Biophilic School Design2022-03-21T13:36:46+01:00

Project Description

School Design with Biophilic Principles

School Design with Biophilic Principles

The Torfaen Learning Zone in Wales shows how natural influences can improve learning environments.

Biophilic design, which brings in nature to benefit humans’ health and wellbeing, is particularly pertinent in educational environments. Colour, light, use of materials and access to green space are all important elements; exemplified in the Torfaen Learning Zone.

School interior with inspiring biophilic design

Design features

Spending time outdoors is good for all of us, but especially for children. Sadly that’s not always possible according to a 2016  survey* that showed a shocking 75% of schoolchildren spend less time outside than is recommended for prison inmates. The 2016 data based on responses from 2000 UK parents also found that a fifth of children did not regularly play outside at all, in parks, woodland or fields. 

While access to green space can’t be entirely replaced, design features such as safely openable windows can maximise daylight and bring fresh air and natural soundscapes in; providing schoolchildren with a healthy, harmonious environment. Using natural materials and textures such as timber in the fit out can work wonders too. 

Learning Zone example

Take the Torfaen Learning Zone in south-east Wales, a £20 million, purpose-built facility which was completed in early 2021. It replaces three sixth forms and serves over 1000 pupils aged from 16 to 18, and also includes facilities for pupils with additional learning needs. HLM Architects were part of the design team for the five-storey building comprising two atriums plus performance and social spaces, classrooms and computer labs.

Colour and light

“The learning spaces have all been designed to be as light and airy as possible. Learning needs space and light and promotes an atmosphere of calm and reflection,” says Guy Lacey, the learning centre’s principal. Different colours have been selected for each floor to help establish a different identity and better wayfinding for each level – the ground floor is given over to teal, the first floor is green, the second is purple while the third floor is orange. The colour accents are reflected in the carpets, lockers, soft furnishings and WCs.

Out on the roof

The project even has a rooftop garden, as access to landscaped areas is another important biophilic design feature in the education sector. This is borne out by evidence from an EU-funded study ** which indicated that access to green space can increase memory function in schoolchildren by 5%.

Out on the roof

The project even has a rooftop garden, as access to landscaped areas is another important biophilic design feature in the education sector. This is borne out by evidence from an EU-funded study ** which indicated that access to green space can increase memory function in schoolchildren by 5%. 

Colour and light

“The learning spaces have all been designed to be as light and airy as possible. Learning needs space and light and promotes an atmosphere of calm and reflection,” says Guy Lacey, the learning centre’s principal. Different colours have been selected for each floor to help establish a different identity and better wayfinding for each level – the ground floor is given over to teal, the first floor is green, the second is purple while the third floor is orange. The colour accents are reflected in the carpets, lockers, soft furnishings and WCs.

Learning amongst trees

Another important focus was the biophilic feature walls on each floor. These are intended to create an inspiring study environment, and are themed around a particular typology. The ground floor cafe incorporates a forest and trees, the first floor social area features a rainforest and there is a representation of sky and clouds in the second floor social area. In terms of materials, Gustafs, together with its UK distributor LSA Project worked up a customised wooden slat solution based on the architect’s drawings to create a seamless look for both ceilings and walls as well as for sufficient sound absorption. 

This state-of-the-art campus facility, the design of which is based on many biophilic design principles provides a “Tremendous learning resource for the local community,” adds Guy Lacy finally, “Learners respond to the building with enthusiasm and creativity”.

Biophilic design principles used in school interior
Subscribe to stories
VISIT OUR PROJECT GALLERY

Photos: Adam Coupe