Biophilic Regenerative Architecture Brought to Large-scale Urban Developments

The need for healthy homes has hardly ever been more apparent than during the current global condition. The current efforts to reduce the negative impacts of buildings are inadequate. Therefore, the built environment must be designed in a different way. To bring regenerative, collective habitation to all scales of development, Amsterdam architecture practice GG-loop, sharing the vision with Arup, is developing Mitosis: a modular building system created by a parametric design tool following biophilic and user-centric design principles.

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GG-loop’s goal is to develop an architectural solution that “gives back” to the planet and can serve as a benchmark for the property and urban development sector. Mitosis’ vision is to deepen the understanding of its relationship with nature, to raise awareness and sensitise both professionals and the general public regarding the importance of biophilic architecture as an answer to the current climate condition.

Sharing the same vision as Arup, GG-loop works to inspire and provide healthy, sustainable living communities and net-positive impacts on ecology and society. By working with the natural environments rather than against them, the natural balance and health of the planet can be restored.

Mitosis is the follow-up of a multi-awarded pilot project completed by GG-loop in 2019: Freebooter, a pair of prefabricated CLT (cross-laminated timber) apartments in Amsterdam, wrapped in a parametric timber louvred facade. The building was created using biophilic principles, connecting architecture with nature in order to improve the quality of life for the people who use the building. GG-loop’s ambition to bring these qualities to multiple scales has resulted in Mitosis.

The name, Mitosis, refers to the biological process of a single cell dividing itself into two identical daughter cells. It represents the modularity and the long-term adaptation of the system and serves as a metaphor for a flexible co-living organism where each residential unit coexists in symbiosis with all the others and its environment.

The ‘Biophilia Hypothesis’ by Edward O. Wilson reveals why humans have an intrinsic need to connect with nature and other living systems. Mitosis adopts the 14 principles of biophilic design and articulates the relationships between nature, human biology and the design of the built environment. It builds an ecosystem where dwellers experience a unique way of living and fulfil their innate desire to reconnect with nature. Exposed to green shared areas, tiny forests and gardens that cascade up and down the entire building, dwellers can benefit from the direct and indirect connection with nature. Health and wellbeing are fostered through careful material choices, flexible layouts, organic interiors and large outdoor spaces.

Positive footprint ecosystems

Mitosis creates regenerative ecosystems with a positive ecological footprint. It balances the technical benefits of an environmentally-conscious construction with the qualities of an organic and healthy environment in which its residents coexist harmoniously.

Mitosis generates urban clusters using prefabricated timber and bio-based modules that are cost-efficient and flexible in its construction. By consciously choosing materials that capture carbon and using resources more efficiently, Mitosis constructs a net-positive built environment that produces more energy than it consumes and uses resources in a circular way.

The enhancement of biodiversity in the urban fabric has a beneficial impact on the quality of life and the environmental education of the inhabitants. Mitosis integrates plant and animal life throughout the buildings, allowing its dwellers to coexist harmoniously with the biodiversity of local flora and fauna. Mitosis is designed to co-evolve with its surroundings, by recreating ecosystems appropriate to the climate, site and residents. In this way, Mitosis can facilitate the conservation and improvement of the biodiversity that exists on the site.

Social cohesion

The distinct rhomboid shape of the individual design modules is integral to the functionality of Mitosis. Stacking these modules creates large areas for shared outdoor living, with each unit having at least one terrace.

Mitosis’ vertical connections are placed externally to connect the units and terraces, creating a continuous ribbon of outdoor ‘cloister-like’ spaces, fostering a sense of openness, belonging, protection and privacy for residents.

Mitosis’ construction is organic and flexible, providing large areas of urban and vertical farming, greenhouses, wildlife corridors and integration of habitat creation, that encourage shared outdoor activities among residents.

By applying elements of nature and providing available renewable resources in shared facilities and infrastructures of community living, Mitosis encourages dwellers to engage in pro-environmental practices and share their expectations of sustainability. This helps create healthier environments and improve social interaction.

Project development

Mitosis is developed by parametric and BIM 3D modelling software. It generates dwelling clusters composed of prefabricated CLT modules through a complex iterative process. The optimised volume and scale of Mitosis are based on the calculation and simulation of parameters related to specific stakeholders’ needs and conditions of a given site.

The volumes and internal layouts derive from the calculation and simulation of parameters related to specific conditions of the site: solar radiation, wind impact, privacy, population density, common spaces index and vertical connections. With the parametric design tool, Mitosis explores how buildings can grow, evolve, heal and self-sustain, similar to human bodies, as well as use biological metaphors to design buildings capable of regeneration, resilience and self-sufficiency.

Due to its flexible structure and grid formation, Mitosis is able to host a variety of typologies that are customisable to the resident’s needs. It is applicable to diverse urban scales, ranging from off-grid, single-family detached houses (30m2 up to a quadruplex 120m2) to high-density, mixed-use urban clusters that incorporate public functions such as education, leisure, wellness and retail. Mitosis generates experiential spaces that respect both the environment and its direct inhabitants, reconnecting both in a balanced ecosystem. By accommodating for all sizes, typologies and performance levels, Mitosis moves beyond the basic concept of sustainable design and shifts towards a design that focuses on producing net-positive impacts on the environment.

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