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Sustainable Design: Bringing Weather Indoors

Biophilic design encourages us to bring nature indoors and buildings are now incorporating more plants and access to natural light than ever before. We have witnessed this trend first hand with a dramatic rise in demand for living walls. However, by focusing on nature alone, designers may be neglecting a crucial part of the outdoor environment.

Kevin Nute, a Professor of Architecture at The University of Oregon, has authored a thought provoking article about the new frontier of sustainable design: bringing the weather indoors.

A building’s primary purpose may be to keep the weather out, but most do such an effective job of this that they also inadvertently deprive us of contact with two key requirements for our well-being and effectiveness: nature and change.

To overcome our lack of contact with nature, designers are now using things like green walls to bring nature indoors. Professor Nute is part of a group of architects and psychologists at the University of Oregon that are examining ways to bring another aspect of nature indoors: the weather.

   
  
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     Dancing sunlight patterns reflected onto an interior ceiling from a wind-disturbed external water surface. 

Dancing sunlight patterns reflected onto an interior ceiling from a wind-disturbed external water surface. 

“Think of rippling sunlight reflecting from water onto the underside of a boat, or the dappled shadows from foliage swaying in a breeze. When we brought these kinds of natural movements indoors, we found that they reduced heart rates and were less distracting than similar, artificially generated movement. Early results suggest that seeing live natural movement of this kind in an indoor space may be more beneficial than viewing outdoor nature through a window, and could not only help to keep us calm but also improve our attention.

But how can we invite the movements of the elements indoors without undermining a building’s first task—sheltering us from the weather? There are three simple ways. We can enclose weather-generated movement in glass courtyards; use sunlight to project movement from outdoors onto interior surfaces; or project it onto the outside of translucent materials, such as obscured glass.”

We encourage you to read the full article and familiarize yourself with Professor Nute’s cutting edge research on indoor weather. In the future we hope to see indoor weather elements installed side-by-side with our living green walls.

 

LaKesha Campbell