The biophilic design social movement was largely at the coalescent stage when the interviews were collected. Few people suggested that it was mainstream yet, though many felt it could become so eventually. Derived from the immersive journey, the interviews and the composite depiction set out above, the components of mainstreaming the biophilic design social movement can be formulated.
7.1 Identify the need
Where there were clear urban crises which biophilic design could assist in mitigating, the interviewees suggested there was still much to do on research, trials, and further policy development before such solutions could be mainstreamed. The interviewees felt that not many urban crises are unique to a city, rather they are mostly shared globally but may vary in their intensity. Each city therefore needs to identify their driving issues as a unifying starting point but mainstreaming was probably fairly similar.
A city inventory or ‘stocktake’ would assist in helping to identify the current state of the city. Surveys of the urban environmental condition which include biodiversity quality and risk factors of climate stress such as urban heat and flooding could be undertaken. A social inventory of people’s health and wellbeing plus their access to nature and daily interactions would also provide base indicators from which policy makers, city planners and designers could plan strategies towards a healthy, biophilic city. This assessment may also help provide the motivation and rationale for biophilic initiatives.
7.2 Identify and address barriers
Many of the barriers to biophilic design which are found in a city are not unique to that city but have been encountered and overcome in the pioneer or forerunner cities of biophilic design. Common barriers which this research journey identified are outlined below and, as can be seen, are not unique to biophilic design but can have global relevance.
Higher initial costs
Ongoing maintenance costs
Lack of understanding
Lack of precedent
Fear of new technologies and associated risks
High water use
Lack of leadership
Lack of political will
Financial mechanisms not reflecting the benefits, especially in health.
Some barriers are perceived and tend to arise from lack of understanding and knowledge and so can be addressed by education and learning from other cities’ experience. This is where conferences, workshops and joining global organisations, such as the Biophilic Cities Network, can be useful.
Most of the interviewees felt that by following this framework of identifying needs and barriers to the mainstreaming of biophilic design, gives hope that these barriers could be overcome.
7.3 Unite silos through collaboration
Siloes and separation between professions appears to be common within societal structures globally on many sustainability issues. Biophilic design is felt by all the participants in this research to be highly inter-disciplinary, combining design professions, academics, engineers, developers, planners, health professionals and others. Facilitating interdisciplinary, collaborative communication on biophilic design data and research was considered to be essential to help streamline implementation, increase efficiency, lead to further innovations and improve biophilic responses to urban issues.
Collaboration was also seen to be essential across government, industry and community. Conferences and symposia provide the opportunity to bring together these disciplines and stakeholders. Collaborative meetings such as these are seen to address the barriers of siloing and expose the potential for interdisciplinary multiple social, environmental and economic benefits. Being aware of the inter-disciplinary nature of biophilic design and the multiple benefits that can ensue through implementation also was seen to provide the groundwork for financial contributions from stakeholders. An example given was the environmental benefit of cooling cities through direct nature and greenery. This reduces urban heat and heat related health stresses and deaths (such as the previously discussed Chicago response). Health costs for treating heat related issues would therefore diminish. ‘Should Health Departments then contribute towards greening cities?’ was a question suggested to be discussed by those cities seeking to mainstream biophilic design. Such interventions were seen to contribute towards development of best practices in biophilic design, synergistic benefits and the opportunity to involve, support and further educate self-organising efforts from civil society and thus build social capital from rebuilding the natural capital of cities.
7.4 Enable local champions
From these collaborative gatherings, or driven by a personal interest and understanding, the potential for the emergence of local champions exists. These are the people to whom the wholistic framework makes sense and who are prepared to step up and out and push through any barriers and lead to mainstreaming. The way they do this was considered by interviewees to usually happen through telling stories.
The importance and power of stories was often mentioned by the interviewees and many told a story to demonstrate a concept and an outcome in a powerful manner. People relate to these and in an emerging movement such as biophilic design, stories can reach many people in different arenas, beyond the academics and professionals. They are easily understood, providing real life examples and proof. Stories can connect people to nature more, encouraging them towards greater stewardship of their environment and beyond. They can teach things about nature in a way with which people can identify. Many of these stories have found their way into books (eg Beatley, 2011; Matan and Newman, 2016; Newman et al 2017; Söderlund,2016).
