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Why Biophilic Design Matters

Since Optima’s founding, we have thoughtfully developed environments where nature and architecture coexist. This principle of sustainability – known throughout architecture as biophilic design – is becoming increasingly popular across the world throughout all types of built environments.

The process of biophilic design isn’t anything new to the world of architecture; however, in recent years, the design principle has seen a renaissance. Today, biophilic design is used within modern architecture as a method to fulfill the inherent connection between humans and nature. 

Because our natural habitats have increasingly become built environments, designers and architects have discovered the significant value of adding biophilic elements into all kinds of structures to enhance the relationship between natural and built environments. The framework for designing these biophilic environments consists of employing both direct and indirect experiences of nature. Direct experiences incorporate everything from natural light, fresh air and organic landscapes, while indirect experiences include utilizing natural materials and colors and ecological attachments to a location. Everything from skylights to green walls to fountains all apply the conventions attached to the design principle. 

Health Benefits

Beyond creating connectivity to natural environments, biophilic design also supplies an ample amount of benefits to both its surroundings and those who inhabit them. One of the most prolific benefits attached to the design principle is the improvement of air quality. Designs that employ vibrant greenery absorb the natural toxins in the air, ultimately enhancing the atmosphere.

Having access to vegetation and other models of biophilia also has a direct impact on happiness and wellbeing. When design principles like natural light and ventilation are introduced into built environments, a greater appreciation forms – establishing a more welcoming, advantageous space. 

Biophilic Design in Optima

Throughout our communities at Optima, we use biophilic design to improve the lives of our residents and complement their beautiful surroundings and communities. In our latest project, Optima Lakeview, we’re employing biophilic design throughout many elements of the architecture.

The development features a stunning atrium that includes our signature vertical landscaping system within it. At the atrium’s top, an expansive skylight fills the space below it with an abundance of natural light. Optima Lakeview is also home to a variety of private terraces and setbacks featuring lush vegetation and ensuring residents a seamless transition from outdoor to indoor environment.

From the materials used in construction to the greenery placed throughout a building, more and more architects are discovering how to include biophilic design within their builds, connecting their built environment with the natural world around them.

The Health Benefits of Natural Light

Architecturally speaking, Modernist design is often defined by expansive windows and plenty of natural light, something we’ve incorporated across our properties for decades. There’s certainly an aesthetic benefit to large windows and entryways; they invite the outdoors inside, giving residents a full view of the surrounding environment. And as we’ve seen from this year, there’s certainly a wellness aspect to the design feature as well. So what exactly are the full health benefits of natural light?

Physical Benefits

When exposed to sunlight, our skin absorbs vitamin D, which helps prevent bone loss and reduces the risk of heart disease, weight gain and various cancers. You don’t have to sit by the pool in order to get plenty of vitamin D; soaking in some sun while you work from your at-home office or sipping coffee by your window in the morning works just fine. Natural light exposure also helps improve productivity, immune system strength, mood and sleep. Especially during winter months, it’s important to get your daily dose of natural light. 

Mental Benefits

And speaking of winter months, with the days getting shorter and darker, many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. During that time of year, natural light is even more impactful on our mental health. Sunlight actually helps produce serotonin and endorphins, hormones that can significantly improve our moods. If you’re looking for a natural way to beat the winter blues, natural light is a great method to do so.

If you want to maximize natural lighting in your own home, there are a few ways to do so without any major renovations. Arrange mirrors to reflect light, move furniture as to not block windows, avoid heavy or dark drapes and keep your windows clean. You can even try light therapy or synthetic light lamps for an extra boost. No matter your method, natural light is a great way to stay happy and healthy this winter. 

Modernism and the Pandemic

This year, health and wellness have been more important than ever. And with self-quarantining and spending more time at home, many have redefined what a healthy home means. Like other shifts in the world, COVID-19 has certainly prompted us to reflect on the impact of design. We’ve seen how Modernism has affected pandemics in the past, but how might it impact our sense of wellness during COVID-19?

Green-Inspired Design

To house healing tuberculosis patients, the Paimio Sanatorium was designed to connect its residents to fresh air and the healing qualities of nature. While its setting in Southwestern Finland was ideal for recovery, it’s not a feasible solution for those trying to stay healthy in urban areas. Our buildings bring the outdoors in, connecting residents to nature through green roof gardens, vertical landscaping systems, private terraces and lush common spaces. 

Natural Light

Sunshine is another natural remedy for ailing health problems, and the iconic expansive windows found across Modernist practices invites plenty of light inside. From Optima Signature in Chicago, to Optima Kierland Center and Optima Sonoran Village in Scottsdale, our buildings feature floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls, swathing our interiors in light. And for those who may want to more fully soak in the sun, our outdoor amenity spaces, like the grand courtyard promenade at Optima Camelview Village, have plenty of seating amongst resort-style luxury amenities for residents to get their daily dose of Vitamin D.  

Minimal and Open

Modernism is known for its minimalist design, where a lack of ornamentation, decorative moldings or elaborate trims are simplified to create a clean aesthetic. Also simplified: floor plans. Modernist architecture is known for its simple, sweeping interiors, taking a “less-is-more” approach to the division of space. At Optima, our large, open floor plans provide bigger and more open spaces, rather than a series of small rooms, allowing people to comfortably spread out and maintain a safe distance.

Whether residents are still self-isolating or just spending more time at home, we know it’s a challenging time to stay healthy and well, both mentally and physically. But we hope that the Modernist sensibilities of our buildings allow for moments of respite throughout the day and better opportunities to focus on wellness.

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Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





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