The Principles and Benefits of Biophilic Design (2024)

Biophilic design principles have pervaded our man-made surroundings since human architecture began. For thousands of years, people have looked for ways to incorporate the natural habitat into the design of homes, work spaces, and public places. In 1984, the term “biophilia” was popularised by biologist Edward Wilson, though it was first used twenty years earlier. Wilson describes biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. So how does this urge factor in to architectural design? We’re going to look at biophilic design principles, biophilic interior and exterior design, and the effect biophilic design can have on people who live and work in places that utilise it.

Biophilic design principles

When Viritopia say “We provide a biophilic solution to today’s environmental challenges”, what exactly do we mean? Biophilic design uses elements of nature to provide respite and joy to people in man-made spaces. For most of history, humans have spent their time outside- the relatively recent change to indoor living is something that our bodies might not have fully adapted to yet. Biophilic design allows us to interact with nature without compromising our modern lifestyle, and studies over the past few decades have shown the restorative and enhancing effects it can have.

Biophilic design principles are generally organised into three categories: nature in the space, nature of the space, and natural analogues. Nature in the space refers to the direct presence of nature and often includes multi-sensory interactions. These interactions can be thermal, visual, haptic, olfactory, or anything else where the natural presence is clear and direct. Nature of the space is about mimicking or being inspired by spatial configurations in nature. This is about replicating the feelings that natural spaces give us, such as senses of refuge, mystery, prospect, or peril. Natural analogues use indirect methods to reflect nature, such as the use of naturally-inspired patterns and shapes with non-natural materials or materials that have been extensively altered. These principles can be used individually or together to create a connection with nature in a non-natural space; the key to biophilic design principles is to integrate these forms in a way that feels natural.

Biophilic interior design

For many people, biophilic design is seen as something that happens in the architecture and external elements of a building, with biophilic interior design being little more than strategically-placed potted plants. This image, however, is far from reality.

Plant-based installations such as living canvases and living walls are now available inside as well as outside, providing design opportunities that can transform even the dullest interior. A key aspect of biophilic design is making it regularly accessible to the people in the space, and users of a building spend much more time interacting with the interior than the exterior.Another important aspect is using smaller elements to create an overall setting, rather than focusing on small, individual areas. Living walls and canvases are excellent features for this kind of design because their large surface area makes them a strong feature in any room, while their interactions with features such as windows and nearby furniture ties them in to the overall habitat.

The Principles and Benefits of Biophilic Design (1)

Biophilic exteriors

When it comes to creating a biophilic exterior to a building, there are two approaches- new construction or revamping an existing building.

When it comes to refurbishing an older space using biophilic design principles, elements like living walls and green roofs are ideal because they incorporate so many biophilic elements in a single installation. For example, a green roof is an excellent way to create a restorative space in a small area such as courtyard or roof, providing the building’s inhabitants with a place where they can take a physical and mental break from whatever stresses they may be facing.

The Principles and Benefits of Biophilic Design (2)

Living Walls and Green Roofs

While living walls and green roofs can also be used in new buildings, an architect with biophilic design principles in mind has a lot of opportunity to explore the three design categories and how they can be merged to create a beautiful and beneficial space. You can see this kind of thinking in many modern buildings, such as workplaces that use glass to increase the amount of natural light, and hospitals that have large atriums to give a sense of free space to incredibly busy areas.

Although often recognised as solely an addition to an existing façade or as part of a refurbishment of an existing building, a living wall should also be realised as an alternative façade. If this is allowed for earlier in the design stage, there may be cost savings in contrast to adding a living wall later on. This is because you can use a living wall instead of the normal cladding material,fixing it back to the main structure and creating a stunning vertical garden that’s embedded into the elevation.

Biophilic design in the workplace

While it looks beautiful, biophilic design offers many benefits other than aesthetic. Biophilic design in the workplace has shown to increase creativity and reduce absenteeism, with studies recording an 8% increase in productivity and a 13% increase in employee well-being. Biophilic design has also shown to improve patient recovery times in hospitals, reduce crime rates in residential areas, and increase learning ability and test results in schools. These amazing results stem from the improved user experience of the building. Many public spaces were built with function as their top priority and comfort as an afterthought, meaning that elements such as natural light, airflow, and atmosphere were not given much attention.

The World Health Organisation estimates that stress-related illnesses such as mental health issues and cardio-vascular disease will be the two biggest contributors to ill health by 2020. The introduction of biophilic design to buildings provides its users with ways to reduce and release their stress, creating a healthier environment that people are happier to be in. Biophilic design also often features “vernacular architecture”, where a building is constructed to connect to and reflect the landscape surrounding it. Vernacular architecture and the use of local elements in biophilic interior design can help users connect to their local communities and form bonds with the natural world around them.

