CURA Design – Biophillic By Design…
CURA Design are designers and the only Biophilic Architects in the South West, with offices in Plymouth and London. CURA are experts in biophilic architecture, design and research and work closely with sister company structureHaus, an Exeter-based company of consulting civil & structural engineers, surveyors and designers.
CURA Design Director Robert Bedner, shares his vision of building a more beautiful world that we know in our hearts is possible.
An American by birth, Biophilic architectural expert Robert has worked and lived in Devon for over 18 years and proud to have brought up his children in this stunning county.
“I’m inextricably tied to its landscapes the countryside, the moors, and sandy beaches with their distant horizons of sea meeting the sky. Biophilia is at the heart of CURA design ethos and implemented into all projects we undertake. With nature as a core design value, we provide clients with services for projects at any scale from adapting current environments to completing full scale builds. Our ethical ethos is second to none – we envisage an ideal ‘City of tomorrow’ concept, where nature and business co-habit peacefully. Our designs and builds reflect this in real-world applications through projects.”
As psychological and biological research has demonstrated, the incorporation of biophilic design should be seen not as a luxury, but as an indispensable tool for improving health and productivity
We are living in a world where nature is literally disappearing before our very eyes. When we come to construction, amongst the headlines of Greta, the Extinction Rebellion XR and the climate crisis, building design is beginning to fundamentally change with more award winning energy efficient construction projects taking place. Cross laminated timber projects are utilising wood to build multi-storey towers that store carbon, and more and more designers are utilising natural materials like straw bales and lime, timber, stone and rammed earth/cob to produce buildings that are sustainable, beautiful, energy efficient and improve wellness to the user and have signed up to a ‘UK Architects declare a climate and biodiversity emergency’.
The latest movement in biophilic design in construction focuses full force on both the human effect on nature and how nature affects us. Biophilic design roughly translates to: ‘love and respect of all things living’. This represents a massive paradigm shift in the world of construction. In addition to the benefits to plant life and biodiversity, it also makes great business sense as studies have shown a substantial increase in staff retention and productivity.
In Singapore, a planning policy was created that required the same amount of greenery to be replaced as was removed for the development. 50% of the city is now covered in plants with some projects achieving a 200% increase in greenery and biodiversity. One tower project called Oasia, is achieving a staggering 1,100% increase in greenery and biodiversity with visitors reporting sightings of squirrels on the green cladding on the 21st floor!
Amazon’s $4 billion Seattle headquarters includes three conjoined glass bubbles providing the employees with their very own cloud forest. Five levels of unorthodox workspaces climb through a lush green habitat of more than 40,000 plants including two densely verdant living walls, a 44’ high Australian tree fern and an 18-ton ficus named Rubi.
The VanDusen Botanical Garden Centre in Canada won the International Living Future Institute Challenge in 2018. The building uses on site renewable sources – geothermal boreholes, solar photovoltaic and solar hot water tubes to achieve an annual net zero energy use. Wood is its primary building material, sequestering enough carbon to achieve carbon neutrality. Rainwater is used for the building’s greywater requirements and natural ventilation is assisted by a solar chimney. The green roof was carefully designed to include only native plants, forming a series of distinct ecological zones encouraging bee and butterfly populations. The gardens existing water system was improved to increase the amount of wetland vegetation creating habitat for fauna such as red-winged black birds and pacific tree frogs. This project also utilised a ‘red list’pledge not to use materials shown to harm people animals or plants.
“Biophilia is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms”. – Edward O. Wilson (1984)
David Phillips is Managing Director of Exeter-based structureHaus and consultant with CURA Design. As a child, David was fascinated by an old oak tree in a wood behind his house. He learned it weighed 25 tons, had 260,000 leaves, over 12 kilometres of branches, supported over 350 species of insects, 30 species of birds and 360 plants and lichens. The tree had healing properties for ailments and a symbiotic relationship with fungi. David said:
“One morning I woke up and realised the birds had stopped singing as the wood had been cut down for new housing and even the worms were taken away as the topsoil was removed to prepare the site. Biophilic design offers an opportunity to address the imbalance of our culture and the way we relate to the environment, recognising the benefits that contact with nature has on our mind, body and spirit. It represents a fundamental shift in consciousness from exploiting to loving nature.”
“We can each make a difference with small changes on a large scale both at work, home and in our communities, such as looking after our gardens and contributing to local green spaces in a wildlife friendly way – together we can start to turn this planet around!”