Understanding the Biophilia Hypothesis (2024)

The biophilia hypothesis. If you’ve worked within the LEED or green design world for any period of time, it’s likely that you’ve run into this term. As intimidating as it might sound, the biophilia hypothesis is actually fairly simple to understand. And, more likely than not, you’ve experienced what the biophilia hypothesis describes.

So, what is the biophilia hypothesis?

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.

The idea that humans have an innate love and need for nature has been adapted to many different areas of study. The biophilia hypothesis has been used to support the idea that humans are healthier when they’re connected to nature and has even become popular within the movement of green design, reusing materials, and eco-friendly architecture.

Though at first the biophilia hypothesis put forth by Wilson was more aspirational than based in scientific fact, researchers are now finding there are health benefits to being surrounded by nature.

The Science Behind the Biophilia Hypothesis

From Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in New York City, to Edward O. Wilson, to Florence Williams, the belief that nature makes humans healthier is an enduring and fascinating topic.

Nature helps to lower levels of cortisol, the hormone typically used to assess stress levels, improve concentration, and heighten creativity. Research finds that taking a walk in a park and even looking at nature through a window can improve someone’s health.

Nature not only improves health, it helps people to feel happier.

Though science has come a long way to measure and prove the link between nature, health, and happiness — most of us intrinsically know that nature makes us feel good. No one needs to tell us.

Whether science proves it or not, the biophilia hypothesis has played a role in making biophilic design, green architecture, and eco-friendly buildings more popular.

The Biophilia Hypothesis in Architecture and Design

Many large companies are getting behind the idea of biophilic and green design. Everyone from Google to Amazon to Clif Bar are incorporating nature into their buildings to help employees to feel happier and healthier.

In addition to building a brand and selling products, companies are shifting focus to creating a workplace and ethos of holistic health. Bringing nature inside has also proven to improve worker productivity.

Embracing the Biophilia Hypothesis: Enhancing Spaces with Nature-Inspired Design

The tenets of biophilic design are simple, just an attempt to bring nature indoors for the health of the people inhabiting the space but, can lead design to new and unexplored possibilities. The Biophilia Hypothesis highlights the innate human connection with nature and suggests that incorporating natural elements into the built environment can have profound positive impacts on our well-being. By embracing biophilic design, we can create spaces that foster a sense of harmony and promote a healthier, more productive lifestyle.

One way to introduce biophilic elements is through the use of reclaimed wood for the floors or wall paneling. Not only does reclaimed wood exude natural beauty and warmth, but it also tells a story, carrying the essence of its previous life. By bringing these elements indoors, we establish a tangible connection to nature, creating an environment that evokes a sense of calm and tranquility.

In addition to reclaimed wood, integrating living green walls can infuse spaces with vibrant vegetation, improving air quality and providing visual delight. These vertical gardens serve as living art pieces, offering a refreshing connection to nature within the confines of a built environment.

Another strategy is to maximize the utilization of natural light by incorporating more windows or optimizing existing ones. Sunlight not only illuminates the space but also enhances our circadian rhythms, boosting productivity and overall well-being. By allowing ample natural light to flood the interior, we establish a closer relationship with the outdoors and harness the energy and vitality that sunlight brings.

The principles of biophilic design offer endless possibilities, encouraging designers to explore new realms of creativity while prioritizing the well-being of occupants. By inviting nature into our built spaces, we create environments that nurture and inspire, fostering a deeper connection with the natural world.

Incorporating biophilia into design not only benefits individuals but also has broader implications for our collective relationship with the environment. By acknowledging and embracing our innate connection to nature, we can design spaces that harmonize with our human essence while promoting sustainability and the preservation of our precious natural resources.

Incorporate the Biophilic Hypothesis: The Power of Plants

Implementing the biophilic hypothesis with the inclusion of plants is a powerful way to create environments that foster a deep connection with nature. Whether it’s a green roof, a living wall, or the strategic placement of potted plants, plants play a pivotal role in biophilic design, bringing the essence of the natural world indoors.

Embracing the principles of the biophilic hypothesis, even on a smaller scale, can have profound effects. A green wall, for example, introduces a vertical tapestry of living plants that not only adds visual appeal but also enhances air quality, reduces noise, and provides a refreshing connection to nature. This vibrant display of foliage creates a living artwork, instilling a sense of tranquility and rejuvenation within the space.

