Does sustainability address perceived restoration? An exploratory study on Biosphera 2.0, a net zero energy house.

  • Rita Berto
  • Nicola Maculan
  • Giuseppe Barbiero Affective Ecology Laboratory, University of Valle d'Aosta. Interdisciplinary Research Institute on Sustainability, University of Torino, Italy.


Individuals are not passively affected by the physical characteristics of the environment, on the contrary they react to it and try to modify it; their efforts are towards environments more restorative and sustainable from a cognitive point of view, i.e. environments where daily life is less stressful and more satisfying. The aim of this exploratory research study is to verify how energy zero house answers to these requirements. To this aim 29 volunteers (M age = 33.68; 14 males and 15 females) accepted to spend a couple of days/nights in Biosphera 2.0, a passive house award winning prototype. Participants were administered the Perceived Restorativeness Scale, the semiotic and sensorial aesthetic attributes and a Post Occupancy Evaluation questionnaire. Results showed that Biosphera 2.0 is not restorative per se, participants - in particular women - appreciate the experience of being-away from daily routine for a couple of days. However, participants are satisfied on a few specific characteristics of the prototype usually lacking in our daily environments: the absence of environmental stressors. Biosphera 2.0 covers the basics to be a restorative environment. Though exploratory and with limitations this research study shows that sustainable doesn’t mean restorative.


Agyemang, C., van Hooijdonk, C., Wendel-Vos, W., Ujcic-Voortman, J.K., Lindeman, E., Stronks, K., Droomers, M. (2007). Ethnic differences in the effect of environmental stressors on blood pressure and hypertension in the Netherlands. BMC public health 7(1). 118.

Balling, J.D., Falk, J.H. (1982). Development of visual preference for natural environments. Environment and Behavior, 14(1): 5-28.

Barbiero, G. (2009). Revealing children's biophilia. In D. Gray, L. Colucci Gray and E. Camino (eds). Science. Society and Sustainability: Education and Empowerment for an Uncertain World. Milton Park. UK: Routledge, pp. 181-184.

Barbiero, G. (2011). Biophilia and Gaia: Two Hypothesis for an Affective Ecology. Journal of BioUrbanism. 1: 11-27.

Barbiero, G. (2014). Affective Ecology for Sustainability. Visions for Sustainability, 1: 20-30.

Barbiero. G., Berto, R. (2016). Introduzione alla biofilia. Roma, IT: Carocci

Barbiero, G., Berto, R. (2018). From biophilia to naturalist intelligence through perceived restorativeness and connection to Nature. Annals of Reviews and Research, 3(1): 555604.

Barbiero, G., Berto, R., Freire, D.D., Ferrando, M., Camino, E. (2014). Unveiling Children Biophilia Using Mindful Silence. Visions for Sustainability 1: 31-38.

Baroni, M.R., Berto, R. (2013). Stress ambientale: cause e strategie di intervento. Roma, IT: Carocci.

Berto, R. (2007). Assessing the restorative value of the environment: A study on the elderly in comparison with young adults and adolescents. International Journal of Psychology. 42(5): 331-341.

Berto, R. (2014). The Role of Nature in Coping with Psycho-Physiological Stress: A Literature Review on Restorativeness. Behavioral Sciences, 4(4): 394-409.

Berto, R., Barbiero, G. (2014). Mindful Silence Improves Long Lasting Attentional Performance in Children. Visions for Sustainability, 2: 32-45.

Berto, R., Barbiero, G. (2017a). The Biophilic Quality Index: A Tool to Improve a Building from “Green” to Restorative. Visions for Sustainability, 8: 38-45.

Berto, R., Barbiero, G. (2017b). How the psychological benefits associated with exposure to Nature can affect pro-environmental behaviour. Annals Cognitive Sciences, 1(1): 16-20.

Berto, R., Barbiero, G., Barbiero, P., Senes, G. (2018). Individual’s Connection to Nature Can Affect Perceived Restorativeness of Natural Environments. Some Observations about Biophilia. Behavioral Sciences. 8. 34.


