Getting Schooled about Plants, Nature, Biophilia and Wellness

Architects designing today’s hospitals are merging art and evidence-based research to create environments that promote health and healing. Views of nature, natural light, earth-toned color schemes and the sounds of nature all help patients heal more quickly, and they suffer less from depression or side effects.

Starting with a study in 2002 by University of Texas professor Roger Ulrich which we have written about before, there are now over 1,000 studies and they all prove the same thing. Plants and nature promote healing. It’s serious science and it is finally starting to be taken seriously.

The original Sharp Memorial Hospital green roof, installed by GreenScaped Buildings in 2012.

The original Sharp Memorial Hospital green roof, installed by GreenScaped Buildings in 2012.

This week, the San Diego Business Journal published an article about changes in the approach to architectural design of hospitals and other healthcare facilities to put these principles into practice. Evidence-based design incorporating nature was used at the new Palomar Medical Center and is part of the new Jacobs Medical Center in the UC San Diego Health System. Good Earth Plant Company and GreenScaped Buildings partnered with Sharp Memorial Hospital and Landscape Architect Glen Schmidt five years ago to build the first green roof at a San Diego City hospital.

The green roof is visible from the patient recovery rooms. When seen from above, Schmidt Design Groups design of the plants, pots and decor creates the shape of a bar of music – and the opening notes to “Ode to Joy.” It is fun and beautiful, two words you don’t normally associate with a hospital.

All of this made me both proud and happy, but I was even happier to read about the New School of Architecture incorporating these principles into its curriculum for its students. According to the Business Journal article, the New School has developed a three-part course called “Neuroscience for Architecture,” which focuses on learning the principles of environmental psychology. Students learn about the impact of shapes, sounds, texture, and color on the brain, and how to apply these concepts in a positive way to living and working spaces.

Those of us working in the plant industry have known for a long time that plants make people feel good. Being around plants, flowers, trees, and nature goes deep within us to connect with something basic at our core. That’s what Biophilia is all about. We get that brief moment of peace.

Now people who plan to make architecture their careers can incorporate these principles into everything they do. Teaching the next generation of design professionals about these important concepts by incorporating them into their education is one of the most powerful ways to improve our environments. Bravo to the New School for its forward thinking approach.

Eventually, the New School also hopes to teach some old dogs new tricks by offering continuing education and even a certificate program about environmental psychology for practicing professionals. Another great idea, and it’s got my full support and endorsement.