When space permits, a green roof takes biophilic design to new heights. By covering rooftops with thriving gardens, we not only improve energy efficiency but also create lush oases that attract birds and beneficial insects, offering a haven of greenery and respite for building occupants. The juxtaposition of urban skylines with verdant vegetation exemplifies a harmonious balance between the built environment and the natural world.

Whether through grand gestures like green roofs or the simple addition of potted plants, incorporating the biophilic hypothesis transforms spaces into havens where nature thrives alongside human life. By harnessing the power of plants, we purify the air, reduce stress levels, and evoke feelings of harmony and vitality. Let biophilic design guide your choices, cultivating environments that reflect our deep-rooted connection with the natural world and contribute to our overall well-being.

Embracing the Biophilia Hypothesis with Natural Materials

The biophilia hypothesis comes to life when we opt for natural materials in our built environments. Instead of relying on cold metals, plastics, or synthetic materials, the use of wood stands as a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing alternative. Reclaimed wood, in particular, takes this commitment to eco-friendliness and beauty to a whole new level.

Leading companies like Google and Amazon have recognized the transformative effects of incorporating nature elements into their office spaces. By integrating reclaimed wood accents, flooring, and paneling, they create environments that foster a deep connection with nature. The natural warmth and organic textures of reclaimed wood instill a sense of calm and well-being, enhancing employee productivity and satisfaction.

Understanding the Biophilia Hypothesis (1)
Terramai’s reclaimed wood flooring and tree inside Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

Choosing reclaimed wood aligns with the principles of the biophilia hypothesis, as it embodies sustainability and showcases the inherent beauty of nature. Each piece of reclaimed wood carries a unique history, with distinct characteristics such as weathered patina, knots, and grain patterns. By utilizing reclaimed wood, we not only reduce waste and prevent deforestation but also infuse spaces with the natural elements that evoke a sense of biophilic harmony.

By embracing the biophilia hypothesis through the use of natural materials like reclaimed wood, we create environments that inspire and nurture. Let the timeless elegance and eco-friendliness of reclaimed wood transform your space into a haven of biophilic design, where the natural world seamlessly intertwines with our built surroundings.

Understanding the Biophilia Hypothesis (2)
Amazon’s Seattle headquarters uses TerraMai’s reclaimed wood wall paneling.

Biophilic Design: Bring In Natural Light

Incorporating natural light into biophilic design goes beyond its visual benefits; it engages our senses and fosters a deeper connection with the natural world. By designing buildings that embrace their location and maximize light and ventilation, we create spaces that are not only more beneficial to occupants but also more environmentally friendly.

Optimizing natural light in building design offers a multitude of advantages. Beyond reducing the reliance on artificial lighting, it creates an uplifting and energizing ambiance. The dynamic interplay of sunlight throughout the day casts ever-changing patterns and shadows, enhancing the visual interest and adding a touch of natural enchantment to the space.

Windows serve as gateways to the outside world, inviting natural light to flood the interior while allowing for refreshing views of the surrounding environment. Opening windows further allows the infusion of fresh outdoor air, improving indoor air quality and fostering a healthier atmosphere. By integrating windows strategically, we reduce the need for mechanical ventilation systems, promoting energy efficiency and reducing our ecological footprint.

Embracing natural light as a key element of biophilic design not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but also creates spaces that support well-being and enhance our connection with nature. By thoughtfully incorporating windows that optimize natural light and fresh air, we establish a harmonious relationship between the built environment and the surrounding natural elements. Let the transformative power of natural light illuminate your designs, fostering spaces where occupants thrive and the environment flourishes.

Embracing Biophilic Design: CreatingSpaces that Nurture Well-being and Connection

The biophilia hypothesis reaffirms what we intuitively understand: nature has a profound impact on our happiness and health. Biophilic design has inspired architects and designers to embrace this concept by seamlessly integrating natural elements like reclaimed wood, plants, and natural light into their creations.

By embracing the principles of biophilic design, we embark on a transformative journey that transcends conventional boundaries. Nature becomes our guiding inspiration, allowing us to craft spaces that go beyond functionality and aesthetics. These spaces become havens of well-being and connection, where the inherent beauty and vitality of nature infuse every aspect.

