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Published August 18, 2022

One with Nature

Biophilic Design — Outside and In

Featuring: Feeney, Inc.

By: Carolyn Ames Noble, ASID, WELL Faculty, Principal at Ames Design Collective


From circling wolves to the winds of winter, nature has long been a force to subdue, tame, or even conquer. The designs of our homes, educational facilities, places of business, and communities enforced needed structure and protection from the dangers of the wilderness.


In the 21st century, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. According to the US census, about 80 percent of the population of our country lives in an urban area. 


Despite our habit of thinking of humankind as separate from nature, we are built for — and inextricably bound — to this planet. Though we can make ourselves more comfortable and shield ourselves from the elements, the elements actually nurture us. The sun gives us Vitamin D, which supports our immune systems, and regulates our circadian rhythms. The sounds of birds singing and water flowing lower cortisol levels. Digging in the garden helps stabilize your microbiome and produces serotonin. Time outdoors improves cognitive function and creativity. The list of benefits goes on. 

So what to do when 93% of our time is spent indoors*, and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is often worse than outdoor pollution? The answer lies in the growing trend of biophilic design.


Bringing the Outdoors In

Biophilia translates to love of the organic and reflects the movement to bring the outdoors into our built spaces, thus honoring our own biology and echoing nature’s benefits to mind and body.


We partnered with our friends at Feeney® Inc. to explore this burgeoning design sensibility of biophilic design. Feeney is a leading manufacturer of railing systems,  which can create an uninterrupted sense of connection to the outdoors. 


Biophilic design can be the direct inclusion of nature in your space, whether that is plant life, diffused and variable light, the presence of water, and/or the inclusion of natural materials and textures like wood and stone. It also covers analogs to the elements, like patterns and materials that reference water, tall grasses, or the dappling of light through leaves. Examples of biophilic design at Feeney include DesignRail® Seagrass laser-cut aluminum panel infills. They can evoke the flow of waves, ripples in sand, or seaside flora. 


Finally, biophilic design honors and enhances the feeling of space — be that through large windows pointed at local scenery, the creation of internal refuge, or the sensation of mystery and risk.


In the Details and Broad Strokes


Connection with the local environment and access to the outdoors is a growing priority. In few places is this need more directly fulfilled than on our balconies, porches, and patios. A direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic is the realization we need air purification and outdoor access. Workplace design has pivoted to include more outdoor spaces and even outdoor rooms


In these spaces, we have maximum access to natural light, fresh breezes, and soothing views. Safety is a top concern, as these spaces are liminal and exposed. Utilizing a Feeney DesignRail® System with CableRail is a wonderful way to open spaces and design for a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor. Feeney recently introduced its ColorEasy™ suite of powder-coated aluminum colors that can provide beautiful woodgrains or trending earth-tone colors. 

The best of biophilic design is fractal in nature, in the sense that when you zoom in, you find the details of your space are just as in line with your design principles as the broad strokes are. For indoor spaces, Feeney partners with 3form on Resin Panel Infills that embed organic materials such as ginkgo leaves and tall grasses. Railing options don’t need to be an afterthought or a concession to your overall aesthetic for the purpose of safety.

Making the Connection


Moving into this pivotal chapter of the human story, we have a greater understanding of the effect of our structures and cities not just on the environment but also on our health and lived experience. Weaving nature into our spaces just makes sense, and our teams at Feeney and Ames Design Collective find joy in supporting you to do that, from the grand to the granular. To learn about other biophilic products we love, or expand your project into the realms of wellness and ecological responsibility, don’t hesitate drop us a line!

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