Berto, R., Barbiero, G., Pasini M., Unema, P. (2015) Biophilic design triggers fascination and enhances psychological restoration in the urban environment. J. Biourbanism 1. 27-34.

Berto, R., Magro, T., Purcell, T. (2004). La percezione della restorativeness in un gruppo di adolescenti. Proceedings of La Psicologia Ambientale in Italia. Secondo Incontro Nazionale.

Berto, R., Pasini, M. (2007). È restorative andare in vacanza? DiPAV Quaderni Semestrali di Psicologia e Antropologia Culturale, 20: 74-90.

Berto, R., Pasini, M., Barbiero, G. (2015). How does Psychological Restoration Work in Children? An exploratory study. Journal Child and Adolescent Behaviour 3: 200.


Bolten, B., Barbiero, G. (2020). Biophilic Design. How to enhance physical and psychological health and wellbeing in our built environments. Visions for Sustainability, in press.

Cimprich, B.E. (1990). Attentional fatigue and restoration in individuals with cancer. Doctoral dissertation at

Evans, G.W., Altman, I., Stokols, D., Cohen, S. (1987). Environmental stress. Handbook of environmental psychology. 571-610.

Gifford, R. (2009). Environmental Psychology: Manifold visions, unity of purpose. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29: 387-389.

Hartig, T., Böök. A.. Garvill, J., Olsson., T., Gärling. T. (1996). Environmental influences on psychological restoration. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 37(4): 378-393.

Hartig, T., Mang, M., Evans, G.W. (1991). Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environment and Behavior, 23(1): 3-26.

Kaplan, R. (1973). Some Psychological Benefits of Gardening. Environment and Behavior, 5(2): 145-162.

Kaplan, R., Kaplan, S., Brown, T. (1989). Environmental preference: A comparison of four domains of predictors. Environment and Behavior, 21(5): 509-530.

Kaplan, S. (1992). Environmental preference in a knowledge-seeking, knowledge-using organism. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (p. 581–598). Oxford University Press.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 15(3): 169-182.

Kaplan, S., Bardwell, L.V., Slakter, D.B. (1993). The museum as a restorative environment. Environment and Behavior, 25(6): 725-742.

Kuo, F.E., Sullivan, W.C. (2001). Environment and crime in the inner city: Does vegetation reduce crime? Environment and Behavior, 33(3): 343-367.

Lazarus, R.S., Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. Springer Publishing Company, pp. 117-139.

Nasar, J.L., Preiser, W.F.E., Fisher, T. (2007). Designing for Designers: Lessons Learned from the School of Architecture. New York, Fairchild Publications.

Pasini, M., Berto, R., Brondino, M., Hall, R., Ortner, C. (2014). How to measure the restorative quality of environments: The PRS-11. Procedia-Social and behavioral sciences, 159: 293-297.

Peron, E., Berto, R., Purcell. T. (2002). Restorativeness. preference and the perceived naturalness of places. Medio Ambiente y Comportamiento Humano, 3(1), 19-34.

Preiser, W.F., Whit, E., Rabinowitz, H. (1988). Post-Occupancy Evaluation. Routledge.

Purcell, T., Peron, E., & Berto, R. (2001). Why do preferences differ between scene types? Environment and Behavior, 33(1): 93-106.

Tang, I.C., Sullivan, W.C., Chang, C.Y. (2015). Perceptual Evaluation of Natural Landscapes: The Role of the Individual Connection to Nature. Environment and Behavior, 47: 595–617.

Tennessen, C.M., Cimprich, B. (1995). Views to nature: Effects on attention. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(1): 77-85.

Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery. Science, 224(4647): 224-225.

Ulrich, R.S., Simons, R.F., Losito, B.D., Fiorito, E. Miles, & M.A. Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3): 201-230.

Verderber, S. (1986). Dimensions of person-window transactions in the hospital environment. Environment and Behavior, 18(4): 450-466.

Verderber, S., Reuman, D. (1987). Windows, views, and health status in hospital therapeutic environments. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 4 (2): 120-133.

Original Papers