The collected stories from interviewees in the research journey, especially the local champions, revealed more information and increased understanding beyond academic research. The stories revealed the motivators of either the city under discussion or the personal motivations of the local heroes. They also illustrated both social movement theory and biophilic concepts. Beyond that though, the stories helped to characterize the collective identity of the biophilic design social movement.
7.5 Create Partnerships
The stories collected throughout the research journey are stories of pioneers and innovators in biophilic design mostly working alone to begin with but creating partnerships in the process. Many formed small groups in order to get underway. Once they had a sense of being in possession of a solution all of the key players found partnerships where they could begin delivering the practical outcomes. Thus most of the interviewees considered this process could continue into the mainstreaming phase.
Many of the other factors considered necessary for mainstreaming, like fostering collaboration and inspiring local champions, will potentially lead to the creation of partnerships that can deliver biophilic design to the market place. The challenge will be for governments at all levels to foster these collaborative partnerships, particularly between industry, investors and researchers, and recognize the importance of supporting emerging industries and new technologies. These partnerships can support each other by creating or improving the culture for innovative thinking thus barriers can be removed, investment increased, and the market for innovation enhanced and diversified.
7.6 Set up demonstrations
Collaboration, local champions and partnerships supported by, and including government, were all considered to enable more, and better, case studies and demonstrations. The benefits of these initial implementations of biophilic design principles are multiple:
They provide the meeting place for the different players and arenas.
They provide the precedence and can break through barriers and rationalize risks.
They offer the opportunity for research, data collection and innovation.
Implementation of biophilic design elements can lead to post-completion understanding of the full range of benefits through experience and observation.
Observation of the initiative could stimulate market demand.
The Chicago City Hall green roof was considered iconic by the participants. Its importance is due to its early implementation as one of the first major green roofs in North America, as well as the fact it was installed as a case study and demonstration. It was designed to study thermal properties, plant survival rates, storm water retention and, importantly, to educate. The roof was successful in all its goals and green roofs proceeded to be implemented throughout Chicago. It established a precedent. The Chicago City planner could show developers who were reluctant to comply with policy how it was done and how it looked. Demonstrations and case studies are thus seen as vital in providing the tangible showpiece and knowledge to motivate further implementation.
Demonstrations are important in social movement as they are not only important in setting precedents and providing knowledge, they also provide a visual example which can trigger the ripple effect of implementation (Jasper, 2007). Some developers, investors and clients such as the Washington DC embassies, have green features installed as they enjoy being an early adopter, seeing an opportunity to be unique and iconic. For others, it may be the observed social amenity and aesthetics that motivate them to install their own. Bartczak, Dunbar and Bohren’s (2013) research into people’s decision making processes towards installing a living green wall concluded that the wall’s contribution to building aesthetics was the most important factor in the process. This, possibly hedonic, value of green infrastructure contributes to the ripple effect of copycat installations that can follow from the initial demonstration.
7.7. Integrate into professions
The research journey reinforced in every city what the literature had already revealed: a lack of integration among the professions as outlined above in the need for partnerships. This is not unexpected as biophilic design is still not a mainstream educational opportunity nor are there professional organizations that have set up to provide the integrated science, psychology and design elements of biophilic design. The professionals interviewed had largely developed their expertise through their own experience and through demonstration projects. Mainstreaming was seen to need new educational programs and new professional bodies to be formed. Biophilic design will then be mainstreamed when it is integrated into urban design, landscape architecture and architecture as an everyday practice and not seen as an add-on. The first stages will require academics from backgrounds in environmental science, engineering, urban planning and policy, humanistic psychology and design at all scales, to form integrated teaching programs that can bring out the core principles and practices of biophilic design. When mainstreamed, biophilic design will be a standard part of education and will be prolific throughout the literature.
Professional practice, as seen by all the participants in the research, will need to be modified through demonstrations that can help to rewrite the manuals of built environment practice. This will be a process of trial and error with rapid learning that is passed on throughout the growing social movement across the globe.
7.8 Create delivery structures
The interviewees listed a series of practical delivery structures they considered as necessary for the mainstreaming process.
Conferences are a particular practice of society that has powerful delivery outcomes. People who come probably already share a common identity, however loosely, but at conferences, stories can be shared and exchanged, themes can be explored and unified plans made. Face-to-face conferences provide a forum for the aligning of frames and recognition of the common identity. In five of the cities visited, conferences had been held which had an impact on the progression of biophilic design. They brought together players from different arenas with a common problem needing to be solved. These conferences can also provide the framework and education to foster local champions.
