and industrial.”

Reliance on concrete has two important drawbacks in light of the push for more comfortable and healthful workplaces, noted Vaux and Nanci Stephenson, interior design program coordinator at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.

“A concrete floor is very durable and long-lasting,” Vaux said.

But given the present-day emergence of stand-or-sit workstations, “if you’re standing for long periods of time, it’s a problem.”

If offices have concrete walls and floors, “the acoustics really suffer,” Stephenson added.


Biophilic design: How architecture can contribute to a healthier, less-stressful life

By Janet Dunn
Despite the many conveniences and advantages of modern life, wellbeing and contentment continue to evade many of us. The cure may be in an architectural concept that sounds new but is as old as the hills. Take a dose of biophilia and read how your home’s design can help you live a healthier, less stressful life.

The tale of a tiger


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Tony the Siberian-Bengal tiger was an attraction at a truck stop in Louisiana, USA until recently, when his life – lived out in a cage outside the petrol station – was cut short due to illness. The tiger spent most of his 17 years in the fume-filled artificial habitat, but had his owner known more about the links between an animal’s surroundings and its health and happiness, Tony’s story may have ended differently.

Is there a lesson humans can take from Tony’s fate? Deprived of sensory stimuli, social bonds and connection with nature in our homes and workplaces, we may be heading down the same path. Biophilic design is being advanced as the next important focus in architecture and as a remedy, partly, for the plethora of modern-day conditions linked to fatigue and stress.

What is biophilic design?

Biophilia literally translates as ‘love of life’. In the 1980s, American biologist E. O. Wilson 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”. Exponents of biophilic design are attempting to address this instinct architecturally.

Photo by Brickworks Building Products

Essential to biophilic theory is the idea that buildings aid our physical and mental health only when they are designed holistically. Rather than isolated elements – for example, simply putting plants in a building – benefits occur when diverse and complementary factors reinforce our experiences of nature. Wilson’s colleague Dr Steven Kellert named plants and natural lighting, and indirect influences through shapes, forms and materials that originate in the natural world, as some of the attributes of this kind of design.

Is it just another name for green architecture?

Green building principles emphasise responsibility to the environment and efficient use of sustainable resources. Although biophilic design embraces these aims, its focus is more on the wellbeing of those who use the spaces.

The merging of planet-based with human-based philosophies is causing a stir in architectural circles. Brian Donovan of BVN Donovan Hill commented that “architecture will never be the same again”.

What’s new about it?

Biophilic design is a rediscovery of an ancient practice, not a new idea. For aeons, architects have recognised the place of humans in a wider ecosystem and integrated natural elements into built forms. Athens’ Parthenon, Rome’s Pantheon, and the ancient Vietnamese city of Hoi An are examples of biophilic design at work, although the label wasn’t attached until the 1980s.

By Fallingwater Mill Run - See more Home Design Photos

Frank Lloyd Wright was a more recent exponent 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 groundbreaking Fallingwater (pictured above) is so integrated with nature as to be inseparable.

Why are we talking about it now?

Today, the concept of biophilia is supported by a more scientific understanding of the psychology behind building-based wellness. Exponents of biophilic design believe the large proportion of time we spend in built environments may contribute significantly to feelings of isolation, tension and lethargy.

Today, there is growing interest in designing restorative, productive and appealing buildings with sustained opportunities to engage with natural systems. Workplaces, medical and aged care facilities and, vitally, our homes are set to benefit hugely from this trend.

What are the elements of biophilic design?

  • Natural light from windows, skylights, clerestory openings; full-spectrum artificial light sources that complement daylight; dynamic light of varying intensity via facades, shades, shutters and apertures.
  • Exterior views. A distant view past a close view gives perspective and a sense of connection to a wider ecosystem.
  • Water sources such as fountains, ponds and water features, that can be seen, heard and touched.
  • Rich sensory stimuli that reference nature; scented plants, plants that change colour seasonally, plants positioned to move in breezeways, open flames, tactile materials. Minimally processed materials that reflect the local ecology; natural fibres such as leather, stone, timber and handmade objects.
Photo by Olivia van Dijk Architecture - Look for living room design inspiration

An intriguing aspect of biophilic design is that, in the absence of real natural environments, simulation has equal benefits. This is known as ‘biomimicry’ and is perhaps the feature that is most useful and achievable in urban spaces. It is found in:

  • organic shapes in construction and furniture (geometric shapes are rarely found in nature).
  • colour schemes derived from nature – earth and vegetation tones, colours found in water and the sky.
  • nature imagery, either realistic or derivative, including photographs, art, murals, sculptures and stylised floral or vegetal patterns
Photo by MRTN Architects – Browse dining room photos

An architect talks about biophilic design

Architect Antony Martin says biophilic concepts are very present in MRTN Architects‘ projects. For example, Fairfield Hacienda (above) includes multiple sources of natural light, ventilation and natural materials associated with physical and mental health benefits. Martin describes the undulating cedar-clad ceiling as “the antithesis of the ubiquitous flat, white plasterboard ceiling, moving towards more environmental shapes and forms.”

