The virtual skylights offered by The Sky Factory use biophilic research to promote full physical and psychological recovery in patients.

The mission of The Sky Factory, a Fairfield, Iowa-based company, is to bring an illusion of nature to where patient care is administered: in waiting rooms, patient rooms, corridors, and radiation-treatment facilities. The Sky Factory’s illusory images, essentially, are virtual skylights and windows.

They use actual photos of nature—both static and kinetic—to fully promote the concept of biophilia, a hypothesis promoted by writers Edward O. Wilson and Stephen R. Kellert that says a biologically rooted association with nature contributes to human health.

Importantly, photography is not an aesthetic choice but instead based in science: authentic images generate a response that is identical to the real thing. The firm currently funds functional magnetic-resonance-imagining research through Texas Tech University’s Department of Neurology, probing the specific mechanics of biophilia and the company’s products.

“The disposition of our genetics is a tendency to connect with nature,” explains Bill Witherspoon, president and founder of The Sky Factory, whose products counteract the abundance of stress and technology inherent to healthcare. “The consequence is health and healing.” These same products are also used to similar effect in hospitality, residential, retail and even corrections facilities.

The Sky Factory is among the exhibitors at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo in Chicago in October. The company also provides one-hour, AIA-accredited webinars to architects on an ongoing basis. And the company practices what it preaches about sustainability. Its 35 employees design and create products in a 12,000-square-foot facility that collects 104 percent of its energy needs (for manufacturing as well as administrative functions) from two 100-foot rows of solar collectors.

Almost 80 percent of its five-acre property is dedicated to organic gardens and a greenhouse, while all employees participate in profit sharing in the flat-management (minimal hierarchy) organization. Witherspoon describes The Sky Factory as a transparent, socially sustainable company, engendering, perhaps, a spirit of working that is wholly consistent with the end-use of its products.