Collective rites at a conference can bring together people who otherwise may not meet. They may be from very separate arenas yet have a common goal, or common problem to address. Uniting these groups through collective rites is essential for establishing a functional wholistic framework for urban design. Indeed, the initial group whom Kellert brought together were from diverse backgrounds, yet as one interviewed attendee mentioned, they focused on creating more pleasing, happier and healthier cities, with the diversity adding to the richness of the outcome.
Policy has been successful, particularly in the implementation of green roofs in global cities, by incorporating the option for a green roof in sustainability standards, or by providing incentives and rebates, and by regulation.
Chicago successfully implemented policy which led to a substantial increase in the number of green roofs in the city. Chicago City found that regulations, the stick, worked better than incentives, the carrot. But there was a difficult time of initial implementation due to a backlash from developers and planners which needed the mayor and the city planner to stand firm.
Globally, there is a growing tool kit of options for policy.
Civil society presence
Civil society drives much change as without it governments are rarely able to achieve the political ability to make changes that stick. Thus activism that can create a strong presence with media and generate strong community support is a critical step in each phase of a social movement, especially mainstreaming.
Government recognition of community impetus in biophilic activism is crucial for enabling policies that support the community and any positive self-organising initiatives in the community and business.
Industry and business interest
Industry is also critical as government cannot act without some industry interest and the community cannot do the actual projects, they must have industry interested enough to try out the ideas. Thus leaders in industry need to be found who are prepared to set up good demonstrations and with the support of leaders in the community and leaders in government, a mainstream process can begin to be established.
7.9 Make the business case
In the interviews the strongest barrier to the implementation of biophilic design in cities was the upfront costs. Even where the costs were comparable but different design thinking was needed, interviewees expressed an encountered resistance to varying from business as usual.
Presenting research, perhaps through a conference, outlining the social and environmental benefits and how these translate to economic benefits, would help to provide the business case for both government and industry investors. Detailing technical know-how and product information would assist to alleviate the perceived risks associated with the lack of knowledge and understanding. If the multiple social, environmental and economic benefits were understood in all arenas, it would assist in uniting the arenas towards a combined integrated approach. This would hopefully provide greater means and funding for biophilic design implementation.
In addition, while a complete cost-benefit analysis which includes financial assessment of the multiple benefits would be challenging in its scope, much research could be done within defined parameters that presents a solid business case. For example, life cycle analysis could strengthen the case for green roof implementation by factoring in the savings from the extended roof life, reduced energy consumption and water management plus increased biodiversity and the health and social amenity benefits. Comparative life cycle costing of non-biophilic alternatives may also strengthen the case for biophilic options.
Ideally, to shift away from economic analysis of single projects would be the most beneficial. If, for example, a green roof was installed solely for the economic savings in storm water flooding prevention and did not deliver the expected financial outcome from the individual project, then further green roof projects could be stalled. Obviously storm water reductions are likely to be economic when sufficient buildings in an area are all displaying biophilic characteristics. The same can be said for reducing heat island effect and health improvements from biophilic design.
Viewing a city as a functioning natural system where the benefits of biophilic design were understood to address a variety of the city’s issues would strengthen the business case by removing the emphasis on simplistic, single building economics as the sole criteria. The human economy depends on the natural economy: on biodiversity and functioning eco-systems which are best seen when a whole city or major corridor are able to demonstrate the integrated and multiple benefits of biophilic design. This interdependence needs to be factored into policy decision making and a biophilic design business case approach can provide an interface between the two.
7.10 Link to academic research
In almost all the cases examined and the people interviewed there was a link to academic research. The social movement needs its work validated and enabled through academic interventions that not just provide the data and refereed scientific papers, but the academics involved can help support the business case and political process to get approval for projects and mainstreaming.
The divisions in academic research between professional disciplines means that biophilic design is slower to flourish. While the research benefits are there in the literature under their niche headings, their lack of integration necessitates an interpreter: someone who will do the exploratory research into the literature and champion the cause. The next phase of mainstreaming will need more integrative research and the people involved in the social movement will need to seek out links to academic research in their cities if they are not already there.
The framework of actions for mainstreaming the social movement of biophilic design are diagrammatically expressed below in Fig. 4.