Environmental interaction is essential to human needs and is dependent upon biological and psychological processes and influenced by cultural factors.
Biophilia is the term used to describe the physiological and psychological benefits derived from the intrinsic attraction of humans to nature.
Biophillic design is the promotion of progressive interactions between nature and people within built environments and can foster feelings of place attachment and enhance the aesthetic appeal of a space. Human welfare and development is dependent upon the fundamental role that nature provides.
Opportunities for contact with nature have been forsaken as the natural environment has become degraded by the actions of humans. Air and water pollution, fragmented landscapes, habitat loss and reduction in biological diversity due to climate change and resource depletion are all threats to the function of nature in supporting the emotional, intellectual and moral development of humans. Any opportunities for the reintroduction of valuable human interaction with nature within the built environment will have significant positive physical and psychological effects.
The current heat wave has created an environment within our cities that is at best uncomfortable and at worst, a threat to vulnerable members of the community. Cities are known to be approximately 2-6 degrees C higher in temperature than rural areas and this is known as the urban heat island effect. This is caused by the gradual build up of solar energy within the fabric of a built environment and its release during the night. Urban construction materials have different thermal and radiative properties to natural surfaces and alongside the close arrangement of buildings in cities creating ‘street canyons’, reduce the opportunity for heat loss. The urban heat island effect has a significant impact on city dwellers:
Increased water consumption, increase energy consumption, pollution, fatigue, irritability, respiratory disorders and allergies are examples of how people are affected. Disruption of the normal seasonal function of animals and plants can increase pests and diseases and damage biodiversity.
The National Planning Policy Framework published by The UK Gov. Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012, provides guidelines for the provision of green space, enhancing opportunities for biodiversity and mitigating the effects of climate change such as flash flooding within the built environment.
How urban green space can mitigate the heat island effect:
Any physical cooling of the environment by the effects of green infrastructure will reduce the heat island effect and facilitate a restorative environment enhancing the quality of life for city dwellers.
Pockets of well designed green space provided by qualified horticulturalists can help create green corridors within cities that encourage normal movement of wildlife and increase opportunities for biodiversity, reduce localised flooding, cool buildings and connect people with nature.
Green roofs can cool roof top temperatures, reduce run- off and provide habitats for biodiversity and aesthetic benefits.
Urban trees offer significant benefits in mitigating the heat island effect but careful attention must be given to species choice, tree pit size and relationship to nearby structures.
Green walls can cool buildings, provide habitats for wildlife and aesthetic appeal but require regular maintenance and irrigation. A green screen or hedge can provide a similar effect that is more cost effective.
BSc (Hons) Environment Design and Management