A green buffer to the street enables connection and interaction with vegetation and views for the occupants and passers-by. Internally, a central courtyard allows visual connection with other areas of the house and creates a thermal ‘lung’ for natural cooling and heating.

Photo by MRTN Architects - More kitchen ideas

Meanwhile, in his Rathmines project, salvaged materials relate to the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi – the beauty in imperfection and natural processes. The kitchen island is topped with tactile recycled wharf, while the interior walls and barbecue area outside are constructed of salvaged brick.

In Martin’s Trentham Long House, the material palette echoes the natural environment, favouring texture over flat colour. Timber cladding is allowed to silver over time and contrast with the character-filled slate tile floor. Gabion stone walls shelter alfresco living areas, allowing outdoor connection even on windy days.

Photo by MRTN Architects – Search living room pictures

A lattice of timber battens throws dappled shadows on the slate floors. “The moving patterns evoke the protective canopy of trees on the forest floor,” says Martin.

Photo by MRTN Architects – Search kitchen pictures

An extension to the Carlton Cloister was achieved by a corridor link between the main house and the two-storey addition. The covered walkway connects continuously to the garden through north-facing glazing. Built from red brick and blackbutt cladding, materials in this project more closely align to external spaces than interior ones, reinforcing the outdoor aspects of the walkway.

The house is positioned around a central courtyard and offers layered views from every aspect. Concentrating the garden to the north optimises natural daylight. The high thermal mass of internal red brick walls and concrete slab capture direct solar heat like a battery, which is then released when needed. The result is a home that comforts the body as naturally and effectively as it does the soul. And that’s biophilic in one simple phrase.

This article originally appeared on Houzz.

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Cement — technically, concrete — is the next cool touch in interior design

  • By Todd von Kampen/World-Herald Correspondent
  • Updated
Cement — technically, concrete — the next cool touch in interior design
A student-staffed design lab led by Min | Day used design features and materials to complement concrete in the reception area of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.


 Even as office-design experts tout a “green” resurgence in today’s workspaces — in plant life and environmental sustainability — the next trend already is on its way.

Green and living, it is not.

In writing last August about the “Hottest Office Design Trends of 2018,” an Ambius.com blogger took note of a “Cement Everything” trend gaining steam since 2016, even as plant- and sunlight-friendly “biophilic design” reigns supreme.


“No longer relegated to the outdoors, you’ll find cement in homes, restaurants, offices and just about anywhere and everywhere these days,” wrote Zack Sterkenberg. “Traditionally non-cement features such as floors, countertops, plant containers, sinks and shelving are now being built and intricately designed using cement and inlaid with wood, stonework or even paint.”

In singing the praises of cement, the major ingredient in concrete, Sterkenberg called attention to its “simple, minimalist aesthetic, clean and smooth lines, well-documented toughness and surprising versatility.”

To be scientifically accurate, this “cement” aesthetic ought to be called “concrete,” said Dana Vaux, director of the interior design program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

No matter the name, she added, the trend is reminiscent of Bauhaus design, which emerged after World War I, and the more current mid-century modern movement.

Pairing concrete walls and floors with green plants and neutral colors to break up the light color of the concrete promotes what Sterkenberg called “a stunning juxtaposition that stands out as modern and industrial.”


Reliance on concrete has two important drawbacks in light of the push for more comfortable and healthful workplaces, noted Vaux and Nanci Stephenson, interior design program coordinator at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.

“A concrete floor is very durable and long-lasting,” Vaux said.

But given the present-day emergence of stand-or-sit workstations, “if you’re standing for long periods of time, it’s a problem.”

If offices have concrete walls and floors, “the acoustics really suffer,” Stephenson added.

For More Information About This Blog Post, Click Here!