Biophilic design has progressed enormously in the past few decades, with research being conducted to explore its reaches and benefits showing spectacular results. As the biophilic design principles are being pushed with new architectural and interior design ideas, our public and private spaces are helping us to connect to humankind’s natural environment. Incorporating nature in the space, nature of the space, and natural analogues is making us calmer, more concentrated, and more content with where we’re spending our time. This is a journey we’ve been making since we first started building spaces for ourselves, and it will undoubtedly be a factor in our architecture and design for years to come.

The Principles and Benefits of Biophilic Design (2024)


The Principles and Benefits of Biophilic Design? ›

Simply put, the biophilic design element of environmental features relates to characteristics of the natural world found in the built environment. People are naturally drawn to features of the natural environment such as plants, animals and natural materials.

What is the principle of biophilic design? ›

Simply put, the biophilic design element of environmental features relates to characteristics of the natural world found in the built environment. People are naturally drawn to features of the natural environment such as plants, animals and natural materials.

What are the benefits of biophilic design? ›

One of the foremost benefits of biophilic design is its positive impact on mental health and overall well-being. Exposure to natural elements, such as sunlight, greenery and water features, has been linked to reduced stress, improved mood and enhanced cognitive function.

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 design philosophy of biophilic design? ›

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 psychology behind biophilic design? ›

The biophilia hypothesis posits an innate biological and genetic connection between human and nature, including an emotional dimension to this connection. Biophilic design builds on this hypothesis in an attempt to design human-nature connections into the built environment.

Why is biophilia so important? ›

Studies have shown evidence of positive benefits of human interaction with nature, such as improved productivity, lower levels of stress, enhanced learning and even improved recovery rates following illness.

What are the disadvantages of biophilic design? ›

If not properly maintained, natural elements can become unsightly or even hazardous. Allergies: For some employees, exposure to natural elements such as plants or flowers can trigger allergies or other health issues. Space limitations: Biophilic design may not be practical for all workspaces.

Does biophilic design reduce stress? ›

Ultimately, biophilic design draws on the fundamental connection people have with nature—and often, their instinct to preserve their own well-being. Providing broad visual access and comfortable, protected spaces naturally helps people feel safe and reduces stress.

What are the principles of biophilic urbanism? ›

By prioritising human-scale design, walkability, and access to nature, biophilic urbanism aims to create healthier, more resilient cities that nurture both people and the planet.

What is patterns of biophilic design? ›

“14 Patterns of Biophilic Design” articulates the relationships between nature, human biology and the design of the built environment so that we may experience the human benefits of biophilia in our design applications.

What is biophilia theory? ›

The biophilia hypothesis is the belief that humans are genetically predisposed to be attracted to nature. It states that all humans inherently love the natural world. This idea that we are drawn to and need nature was first put forth by a man named Edward O. Wilson in his book, Biophilia, published in 1984.

What is the concept of biophilic? ›

The term biophilia, as coined by psychologist Erich Fromm and popularised by biologist Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s, is defined as 'the urge to affiliate with other forms of life'. Originating from Greek, it translates literally as 'love of life'.

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 is the biophilic architecture theory? ›

Originating from a theory of biologist Edward Wilson, biophilic design allows for improved comfort and performance of the people occupying those spaces through the inclusion of natural elements in built spaces, such as non-artificial light, water or plants.

What is the theory of biophilia design? ›

Biophilic design fosters positive and sustained interactions and relationships among people and the natural environment. Humans are a deeply social species whose security and productivity depends on positive interactions within a spatial context.

What are the principles of nature based design? ›

Environmental features

Direct contact with vegetation, in and around the built environment, is one of the most successful strategies for fostering human-nature connection in design. The presence of plants can reduce stress, improve comfort, enhance mood, and prompt healing.

What are the principles of design in nature? ›

The principles of design are balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm, variety, and unity.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Allyn Kozey

Last Updated:

Views: 6596

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Allyn Kozey

Birthday: 1993-12-21

Address: Suite 454 40343 Larson Union, Port Melia, TX 16164

Phone: +2456904400762

Job: Investor Administrator

Hobby: Sketching, Puzzles, Pet, Mountaineering, Skydiving, Dowsing, Sports

Introduction: My name is Allyn Kozey, I am a outstanding, colorful, adventurous, encouraging, zealous, tender, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.