Craig Gaulden Davis Architecture concludes biophilic learning space study

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biophilic design
Class rendering. Provided by Craig Gaulden Davis.

Craig Gaulden Davis Architecture, headquartered in Greenville with a second office in Baltimore, recently concluded a $30,000 funded research study with Morgan State University, The Salk Institute and Terrapin Bright Green to determine the positive impact of biophilic design in learning spaces and on student success.

Jim Determan, a principal architect with Craig Gaulden Davis, defines biophilic design as a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through views to nature, biomorphic forms and patterns, and dynamic and diffused lighting. “Few studies around the margins of biophilic design have been conducted in learning spaces,” Determan said.

Ed Zeigler, president and CEO of Craig Gaulden Davis, says that this project is the first to test the impact of biophilic design on student success in a K-12 environment.

“Our research was based on previous explorations of biophilic design so, intuitively, we suspected the experiment would render positive results,” Zeigler said.

A sixth grade math class from Green Street Academy in Baltimore was selected as the study group, which incorporated the biophilic design in its classroom. It was then compared with a seventh grade math class, which was the control group. Stress, perceptions of the learning environment, enjoyment and math academic performance were analyzed.

Garden located outside of the classroom. Photo by Patrick Ross Photography.

The study group had a view to a garden that was planted right outside of the classroom window.

“The garden acts as a way for students to focus on something in nature that in return helps them to recharge and regain their focus in the classroom,” Determan said.

Biomorphic forms and patterns were also incorporated into the floor and ceiling design of the study group room.

“Contour patterns found in the carpet and a 3D biomorphic pattern in the ceiling are processed easily by the brain, alleviating stress,” Determan said.

A 3D biomorphic pattern in the ceiling.

Finally, with dynamic and diffused lighting, the classroom’s opaque mini-blinds were replaced with motorized, perforated and translucent roller shades operated by a solar cell. Determan said that a lack of daylight can prevent students from an enhanced learning outcome.

Through all of the biophilic design elements implemented in the sixth grade classroom, the study strongly suggested that there is an association with biophilic design and student success.

“Once the evidence of an association between biophilic design, stress reduction and improved learning outcomes is widely known, we expect to see it employed in learning spaces in Greenville and throughout the country,” Zeigler said.

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