How Homes Support Healthy Lifestyles

Today’s focus on clean, connected, and toxin-free living may have its roots in the hospitality industry, but this trend is making its way into multifamily developments and single-family homes.
Beech model at The Cannery


More and more consumers are looking for ways their homes can improve their physical and mental well-being. And an increasing number of developers are focusing their projects around this concept, hoping their wide variety of health-focused amenities will be a winning combination to attract buyers’ attention.

One early example that keeps evolving is Serenbe, a 1,200-acre, 13-year-old community outside Atlanta. “The developer drives many of the sustainable aspects of homes in the Serenbe community, which make houses and our lifestyles healthy,” says Monica Olsen, vice president of marketing and communications for the development. She cites the project’s geothermal heating and cooling, solar-ready homes, access to nature, and edible landscaping as features that help their homes stand out. “These healthy home choices, along with our setting in nature with miles of trails right outside home owners’ doors, add to the increased buyer draw.”

The trend is evident across the country. When The New Home Company in Roseville, Calif., began planning its 100-acre Cannery housing development in Davis, it hoped to offer a safe place for many—including some of the city’s aging population—to live, says Kevin Carson, the company’s Northern California president. They designed the 547 houses on the site of a former tomato packing plant with solar power systems and wider hallways. The common areas include covered outdoor spaces, designated spots to store bicycles, and a 7.5-acre farm operated by a nonprofit teaching organization.

But not every homeowner can live in a development specially designed to boost healthfulness. The key, according to David Wolf—the Chicago-based president of ON Collaborative, the development, marketing, and sales division of Coldwell Banker—is for agents and brokers to help their clients learn more about the “ingredients” that go into their homes, just as consumers increasingly ask what’s in their food. Here are some of the major trends to look for in this niche.

Biophilic Design

This newer term in healthy home design expresses the desire of many residents to be closer to nature. The plan for Summit Sky Ranch, currently being built on the side of a mountain in Silverthorne, Colo., nestles 240 modern houses among aspen groves to preserve the surrounding landscape. The builders are also using natural materials that occur in the local area to build them, according to architect Matt Mueller, who’s directing the construction. “Every aspect of the development—from five miles of community trails to a 10-acre lake and sandy beach—has been designed to bring families, neighbors, and their love for the outdoors together to enjoy quintessential Colorado living,” Mueller says.

But not every homeowner need claim the Rockies for a backyard. In fact, a study published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that something as simple as looking at pictures of nature can help people bounce back from stressful experiences more quickly. Advances in window and door technology can help make the nature we do have available to us more readily apparent from the indoors. While many glazing options are becoming larger, other window systems are being designed to be lined up to fashion a wall of light and unobstructed views, says Christine Marvin, director of corporate strategy and design for Marvin Windows and Doors. Door manufacturers are also using more glass and offering greater flexibility to fold away or slide doors into pockets. And Chicago builder Orren Pickell says he’s sizing down resort-style lanais for residential use, with protective roofs but no walls.

Small = Healthy?

The idea of paring square footage is hardly new—architect and author Sarah Susanka touted the advantages of the “not so big house” almost 20 years ago as a way to gain quality rather than just size. But the concept is finally gaining ground for health-oriented reasons, even among those who can afford big homes, according to architectural designer Eric Rothman. “We’re seeing a huge move away from the oversized super-house and even a migration from Atlanta suburbs to the city, where lots are smaller,” he says. “The country’s aging population finds smaller houses are easier to maneuver. Less care means avoiding being a slave to your home and instead pursuing exercise and other activities that are good for you.” Susanka sees another distinct advantage. “With less space, we get to interact more, and these human connections promote well-being,” she says. The newest housing going up at Serenbe is in a Scandinavian row-home style, ranging from just under 1,000 square feet to 1,200. Monica Olsen says these new designs offer easy maintenance, lower prices, and proximity to neighbors.

Better Air and Water Quality

For years, builders have focused on fashioning tighter building envelopes to make homes easier to keep warm or cool. Unfortunately, some designs became so tight that they eliminated fresh air, which resulted in mold growth and indoor air pollution caused by off-gassing home products. Ben Skoog, an independent construction consultant in Nashville, advises homeowners to carefully research all products and furnishings they bring into a house, since it’s not just paints, sealants, wood flooring, and carpeting that give off harmful and unpleasant fumes. “Some plug-in air fresheners pose a risk with synthetic ingredients, as can old barn wood repurposed for decorative interior wall coverings, even though it seemed green initially. Who knows what that wood was exposed to and absorbed over time?” Skoog notes. “When home owners make significant changes to their homes, it can impact the original design of the home systems and potentially compromise their integrity.”

