How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (2024)

In the bustling world we inhabit, where the urban landscape often overshadows the natural beauty that once nurtured our souls, emerges a design philosophy that promises to reconnect us with the essence of life itself.
Biophilic design, a symphony of human ingenuity and nature's splendor, offers a pathway back to our roots.But how do we truly discern what embodies this profound design philosophy and what falls short?
Learn in this article the different principles of biophilic design, why it is important for our human development, how to differentiatebetween what is biophilic design and what isn't, and remarkable examples of this practice.

In an era dominated by urban landscapes and technological advancements, the yearning for a deeper connection to nature has never been more palpable. Biophilic design, a concept that tries to bridge the gap between our constructed surroundings and the natural world, comes into play. But what exactly is biophilic design, and how can we differentiate between authentic applications and mere imitations? In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of biophilic design, explore its core principles, and provide insights into distinguishing what is biophilic design and what isn't.

1. What is biophilic design

2. Why biophilic design matters

3. How to discern authentic biophilic design

4. How to incorporate biophilic design into your own space

5. Biophilic design practices

6. Final thoughts

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (1)

    What is biophilic design?

    Biophilic design has emerged as a profound response to humanity's intrinsic connection to nature. It encompasses a holistic approach that goes beyond the mere incorporation of greenery and natural elements into built environments. True biophilic design is an embodiment of the symbiotic relationship between humans and the environment, where architecture and nature coalesce to create spaces that inspire, heal, and nurture.

    At its core, biophilic design seeks to ignite an authentic emotional bond between occupants and the natural world. It draws inspiration from nature's intricate patterns, fractals, and processes that have evolved over millions of years. The design philosophy is rooted in the biophilia hypothesis proposed by biologist E.O. Wilson, asserting that humans possess an innate inclination to connect with other forms of life. This biological connection is a result of our evolutionary history and is deeply ingrained in our psychological makeup.

    Genuine biophilic design extends beyond superficial aesthetics. It embraces principles such as biomimicry, where architectural forms and functions imitate nature's efficiency and elegance. The layout of a space might mimic the branching structure of trees, allowing for a seamless flow of movement. Materials used might mirror the colors and textures found in natural landscapes, invoking a sense of familiarity and comfort.

    Furthermore, biophilic design considers the multisensory aspects of human experience. It engages not only the sense of sight but also touch, sound, and even scent. Incorporating elements like flowing water features that provide auditory tranquility, textures that beg to be touched, and fragrances reminiscent of lush forests can evoke a truly immersive experience.

    This design philosophy also recognizes the importance of variability and diversity in nature. Authentic biophilic design encourages the creation of spaces that change over time, reflecting the dynamic nature of natural environments. This might involve adjusting lighting levels based on the time of day or incorporating movable elements that allow occupants to customize their surroundings.

    In essence, biophilic design aims to transcend the boundaries between the constructed and the organic, fostering spaces that nourish both the body and the soul. It's about invoking the primal feeling of stepping into a sun-dappled forest or beside a babbling brook, even when surrounded by concrete and glass. The intention is to imbue the often sterile environments of modern living with the life-affirming qualities found in lush forests and flowing streams. Through this lens, biophilic design becomes a vessel for reconnecting with the profound essence of life itself.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (2)

    Nature Art Gallery (12 Art Posters w/ frames)

    Why biophilic design matters

    Understanding the importance of biophilic design is crucial in distinguishing what is biophilic design and what isn't. Let's delve deeper into why biophilic design matters and how it addresses these critical issues.

    Thepositive relationship between humans and naturehas been well-documented for ages. And we don’t necessarily need studies to understand it – think about how you feel after going on a long hike or sitting in the sun. A love of nature is written into our DNA.

    Bringing natural elements into our spaces has some of the same positive psychological effects. A2015 University of Surrey studyfound that adding just a few biophilic interior details like plants, water features, and views of nature reduces stress levels for occupants and even increases pain tolerances. Andthis National Taiwan University studyfound that some of the top biophilic design elements for improving physiological and psychological health were natural images, natural materials, and plants.

    Coulthard’sBiophilia: You + Nature + Homeis a user-friendly handbook explaining the benefits of “bringing the natural world into your home.” She notes the overlap between the built environment and nature through sustainable building materials, indoor/outdoor living, and our bodies’ natural rhythms with the earth (did you knowmorning light exposure can help regulate your sleep schedule?). In these ways, biophilic design is less about buying a few plants or wooden home decor items and more about living in tune with the natural world.

