The word "biophilia" means "people-friendly". Gardens that are developed to be biophilic, create a physical and psychological environment that is better for the people living in and around that garden. There are increasing opportunities to work in biophilic horticulture.
Scope of Work
Biophilia is a relatively new area of horticulture concerned with creating living environments which are more conducive to public health and well-being. Research shows that people are not only psychologically, but also physically in better health when surrounded by plants. Plants filter air pollution, increase oxygen levels, modify temperature and much more.
Hospitals have found patients recover faster in a biophilic environment; and people now work specifically in creating biophilic hospital environments.
Children learn better in a biophilic environment; and that has created work for people to create biophilic education environments.
Cities are better to live in, and can have lower energy costs, less pollution issues, less risk of flood and wind damage; and other benefits if developed along biophilic lines. This has created biophilic horticulture work in areas of urban development.
Those working in biophilia may find themselves consulting on, designing or constructing gardens, green walls or roofscapes which are intended to reconnect people with nature, or improve other environmental conditions. In the private sector work may include home gardens, balconies, roofs or other areas. It may include new constructions or retrofitting existing gardens and buildings.
Related businesses in the private biophilia industry include building design consultants, architects, garden design, landscaping, creative therapies and horticulture therapy.
What You Need to Learn
- Plant science - plant biology, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition
- Health science - understanding biophilia, links between green space and physical and mental health benefits, impact of plants on physiological processes, climate control, heat island effects
- Soil science - potting media and soil structure, chemistry, management techniques, e.g. improving soils, aeration
- General construction and design - principles of biophilic design, creating biophilic landscapes, choosing materials, installations
- Water science - water supplies, contamination and purification, waste water systems
- Drainage - surface, sub surface, flood mitigation
- Irrigation - equipment selection, installation and use
- Taxonomy - choosing plant species and cultivars, identification and cultural characteristics of many different varieties
Starting a Career
There are many points of entry into this line of work. You may come to working in biophilic horticulture from working in horticulture, at any level; or through related industries such as:
- Construction (building, architecture, engineering)
- Environmental management
Some start with no training or experience, as little more than a labourer, assisting a garden designer or landscaper, learning on the job and progressing as they learn. This path can be slow though, and there may be gaps in knowledge that can lead to mistakes and restrict career progress.
Some formal learning in at least key areas listed above will help a career move faster and minimise the risk of career or business mistakes.
Initial training lays a foundation to build further learning on and gives context to what you learn later through study or experience. Your initial learning should come from mentors or instructors who have a strong understanding of the science and techniques that underpin biophilic design.
People who take shortcuts to getting started can succeed; but people who lay a stronger foundation are likely to be more capable, and that generally tends to lead to higher earnings and more long-term career success.
Common ways to get started are:
- Getting involved on an amateur level with people who have a concern and knowledge about biophilic horticulture (eg. joining an environmental group, a community garden; volunteering in horticultural therapy programs).
- Getting any job that is relevant (e.g. a landscape contractor, or garden designer)
- Learning garden planning and starting your own garden design business (even small and part time)
Progressing a Career
You will learn through experience as you work in the industry. Every problem or challenge you confront can be a new learning experience.
Challenges sometimes reveal deficiencies in your knowledge. If that happens, you may see something you need to learn, by doing research or studying a course. The person who responds positively to such challenges, and sees them as opportunities for career advancement, will progress.
If there are aspects of the list above (what you need to learn) which are deficient then ongoing study is advised to fill those gaps.
Networking within your industry is critical to not only learning more; but also getting new opportunities. Everyone working in biophilic design should become active in a horticultural trade or professional association.
Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in biophilia as well as every other industry. If you are disconnected from industry change, you will not remain competitive with others who are up to date. This is another reason you should remain involved with a professional or trade organisation.
Diversifying your learning and experience is a natural, and often very successful, way of helping your career to progress. This could involve doing additional study in order to broaden the services you can offer; or deepen the quality of service you offer. It may also allow you to cross over into other related career paths; perhaps moving from private biophilic garden design into the public domain, or even into building design, town planning or architecture.
The many sectors of horticulture can go through cycles of high and low demand for experts. The biophilic landscape designer who has a broader range of knowledge and skills may be able to cross over from one sector to another, taking advantage of these cycles. They may, for example, work in private home gardens when there is a high demand and good remuneration offered in this sector; and move from that into private apartment block developments when demand and opportunity in that sector becomes stronger. Enlightened designers may begin in a narrow sector such as private garden development, but through study and experience, fashion a career path over decades that winds across many different sectors, such as environmental science, and perhaps into health through horticulture therapy.
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