To mitigate these issues, Skoog recommends air purification systems be built into new homes or retrofitted to existing ones. While such systems can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on the system’s size and complexity, the peace of mind they provide is important, especially for young families, older home owners, or those with compromised respiratory systems.

In addition to concerns over air quality, the sad situation in Flint, Mich., taught homeowners across the country that they can’t take water safety for granted either. Those looking to better understand a particular property’s risks may wish to consult testing kits. Live Pure Inc. is one of many companies that offers such products; its all-in-one water and air assessment kit will run consumers around $800, with a separate mold and allergens kit coming in around $450. Its comprehensive drinking water quality test runs around $250. Homeowners can also choose to hire one of the growing number of home health inspectors.

Food Sources Closer to Home

It seems everyone wants to know where their food is coming from, and that’s leading to an uptick in edible home gardens. Utah landscape designer Laurie van Zandt says a good 75 percent of her clients now request vegetable and herb gardens. “It’s a rarity when someone doesn’t want a vegetable garden,” says Northern California landscape designer Michael Glassman. He adds that 80 to 90 percent of them also ask for at least a few fruit trees, often dwarf-sized, alongside the growing interest he’s seeing in edible vines.

Of course, not all homes or climates can support such edible infrastructure. For those with less space, Pickell suggests adding greenhouse-style windows and hanging terrariums. Matthew Rosenberg, acting design principle and owner at M-Rad Architecture + Design in Los Angeles, says he’s seeing a new design twist growing in popularity: growing troughs dropped into kitchen countertops. And for those without a green thumb, consider gathering a list of nearby farmers markets, community-supported agriculture options, and food co-ops that offer local produce to help market your listings to locavores.

Improved Artificial Light

It’s not just plants that crave light, and most real estate pros are well-versed in the many ways to maximize sunshine in a listing. But for spaces that just don’t have great light, new options are coming onto the market and coming down in price. Lightbulbs that change temperature and brightness can complement residents’ circadian rhythms and help improve their mood. These new bulbs are not the same thing as LEDs with dimmers, which change a bulb’s light intensity but don’t change the actual temperature. These new options also can be programmed to change automatically throughout the day. “In the morning, a homeowner may want the light brighter and cooler, and in the evening less bright and warmer. All this is measured in terms of the bulb’s Kelvin temperature,” says architect Robert Fornataro, senior associate with SWBR in Rochester, N.Y. Up until recently, these lights have been used mostly in commercial settings due to their high costs. However, Fornataro expects to see them more often in residential applications as demand increases and prices drop. Some examples in the consumer realm already include GE’s C Sleep and Phillips’ Hue White Ambiance.

Emerging “Me” Spaces

Connecting with others is a clear boon to emotional and physical health. But the pendulum may have swung too far with a focus on bigger kitchens and open floor plans, especially for introverts. Some homeowners are starting to seek a balance with more solo areas, according to Coldwell Banker’s Wolf. “They want little pockets of space where they can spend alone time to meditate or read, whether it’s in a home, condo, or shared amenity space,” he says. Jenny Arrington, a yoga and meditation teacher at Northwestern University’s Wellness Center and Kellogg School of Management, advocates carving out a space that appeals to all senses and calms with the use of muted blue and gray colors. Certain staging accessories can help evoke this feeling in a listing—Arrington suggests avoiding bright colors, using rich textures such as faux fur and embroidery, adding candles with organic scents, and even placing a small fountain or Tibetan singing bowl in a spare room.

Learn how to carve out private spaces in open layouts without erecting new walls.

Architectural designer Eric Rothman says at least one-third of the projects in the works at the eponymous firm he runs alongside his wife Jenny in Atlanta includes “some sort of small meditation or prayer room—typically 10 feet by 10 feet.” While most such rooms eschew televisions and focus instead on windows to help clients connect with nature, that’s not always the case. One client requested a space where screens are essential. “He wanted the space underground and soundproofed so he could play his computer games away from everyone,” Rothman says. “Everybody has a different interpretation of what they need” in their “me” space.

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Top 10 Design Stories of 2017

2017 was a busy year for the design industry. Here’s a look back at ten stories that inspired and challenged us. 

First Phase of Second Avenue Subway Completed

The new 72nd Street station, part of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway. Photography by Charles Aydlett, courtesy of AECOM-Arup JV.

Progress on the eagerly anticipated Second Avenue subway line in New York City moved forward, with new stations opening to the public on January 1. When completed, the line will run a total of 8.3 miles and transport over 200,000 daily commuters.