    “Biophilia isn’t just about surface materials or colors. You can’t buy biophilia off a shelf,” says Coulthard. “It’s about going deeper into the human experience and working out why so many of our living spaces aren’t working for us.” Think about the headache you might get from the office’s fluorescent lights or the frustration of being woken by car horns. Then imagine the peace of bringing a hot beverage outside in the morning or falling asleep to crickets.

    How to discern authentic biophilic design

    Genuine biophilic design finds its home in environments that respect the delicate balance between human comfort and nature's grandeur. Spaces that incorporate authentic biophilic design are characterized by a thoughtful interplay of natural light, materials, and living elements. Here are 3 distinct features of bioliphic design, that will aid you in recognizing its true essence.

    Focus on beneficial natural aspects

    Biophilic design centers on incorporating elements from the natural world that have historically contributed to human health and productivity. Aspects that are unrelated or offer limited sustained benefits to people, such as desert or deep-sea habitats, microorganisms, alien species, extinct species, or obscure elements, are not considered integral to biophilic design.

    Emphasis on integrated habitats

    Biophilic design places importance on the overall setting or habitat rather than isolated instances of nature. Organisms exist within interconnected environments, forming integrated ecosystems. When the habitat supports the organisms, the ecosystem performs synergistically. In contrast, disjointed and unrelated elements within a habitat offer minimal benefits and might even be detrimental to its inhabitants. Biophilic design involves integrating natural elements into the built environment in a way that aligns with the dominant characteristics of the setting, contributing positively to the health and performance of occupants.

    Engagement and repeated contact with nature

    Biophilia, the inclination to connect with nature, is a malleable trait that requires learning and experience to fully develop. Biophilic design emphasizes continuous and repetitive interaction with nature rather than sporadic or temporary encounters. The effectiveness of biophilic design depends on nurturing regular and reinforcing contact with the natural world, acknowledging that biophilia is not hard-wired but can be cultivated through repeated experiences.

    These distinct features give rise to a set of five conditions that underpin the effective practice of biophilic design. Each condition serves to discern what is biophilic design and what isn’t:

    1. Biophilic design centers on the ways in which human adaptations to the natural world, developed over evolutionary periods, have played a pivotal role in advancing human health, fitness, and overall well-being. Natural exposures that lack relevance to human productivity and survival have negligible effects on well-being and fail to qualify as effective instances of biophilic design.
    2. The success of biophilic design hinges on consistent and enduring engagement with the natural environment. Occasional, fleeting, or isolated encounters with nature result in only superficial and temporary impacts on individuals, and in certain cases, may even contradict the goal of promoting positive outcomes.
    3. Biophilic design necessitates the integration and reinforcement of design interventions that harmonize with the overall context or space. The optimal functioning of all living organisms relies on immersion within habitats where the various elements coalesce into a coherent, reinforcing, and interconnected whole. Exposure to nature within a disconnected space – like an isolated plant, an incongruous depiction of nature, or a natural material in contrast to dominant spatial features – does not exemplify effective biophilic design.
    4. Biophilic design cultivates emotional bonds with settings and places. By addressing our inherent inclination to connect with nature, biophilic design cultivates an emotional affinity for specific spaces and locations. These emotional ties enhance human performance and productivity, motivating us to identify with and nurture the places we inhabit.
    5. Biophilic design nurtures positive and enduring interactions and relationships between people and their environment. As inherently social beings, humans rely on positive interactions within their spatial surroundings for security and productivity. Effective biophilic design fosters connections between individuals and their environment, enriching feelings of belonging and engendering a sense of community membership with significance.

    Now that you have a solid understanding of how to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't, let's explore howparticular practices of biophilic design can be employed to help implement positive and beneficial outcomes.

    Biophilic design practices

    1. Direct experience of nature

    Spaces that allow direct experience of Light, Air, Water, Plants, Animals, Weather, and Natural Landscapes and Ecosystems. Here are some projects employing direct experience of nature.

