We can barely touch the surface of the science of Biophilia and the disciplines it encompasses, but to give you a glimpse, we present the first of four examples of how different peoples and countries are putting their biofeelings to work around the world. Each of these initiatives represents a way to reach thousands of other people with the message that biophilic elements have real value in the built environment. The more we each understand this, the more likely we are to protect the natural spaces we have left.
Terrapin Bright Green is an environmental consultancy with offices in New York and Washington, D.C. They are an extreme environmental consultancy, you might say. Its founders and partners are intellectual heavyweights who are leaders in the green building and real estate movement, award-winning architects, biomimicry and sustainable design advocates, and forensic historic preservationists.
More than anything else, however, Terrapin Bright Green are thinker-strategists; a brave new breed of eco-infrastructure experts with scientists and policy makers on speed dial. This company has set new precedents for ‘think-do’ tanks for projects of global scale and strategic impact. Members have advised, among other entities, the White House; the new World Trade Center; Grand Canyon National Park; Algae Biofuels; Xihu Tiandi (Shangahi); Caicique (Costa Rica); and the Serengeti National Park (Africa).
Bill Browning, the founder of Terrapin Bright Green, cut his teeth on out of the green box thinking. Early in his career he helped build Buckminster Fuller’s last experimental structure. Browning is also a member (along with Biomimicry 3.8’s Janine Benyus) of the original Interface eco Dream Team.
“We are a small consulting firm pretty heavily involved in both Biophilia and Biomimicry,” says Browning. “These are two pieces that filter our world view in a really intriguing way. Both are core to our work as a practice.”
One of the projects Terrapin Bright Green is undertaking has the group collaborating with Janine Benyus and The Biomimicry Guild to provide technical assistance to the businesses in New York. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will fund workshops open to any business wishing to consider possible biomimetic solutions to their challenges.
“The idea of Biophilia has come into the mainstream population only fairly recently,” says Browning. “Although intuitively, people have been doing it forever.”
To put that in simple terms, we pay more for apartments in park like settings. We buy more (and pay more) in retail environments with plants, trees, and skylights.
Terrapin Bright Green has just published a comprehensive white paper on the subject titled, The Economics of Biophilia: Why Designing with Nature Makes Good Financial Sense. One morsel: The healthcare industry could save $93 million dollars each year if patients had views to nature.
The study examines the positive business impact—usually financial—of making room for nature in sectors from the workplace to the classroom to the courtroom. Scientific calculations and thorough references are included for those not easily convinced that the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku might lower blood glucose levels.
Browning says one issue that concerns him now is America’s election year politicizing of the environment. “The whole green issue is being defined as a republican/democrat issue. You don’t see that so much in other countries.”
It has been impossible not to speak to Interface Dream Team members about the legacy of Ray Anderson. Bill Browning put it thusly: “Now, there can and will be other Ray Andersons. But he was the first one. You know, it was fitting that the first major industrial company to step up to the plate was a carpet company. Because the first major industrial revolution started with fabric as well.”