Women Made Gains in Architecture, But Diversity Remains an Issue

Denise Scott Brown outside of Las Vegas, NV. Photography by Robert Venturi, via ArchDaily.

The architecture industry has gotten a bad rap for its lack of diversity in the field, but some small gains were made this year. Legendary architect and educator Denise Scott Brown was awarded the Jane Drew Prize for women in architecture, and Carme Pigem of RCR Arquitectes was awarded the Pritzker Prize, along with her male partners. She is the third woman to ever receive the prestigious award. 

This Year’s Design Trends Were Bold, Brilliant, and Bizarre

Canvas Worldwide’s L.A. headquarters features iridescent glass throughout. Photo courtesy of A+I. 

The muted palettes and rigid geometric forms of minimalism saw a backlash from new and established designers looking for something to break up the monotony. Iridescent coloring, unconventional forms, and frenetic maximalist arrangements made a breakthrough this year. 

Oslo Airport’s Expansion Sets the Bar High for Sustainable Design

Interior shot of Oslo airport’s recently opened expansion. Photography courtesy of Nordic Office of Architecture.

Nordic Office of Architecture’s Oslo airport expansion is the greenest terminal in the world, receiving the BREEAM excellence in sustainability rating. The Scandinavian airport reaches Passive House standards of energy consumption through clever building orientation, environmentally friendly materials, and biophilic design.

Louvre Abu Dhabi Opens to the Public

The dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, known as the “Rain of Light”, echoes forms of traditional Arabian architecture and was inspired by date palm fronds. Photography by Roland Halbe.

Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in November to wonder and applause from the design community and the general public. The museum boasts impressive numbers, including 55 individual buildings and 23 galleries, all covered by a dome comprised of 7,850 lattice work stars and measuring 590 feet wide. 

Neave Brown Receives Royal Gold Medal

American architect Neave Brown exited the architecture field at age 73 to focus on fine art. Photography by Garath Gardner. 

Modernist architect Neave Brown designed some of London’s landmark social-housing complexes, including the Alexandra Road Estate and the Dunboyne Estate. He is the only living architect to have all of his work listed. 

Biophilic Design Continues to Bloom

EcoLogicStudio’s H.O.R.T.U.S (Hydro Organisms Responsive to Urban Stimuli) room at this year’s Astana Expo. The tubes are filled with photosynthetic micro-algae, an organism that is gaining popularity as an alternative to fossil fuels. Photography courtesy of NAARO. 

Biophilic design gained more ground this year, with several hotel and apartment lobbies featuring lush green walls, and exciting new designs, like BIG’s San Pellegrino flagship factory or SOM’s India Basin, making biophilic design more and more popular. This year also introduced the Living Future Institute’s first annual Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Award, awarding the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore with the inaugural first place prize. 

Architects Call for Change After Grenfell Tower Tragedy

A temporary school built by Portakabin surrounds the ruins of Grenfell Tower, which caught ablaze earlier this year. Photography courtesy of Getty, via Dezeen

As it became clear that subpar external cladding caused the tragic Grenfell Tower fire earlier this year, architects around the globe responded by demanding better practices and code for high-rise buildings going forward. RIBA demanded an end to combustible cladding, and incensed industry professionals suggested the U.K. government’s long history of cost-cutting policies directly lead to the disrepair and ultimate destruction of Grenfell.

Tech Giants Embrace Bold Architecture

Google’s London HQ will be as long as the city’s tallest tower is tall. Rendering courtesy of Google, via Dezeen

Tech giants Apple and Google publicly revealed their plans for bold, new headquarters in Cupertino and London, respectively. With big names like Norman Foster (Apple) and Heatherwick Studio and BIG (Google) spearheading these projects, each building pushes the boundaries of what is feasible for workplace design. 

President Trump’s Border Wall Stirs Controversy in Design Field

Five of the eight border wall prototypes favored by President Trump erected on the U.S.-Mexico border. Photography by Mike Black, via Reuters.

When President Trump made his plans for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border known, architects were divided over the ethical ramifications of bidding for the project. Many designers felt that the wall reflected xenophobic values and stood against the architect’s professional code, while others saw no moral reason to not bid for the project. 

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Bringing Nature Into The Office

Many companies are beginning to incorporate biophilic design into the architecture and interior design of their offices. Biophilic design integrates natural elements such as plants, wood, stone and water into a setting to satisfy a deep human need for contact with nature.[1]

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