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Biophilic design: The art of nature

February 2, 2017

ASU adjunct faculty say bringing nature into design has physical, mental health benefits

When Joe Zazzera first walked onto floor of a telecommunications plant, he had one thought: “I can’t do this.”

In the windowless room, surrounded by barrels of chemicals and buzzing machinery, Zazzera was completely cut off from the natural world he loves.

Now, as a practitioner of biophilicLove of natural life. design, he works to bring nature inside, enhancing productivity, reducing stress and improving well-being.

Zazzera, founder of Plant Solutions, and Sonja Bochart, an interior designer who integrates principles of biophilia into her work, lectured on the topic yesterday at Arizona State University. Zazzera and Bochart are also adjunct faculty at ASU.

“Nature brings great value to our lives,” Bochart said. “Connection to the land is biophilia. … There’s a wild quality in nature we’re drawn to.”

The idea is simple. When you’re hiking or watching a nature video, you feel better. Blood pressure drops and parasympathetic healing activates. Sterile modern buildings such as office towers cut us off from that. And we spend, according to Bochart, 90 percent of our time indoors.

“You bring in light and life, and it fills us,” she said.

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Adjunct faculty member Sonja Bochart talks with a couple of people following a lunchtime lecture on biophilia and biomimicry on Thursday, Feb. 2. The topics relate to the integration of nature into home, school and business environments. She is an interior designer who integrates principles of biophilia into her work. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Biophilic design elements include environmental features like natural materials, water, and “living walls” planted with moss or hanging plants; natural shapes and forms; natural patterns and processes, including changing copper patinas. A place-based relationship is also important. A building in Phoenix should not be interchangeable with one in Seattle or Chicago.

Bochart called biophilia a balance between art and science, and it’s something science has plenty of evidence to support.

Views of nature reduce post-operative hospital stays by 8.5 percent, and lower blood pressure and heart rate. Morning sun reduces hospital stays of bipolar patients 26 to 30 percent. Natural ventilation reduces sick time 57 percent and hospital stays almost 35 percent.

In learning, natural daylight raises test scores and heightens learning rates. The presence of water improves concentration and memory restoration. A visual connection to nature improved mental engagement and attentiveness.

Retailers, pay attention. Day lighting increased sales per square foot and increased average sales 6 percent. The presence of trees increased willingness to pay 15 to 25 percent more for the same items.

In offices, indoor plants reduce sick building syndromes 21 percent. A view of nature can result in 6 to 7 percent faster call handling time at call centers. And natural ventilation can cut sick leave more than 57 percent and doctor visits almost 17 percent.

Biophilic design is “not just bringing plants indoors,” Zazzera said. As the founder of Plant Solutions Inc., he designs living walls, indoor atriums, living plant scapes and moss wall art.

Biophilic design increases the overlap between the human and natural worlds.

“Hopefully, in the future there won’t be a difference,” Zazzera said. “Corporations are waking up to this.”  

The lecture was sponsored by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability as part of their Sustainability Series, where speakers discuss a range of environmental, social, and economic topics. The series is free and open to the public.

Top photo: Adjunct faculty member Joe Zazzera talks with around 50 people at a lunchtime lecture on biophilia and biomimicry on Feb. 2. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

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Overnights with dad benefit kids of divorce — no matter their age

The more sleepovers tots have with dad, the better their later relationship.
Overnights with dad also boost kids' relationship with their mom.
February 2, 2017

ASU study shows overnight parenting time with fathers benefit all

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

In the aftermath of a separation or divorce, there are real choices that need to be made about where the kids will spend the night.

Some parents and prominent psychologists have worried that if infants and toddlers frequently spend the night at their father’s home, it might disturb the children’s relationship with their mother. But new research from Arizona State University shows that children, no matter what their age, benefit from having time with each parent that includes sleepovers at each home.

The study, “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data,” was published Feb. 2 in the American Psychological Association journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law.

“Not only did overnight parenting time with fathers during infancy and toddlerhood cause no harm to the mother-child relationship, it actually appeared to benefit children’s relationships with both their mothers and their fathers,” said William Fabricius, ASU associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “Children who had overnights with their fathers when they were infants or toddlers had higher-quality relationships with their fathers as well as with their mothers when they were 18 to 20 years old than children who had no overnights.”

The study, co-authored with ASU graduate student Go Woon Suh, revealed that the amount of parenting time small children had with their fathers during childhood and adolescence did not make up for the overnights they missed in their first few years.

For fathers, Fabricius said, every increase in number of overnights per week during infancy and toddlerhood was matched by an increase in the strength and closeness of their relationships with their grown children. The grown children who had the best relationships with both of their parents were those who had equal numbers of overnights at each parent’s home during infancy and toddlerhood.

Importantly, these findings were the same regardless of whether courts ordered overnight parenting time over the mother’s initial objections, or parents agreed on their own to provide equivalent overnights. Likewise, the findings were the same for parents who had high conflict and those who had low conflict during the first five years of their divorces, the study found.

The benefits to the father include getting him more involved in the child’s early life.

“Having to care for their infants and toddlers for the whole cycle of evening, bedtime, nighttime and morning helps dads learn how to parent their children from the beginning,” said Fabricius, who studies father-child relationships and the impact they have on the child’s health and well-being. “It helps dads and babies learn about each other, and provides a foundation for their future relationship. Other studies have shown that programs that encourage married dads to take more responsibility for infant care help those dads learn better parenting skills, and we think that the same kind of thing happens when divorced dads have overnight parenting time.”

The mother-child relationships were better when children had any number of overnights with dad; perhaps, because sharing overnights helped mothers avoid the inherent stress of having to be a single, full-time parent of an infant or toddler. And having good relationships with mom and dad, even when not living together, bodes well for the children.

“Good quality relationships with parents in young adulthood predict better stress-related physical and mental health for the children later in life,” Fabricius said. “So in a real sense, this becomes a public health issue.”

Top photo: ASU research shows that every increase in number of overnights with dad during infancy and toddlerhood was matched by an increase in the strength and closeness of their relationships with their grown children. Photo courtesy of

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