    A pavilion where lighting mimics branches, leaves and chipmunks

    For this structure,designers used projections that seem to drift with the wind.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (3)

    Source: Metropolis

    Outside Tulum SFER IK

    Nestled within the heart of the Mayan jungle, this cultural centerdoes not have anyflat floors or ceilings. Its composition predominantly consists of indigenous timber, vibrant living trees, and intertwining vines.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (4)

    Source: Metropolis

    A neighborhoodin France

    Édouard François's most recent plant-adorned building emerges in Nice, France, under the name Le Ray. The architect aspires for this structure to serve as a guide towards a more environmentally conscious approach to both construction and lifestyle.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (5)

    Source: Metropolis

    2. Indirect experience of nature

    Nature represented by these elements: Images of Nature, Natural Materials, Natural Colors, Mobility and Wayfinding, Cultural and, Ecological Attachment to Place, Simulating Natural Light and Air, Naturalistic Shapes and Forms, Evoking Nature, Information Richness, Natural Geometries, Biomimicry, and Age, Change, and the Patina of Time.Here are some projects employing indirect experience of nature.

    A hotel in downtown Nashville

    Concealed by a veil of ivy, the recently established 1 Hotel in Nashvillecelebrates the natural beauty of local and sustainable resources.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (6)

    Source: Metropolis

    A behavioral health hospital

    CannonDesign integrated the concepts of Moses Sheppard, a reformer from the 19th century, into the design of this novel psychiatric hospital.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (7)

    Source: Metropolis

    3. Experience of space and place

    Biophilia can also be achieved through these approaches: Prospect and Refuge, Organized Complexity, Integration of Parts to Wholes, and Transitional Spaces.Here are some projects employing experience of space and place.

    A medical center expansion by NBBJ

    In December 2020, the St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale, Washington unveiled its ten-story, 612,000-square-foot expansion. The expansive panorama of the Olympic Mountains from the facility offers patients a feeling of solace and a strong sense of connection.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (8)

    Source: Metropolis

    Ketra's showroom

    An innovative Ketra showroom has been established, offering designers the opportunity to visualize how various materials, furniture, and food appear when illuminated by the company's diverse range of lighting solutions.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (9)

    Source: Metropolis

    How To Incorporate Biophilic Design Into Your Own Space

    Add plants

    This one is quite obvious, but we suggest going deeper than just buying a few plants from Forest Homes and calling it a day. As anyone with houseplants knows, keeping them alive isn’t a walk in the park. Research your plant type’s water, sunlight, soil, and humidity needs. And if it starts to ail, look up how to fix it! No one is born with a green thumb, but with Google at your fingertips, you can develop one.

    Prioritize natural materials

    In the market for a new piece of furniture or decor? Look for goods made of natural materials, like Block oak table stool,Hiran bamboo tableor Stala oak side table

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (10)

    Stala oak slice side table

    Mimic nature with your design elements

    Even natural colors or images of nature work here, too. Consider an earthy color palette full of greens and blues or pictures of the natural world the next time you’re looking for a framed wall print. Look for shapes that mimic the natural world, too, like circular furniture or an asymmetrical lighting element.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (11)

    Green circle decorative moss wall art

    Highlight outdoor views and natural light

    We can’t always control the amount of natural light coming into our spaces, but we can make the most of what we have. Arrange seating next to windows to get more sunlight while you’re indoors, and if you’re lucky enough to have gorgeous outdoor views, highlight them with sheer curtains and attention-grabbing plants.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (12)

    White linen curtains (tunnel top)

    Maximize any outdoor space

    You might have to head to the park for outdoor time. But if you have a balcony, patio, or yard, make the most of them with some seating and any decor that’ll pull you to spend time there - string lights, plants, outdoor rugs, etc

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (13)

    Final Thoughts

    As the allure of biophilic design captures the imagination of designers and occupants alike, the need to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't becomes paramount. True biophilic design isn't skin-deep; it's a philosophy that honors the intricate relationships between humans and the natural world. By understanding its essence, acknowledging its champions, and discerning its principles, we can navigate the landscape of design with confidence, ensuring that the spaces we create are not just imitations but authentic expressions of our innate connection with nature.

    If you're inspired to embark on your own biophilic design journey, we invite you to explore further. Visit the Forest Homes website, where you can discover a range of natural interior decor options that will help you infuse your living spaces with the essence of biophilic design. Let the beauty of nature flourish within your home, enriching your daily life and fostering a harmonious relationship with the world around you.

    How to differentiate between what is biophilic design and what isn't (2024)


    What is and isn't biophilic design? ›

    Exposure to nature within a disconnected space – like an isolated plant, an incongruous depiction of nature, or a natural material in contrast to dominant spatial features – does not exemplify effective biophilic design. Biophilic design cultivates emotional bonds with settings and places.

