Becoming nature: The building design evolution meets the living building revolution

With the environmental movement, sustainability became a marker of innovation in design for the built environment.

March 14, 2018 |
Abundance: The Paladino Blog

There has been an observable series of changes throughout the history of the built environment. The changes moved slowly at first and now are exploding with innovative concepts. And all this change has been in the context of the powerful relationship between humans and nature.

And now the rapidly changing approach to the built environment is stumbling over rating systems on its way to provide a more harmonious connection between people, their buildings, and the environment.



Look back to look ahead: Coping with nature

  • Early humans: Buildings are survival tools
  • Neolithic revolution: Buildings help us harvest nature
  • Industrial revolution: Buildings lose their symbiotic relationship with nature and are used to exploit nature
  • Post-Industrial revolution: Buildings minimize the impact on nature. The green building movement is born!
  • Third Millenia: Buildings are survival tools. Buildings improve nature. Buildings are wellness tools.

With the environmental movement, sustainability became a marker of innovation in design for the built environment. No longer were the most successful projects defined exclusively by functionality, inspiration, and economy.

Along the way, rating systems emerged as the rational method to back-check the safety and sustainability of the built environment. Building codes and local regulations combine with rating systems to establish and enforce a standard that can be trusted. LEED was one of the first and most influential market transformations, and now LEED is joined by a fragmented field of rating systems including WELL, LBC, ENERGY STAR, Salmon Safe, RELi, and many more.

This fragmentation of rating systems and performance standards forces architects, designers, and developers to make tough decisions about priorities. What is more important: the environment? Human performanceClimate resilience and recovery from natural disasters?




A look ahead: Becoming Nature

Building industry leaders are learning to integrate the key strategies behind the rating system and code requirements to realize more than a fragmented result – and to benefit people, profits, and the planet in one gesture.

Thanks to extraordinary building design that brings us closer to nature, architects can design buildings that enhance the natural environment and protect people from extreme climate events – all while improving human health, performance, and happiness. Biophilic designbiomimicry, and mitigation of nature-deficit disorder are each emerging concepts that point to the next evolution in the human-buildings-nature relationship.




A Paradigm Shift comes to rating systems

The change to an abundant human-buildings-nature relationship won’t happen overnight. And the market confusion around rating systems is a hurdle, rather than a helper. The data demonstrates that biophilic design and design for wellness improve the human experience, but there is a delayed reaction across the real estate industry. Here are four changes to the standard approach that can bring biophilic design to the forefront:

  1. Elevate the function of Place and Culture in the design process by analyzing ecosystem services and biophilic principles early development planning stages.
  2. Bring a broader set of scientific and social disciplines to the real estate development table.
  3. Synthesize the studies on wellness and the built environment so they can be understood and properly applied.
  4. Use rating systems as a back-check, and not a driver, of building design outcomes



Once we see the connections between nature and our human-built environment, we can embrace opportunities for design integration and achieve benefits that are not isolated to a single economic, health, environmental, or resiliency goal. By understanding how to integrate seemingly disparate sustainability goals (or hiring someone who does!), architects and developers can use extraordinary building design to achieve harmony between humans, nature, and our built environment. That’s Abundance!

Abundance: The Paladino Blog | Paladino and Company

Paladino and Company is a sustainability consulting firm that works with organizations seeking to make a difference through their buildings and people. Abundance, written by our team of architects, engineers, building scientists, commissioning agents and business analysts, reflects our rigorous business and building technical analysis centered on the concept of abundance as a driving force for change.  Our consultants offer insights, expertise and vision on sustainability and how to realize its business value. For more, visit

Related Blogs

February 19, 2018 | Lighting | Paladino and CompanyBrad Pease

In the real estate industry, understanding how our buildings are used is critical to understanding how to m...

January 23, 2018 | Paladino and Company

Paladino surveyed its team of architects, engineers, and building scientists, and here are a few of the big...

January 15, 2018 | Green | Paladino and CompanyKim Pexton

The DOE Better Buildings Initiative has made a bold statement calling 2018 the “Year of the Lease”.

January 05, 2018 | Multifamily Housing | Paladino and CompanyBrian Walker

The demand for rental housing has been on a steady climb since 2004.

October 30, 2017 | Multifamily Housing | Paladino and CompanyDarren Bruce

What's the right set of "lungs" for your building?

A closeup of markers lined up on a surface
October 02, 2017 | Green | Paladino and CompanyDarren Bruce

After performing retro-commissioning and energy audits for more than five million square feet of existing b...

July 12, 2017 | M/E/P Systems | Paladino and CompanyBrian Atkinson

Maintenance and engineering managers need to monitor the condition of their equipment and the workloads of...

June 22, 2017 | Building Team | Paladino and CompanyBrian Walker

Commissioning is where the rubber meets the road in terms of building design.

May 18, 2017 | Paladino and CompanyAmanda Cunningham

If you want LEED EB O&M to do more for your building, then consider these four opportunities that might...

Key West, Florida under water

March 08, 2017 | Paladino and Company Deborah Hanamura

Extreme weather heavily impacts our infrastructure and real property, creating unique issues for developers...

Overlay Init