Let us wholeheartedly embrace the biophilia hypothesis and embark on a design revolution that prioritizes the nurturing of human well-being. By embracing nature in our designs, we create spaces that foster a deep sense of connection, revitalization, and harmony. Together, let us shape environments that not only inspire but also embody the inherent wisdom of the natural world.


Looking for reclaimed wood to enhance your next commercial or residential project? Explore TerraMai’s wide selection of eco-conscious and stunning reclaimed wood products today.

Understanding the Biophilia Hypothesis (2024)


What is the biophilia hypothesis summary? ›

The biophilia hypothesis (also called BET) suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defines biophilia as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life".

What are the 9 values of the biophilia hypothesis? ›

We depend on the relationship with it, or rather on the quality of this relationship, from a UTILITY UTILITARIAN, NATURALISTIC, ECOLOGISTIC-SCIENTIFIC, AESTHETIC, SYMBOLIC, HUMANISTIC, MORALISTIC, DOMINIONISTIC and NEGATIVISTIC point of view.

What is the evidence for biophilia hypothesis? ›

The primary findings indicated that exposure to natural environments had a medium to large effect on both increasing positive affect and decreasing negative affect. This finding supported the anticipated emotional dimension of the biophilia hypothesis and lends credibility to biophilic design theory.

What is the primary focus of the biophilia hypothesis? ›

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 biophilia in simple words? ›

The word biophilia originates from the Greek, 'philia' meaning 'love of'. It literally means a love of life or living things. Humans have a deeply engrained love of nature which is an intuitive and natural drive imprinted into our DNA.

What are the criticism of the biophilia hypothesis? ›

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.

Why are humans so connected to nature? ›

Wilson's “biophilia” theory suggests that there are evolutionary reasons people seek out nature experiences. We may have preferences to be in beautiful, natural spaces because they are resource-rich environments—ones that provide optimal food, shelter, and comfort.

Why were humans scared of nature? ›

We're naturally attuned to the dangers posed by animals, especially our natural predators. Snakes are a major one, but humans are also instinctively afraid of spiders, hunting cats, and herbivorous animals that may have posed a danger.

What is the biophilia hypothesis for children? ›

Children have an innate biological tendency to bond with the natural world known as biophilia. For children's natural inclination of biophilia to develop they must be given developmentally appropriate opportunities to learn about the natural world based on sound principles of child development and learning.

What is it called when you are attracted to nature? ›

Biophilia is the term coined by the Harvard naturalist Dr. Edward O. Wilson to describe what he saw as humanity's "innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes," and to be drawn toward nature, to feel an affinity for it, a love, a craving.

What is the biophilia hypothesis in biophilia and the conservation ethic? ›

Biophilia is Edward O. Wilson's most personal book, an evocation of his own response to nature and an eloquent statement of the conservation ethic. Wilson argues that our natural affinity for life—biophilia—is the very essence of our humanity and binds us to all other living species.

What human system is impacted by biophilia? ›

Research suggests that biophilia can have a positive impact on well-being by affecting three of our mind-body systems: physiological (eg. it reduces anxiety), psychological (eg. it reduces anger and fear) and cognitive functions (eg.

What is an example of a biophilia hypothesis? ›

Anecdotal and qualitative evidence suggests that humans are innately attracted to nature. For example, the appearance of the natural world, with its rich diversity of shapes, colours, and life, is universally appreciated. This appreciation is often invoked as evidence of biophilia.

What are the three pillars of biophilia? ›

Biophilic design rests on three key pillars:
  • Nature in the space.
  • Nature of the space.
  • Natural analogues.

What is the principle of biophilia? ›

The principle of biophilia states that human beings are innately drawn to nature for their wellbeing, and researchers are discovering that myriad benefits follow when companies integrate natural elements in the workplace.

What is the biophilia hypothesis in Wilson's 1984? ›

Wilson's (1984) biophilia hypothesis adopts an evolutionary interpretation and offers a phylogenetic perspective to our love for life. Wilson defines biophilia as “our innate tendency to focus upon life and life-like forms and, in some instances, to affiliate with them emotionally” (Wilson, 2002, p.

What is the biophilia theory in psychology? ›

The 'Biophilia' hypothesis highlighting humans' innate, positive response to nature is both increasingly accepted and questioned. Studies support an updated Biophilia. The interplay between inheritance and environment, including culture, governs an individual's response, from positive to negative.

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'.

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