After the exhibit floor closed today, many AIA 2012 attendees found their way to one of the last panel discussions of the evening: Design Connects to Nature—Examining the Myriad and Innovative Ways the Built Environment Uses Nature as a Metaphor and Amenity. Nadav Malin, president of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Architectural Record's sister publication GreenSource magazine, moderated the conversation with Jason McLennan, founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge, William Browning, partner of Terrapin Bright Green, and Bob Berkebile, founding principal of BNIM Architects.
Browning began by talking about his work in the mid 1990s reviewing case studies at a time when there was almost no market for green building. A large retail chain's budget was cut such that only half the store was able to incorporate daylighting strategies. Within a few months, owners realized the portion that was daylit received a noticeable jump in sales, indicating that customers responded positively to the naturally lit space. Browning then pointed out three common facets of biophilic design: nature in space, natural analogs, and nature of the space. He outlined numerous studies over the past decade all demonstrating the psychological, physiological, and economical benefits of biophilia. See Bottom Line Benefits of Biophlia for more detailed information about these studies.
After acknowledging that the conference room was "biophilically starved" (as most conventions center spaces are), McLellan launched into a brief history of the Living Building Challenge: A visionary path to a restorative future. He conceded that the first iteration of the Challenge didn't address biophilic design but participating teams still managed to incorporate these strategies on their own accord. Though difficult to quantify or measure, the Living Buiding Challenge 2.0 sets out to reward such design. With 140 registered buildings and several hundred more in the pre-registration stage, designers are starting to figure it out. McLellan believes we are “starved for natural connections” and that the next step will be designing living cities to connect the fabric between buildings.
Berkebile was next and started by underscoring that we must view buildings as living systems. “Sustainable buildings are more sophisticated but not advanced in terms of the larger ecosystem,” he stated.If anyone knows how this can be done, it’s Berkebile. With 8 AIA COTE awards under his belt with firm BNIM, Berkebile has been at the forefront of green design for many years but admits that even some of those super energy efficient projects lack that connection to nature. To succeed, Berkebile believes we must create synergestic relationships and really start to understand the "genius" or natural ecosystems of the site in order to create buildings around these existing systems.