Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness – Enterprise, OR

Influencing Healing and Recovery with Nature…Indoors!

Designing healing environments is a mix of art and science. As an Evidence-Based Design Professional, Pinnacle’s Interior Designer, Briana Manfrass studies research on trends in healthcare and continues to infuse new and tested ideas into healthcare environments.

Biophilic Design

Early humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers spending most of their day and night outdoors among nature. Today, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. Our rates of reoccurring sickness and disease continue to increase, and mental health stability as a nation continues to decrease. Is there a connection?  Several research sources cite the health benefits of bringing the outside in including improved moods, increased concentration, lower stress levels, reduced blood pressure, shorter recovery times, and happier people.

Wikipedia defines biophilic design is a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment using direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. Biophilic design is a revival of connecting humans to nature within the modern built environment. Adding a few houseplants, although beneficial, is not the definition of biophilic design. Looking holistically at an indoor space and creating sustained interaction with people and nature is biophilic design. It is accomplished through both direct and indirect experiences with nature. 

Direct Experience with Nature

  • Natural lighting (skylights, windows, etc.)
  • Vegetation (planters)
  • Natural ventilation
  • Larger operable windows
  • Native stone used indoors
  • Water features (see, hear, and touch)
  • Outside views
  • Green walls
  • Aquariums
  • Simulate the light and shadows that occur naturally outdoors
  • Indoor weather (managing temperature, relative humidity, and airflow to mimic natural environments with digital technology)

Indirect Experience with Nature

  • Biomorphic art (abstract art that evokes living forms such as plants and the human body)
  • Natural colors
  • Photos of nature
  • Simulating natural light (circadian rhythm)
  • Wall coverings with images of nature
  • Material patterns that simulate nature (e.g. flooring, upholstery, accents)
  • Open spaces and curves. Think nature: fields, meandering paths, and flowing rivers.

Case Study: Cow Creek Wellness Center | Canyonville, OR

The wellness clinic serves the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians providing medical and behavioral health services. The design was influenced by nature while being efficient for operations.

Biophilic Design’s Influence on Employee Wellness

Employees in the medical industry have been found to have a higher level of burnout leading to adverse health behaviors. According to a study in the Health Environments Research & Design Journal, “healthcare environments would benefit from a concerted effort to provide increased outdoor, indoor, and indirect nature contact exposures for employees.”

Klamath Basic Behavioral Health | Klamath Falls, OR

KBBH provides mental health services to adults, children, adolescents, and families. The offices use clerestory windows to pull more lighting into the rooms and uses pictures of nature to create a calming treatment room and employee working area.

Employee Break Room | Bend, OR

A living green wall is planned for an employee break room. It provides a connection to nature in addition to the amazing views of the river from large windows. The right image is an example of an urban garden or living wall in an office setting.

Destressing Patients to Influence Psychosocial Well-being

Your environment can create or reduce stress, which affects our bodies in many ways. Many studies produce strong evidence that even three to five minutes of contact with nature can significantly reduce stress and have a complex impact on emotions, reducing anger and fear and increasing pleasant feelings, according to an article written by Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, PhD at the University of Minnesota.

Aspen Springs Psychiatric Residential Facility | Hermiston, OR

Psychiatric facilities aren’t known to be comfortable environments. Stark white walls and metal doors are typical pictures found when searching. Pinnacle designed Aspen Springs with biophilic design principles in mind while keeping safety a top priority.

For example, “artwork” doors in the private bathrooms are magnetic and can be physically removed by staff if needed. The nature scene reduces stress and helps to stabilize moods. 

Stabilization Center | Oregon

A planned center will help individuals with drug, alcohol, addiction, and mental health illness in our area become stable and provided the resources needed to begin recovery. In addition to a warm palette, two water features are proposed to help reduce stress levels for patients, visitors, and staff. The water features are enclosed for safety. The project is still in design.

Designing with nature in mind doesn’t have to add to your project’s budget. Talking about a biophilic approach at the onset of a project allows the design team to incorporate indirect and direct experiences in your space. Interested in learning more? Contact Briana to talk about bringing nature indoors!

Briana Manfrass is an associate principal and interior designer with Pinnacle Architecture. Briana earned an Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) from The Center for Health Design whose mission is to transform healthcare environments through design research, education, and advocacy. She’s successfully applied her knowledge to a variety of project types from healthcare to senior living facilities including her most recent project Lakeview Gardens, a unique assisted living community in Lakeview, OR. Briana has presented at Leading Age in Redmond, OR and Environments for Aging in Austin, TX. Briana can be reached at Briana@parch.biz or 541.388.9897.