Promoting health equity through the design of biophilic illusions in the built environment
Graduate Researcher: Basma Altaf
Faculty Advisor: Sarah Billington
My PhD research focuses on exploring ways of emulating nature indoors using hybrid physical-digital interventions for promoting health equity and improving occupant wellbeing. Low income communities in urban settings face substantial disparities in accessing nature due to physical, emotional, and social barriers. Access to nature through biophilic design has largely been considered a luxury, can impose substantial costs to implement, and is rarely integrated into built environments in underserved communities. To combat these issues and enable more broad, inclusive access to nature experiences, I propose to pursue the design of biophilic illusions: affordable, widely deployable and scalable digital-physical interior design features that augment building interiors using elements from ambient nature (e.g., tree-dappled sunlight, wind-animated shadow, reflections of weather, and more) in order to animate spaces, provide subtle and non-disruptive multi-sensory stimulation, and overall promote occupant wellbeing and connectedness to nature. Wellbeing outcomes of interest are attention restoration, stress, self-evaluated happiness, and life-satisfaction. Preliminary testing with low fidelity mockups of biophilic illusions have shown promise in enhancing psychometrics and metrics of nature connectedness during initial user testing with small samples. Through the design and implementation of biophilic illusions, I hope to contribute to the health and wellbeing of diverse occupants, especially in lower income communities that lack a direct connection with nature. There is a vital need to undertake research to ensure these strategies are inclusive to the needs of diverse populations. Biophilic illusions could have particularly transformative effects on the health and wellbeing of low income communities in urban settings, helping to bridge the existing discrepancies with respect to access to nature and its myriad benefits.
Leavell and DARE fellowships, Stanford
Empower Lab, Dartmouth College
• Altaf, B., Bianchi, E., Douglas, I. P., Douglas, K., Byers, B., Paredes, P. E., Ardoin, N. M., Markus, H. R., Murnane, E. L., Bencharit, L. Z., Landay, J. A., & Billington, S. L. (2022). "Use of Crowdsourced Online Surveys to Study the Impact of Architectural and Design Choices on Wellbeing" Frontiers in Sustainable Cities, 4.
• Altaf, B., Karzai, D., Sawe, N., Murnane, E. L., Bencharit, L. Z., Landay, J. A., & Billington, S. L. (2021). "Covid-19, Time Perception and Well-Being: The role of biophilic features and exposure to nature in restoring temporal distortions and promoting well-being in the age of Covid-19" Presentation, Amps Environments by Design Conference, 2021.
• Altaf, B., Bianchi, E., Douglas, I. P., Douglas, K., Byers, B., Paredes, P. E., Ardoin, N. M., Markus, H. R., Murnane, E. L., Bencharit, L. Z., Landay, J. A., & Billington, S. L. (2021). "Indoor spaces and well-being: investigating the role of design interventions using online studies" Presentation, Amps Environments by Design Conference, 2021.
• Altaf, B., Murnane, E.L., and S.L. Billington (2020). "Temporal Impact of Spatial Features" Poster & video, Academy of Neuroscience for Arch. Conference, 2020, Sensing Spaces, Perceiving Place.