    What is the difference between biophilic design? ›

    Summary. Biophilia is the innate connection between human beings and other living things, whereas Biophilic Design is how designers play on this idea and bring natural elements into a space to help make it more attractive and resonant with the senses.

    What is biophilic design concept and different examples in the world? ›

    A sense of connection to nature can also be created with colors, water and sunlight, while well-ventilated spaces promote well-being. Buildings that work in harmony with the surrounding nature, for example, ivy-covered walls or buildings that complement local geological features, also tend to be well received.

    What are the disadvantages of biophilic design? ›

    Cons: Cost: Incorporating biophilic design into a workspace can be expensive. The cost of materials, design, and construction can be prohibitive for some businesses. Maintenance: Natural elements in the workplace require maintenance, including watering plants and cleaning up leaves and debris.

    What is the difference between biophilic and biomimetic? ›

    So what's the difference? In a nutshell, biomimicry is the "mimicry," or more accurately, the emulation of life's engineering. In contrast, biophilia describes humans' connection with nature and biophilic design is replicating experiences of nature in design to reinforce that connection.

    What makes a design biophilic? ›

    Biophilic design is an approach to architecture that seeks to connect building occupants more closely to nature. Biophilic designed buildings incorporate things like natural lighting and ventilation, natural landscape features and other elements for creating a more productive and healthy built environment for people.

    What is the difference between biophilic and biomorphic? ›

    Biomorphism looks at nature as an inspiration for unconventional forms. Biophilia concerns how nature or natural elements make us feel, what impacts are the greatest in terms of physical and psychological wellbeing. These are the differences.

    Is biophilic design good for ADHD? ›

    Believe it or not, exposure to nature or a space that mimics nature. actually reduces the symptoms of ADHD. Which is why biophilic design is actually a popular. choice when designing for people with ADHD.

    What is the most famous biophilic design? ›

    The Barbican Centre is one of the earliest and most famous examples of biophilic architecture. Opened in the 1980s as an estate in London, it's renowned for its striking, brutalist design. The bleak style of the Barbican is juxtaposed with the use of natural and artificial lakes and extensive wildlife.

    What are the classification of biophilic design? ›

    Biophilic buildings are categorized into mimetic, applied, and organic: mimetic biophilic design achieves biophilic qualities by using symbolic, mimetic forms related to nature or traditional architecture; in the case of applied biophilic designs biophilic qualities are added as a layer, which appears extrinsic to the ...

    Who is a biophilic person? ›

    noun. bio·​phil·​ia ˌbī-ō-ˈfi-lē-ə -ˈfēl-yə : a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature : a desire or tendency to commune with nature. Biophilia is the term coined by the Harvard naturalist Dr.

    What is the critique of biophilic design? ›

    In line with such arguments, this review identifies two main shortcomings of Biophilic design and its frameworks: While Biophilic design as a design approach aims to restore and enhance the Nature experiences within the built environment, the first limitation that this paper has identified is how the existing extant ...

    What are the arguments against biophilia? ›

    There are three major flaws with biophilic (and other evolutionary based explanations of behaviour) identified by Schlinger (1996: 72-73), these are validity/reliability, poor use/understanding of statistics and loose interpretations of data.

    What is the difference between biophilic and sustainable design? ›

    Biophilic design and sustainable design are two well-known design principles that revolve around nature, and yet both have vastly different purposes. Whilst one is dedicated to minimising the impacts on the natural world, the other is committed to maximising the health and happiness of the population.

    What is included in biophilic design? ›

    This includes plant life, water and animals, as well as breezes, sounds, scents and other natural elements. Common examples include potted plants, flowerbeds, bird feeders, butterfly gardens, water features, fountains, aquariums, courtyard gardens and green walls or vegetated roofs.

    What are the three pillars of biophilic design? ›

    It is just now that design professionals and researchers are pulling these together en masse and presenting them under the umbrella of biophilic design. There are three pillars of Biophilic Design: Nature in the Space, Nature of the Space and Natural Analogues.

    What is the difference between feng shui and biophilic design? ›

    The idea behind biophilic design is that people have an innate connection to nature, and that being surrounded by natural elements can improve our physical and mental health. Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice that focuses on the flow of energy (or “chi”) in a space.

    Top Articles
    Latest Posts
    Article information

    Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

    Last Updated:

    Views: 6776

    Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

    Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

    Birthday: 1999-11-18

    Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

    Phone: +50616620367928

    Job: Real-Estate Liaison

    Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

    Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.