Biophilic Design | importance, patterns, principle and example

Biophilic Design

Biophilic Design is one of the many designs that has been used a lot recently in buildings and furniture. The use of Biophilic Design has been proved to be important to occupants. Even Singapore used Biophilic Design which results in the country into being known as a Garden City. So what is Biophilic Design?

What is Biophilic Design?

Biophilic Design is inspired by the word Biophilia which is defined for the love of nature. Biophilic design is used within the building industry for building and city-scale. It is a concept which aims to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. It is still discussed whether biophilic design provides health, environmental and economic benefits for occupants and the environment with a few cons.

Currently, one of the most popular design trends, with people being excited to live and work in spaces that utilises biophilic design. 

Why is Biophilic Design important?

Biophilic Design is important because of its positive effects on mental and physical health. In 2020, the World Health Organisation states that more than 264 million people of all ages around the world suffer from depression. Depression is a common mental disorder. Currently, it is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and one of the major contributors to the global burden of disease. Depression can impact a person’s daily life, like performing poorly at work, or at school. 

A study by Human spaces report in 2015 shows how Biophilic Design has a more positive effect in offices with the design compared to those who don’t. It studied 7600 office workers in 16 different countries and found that 58% of the workers have no live plants in their workspaces. Workspaces with natural elements in their workspaces reported a 15% higher wellbeing score and a 6% higher productivity score than workspaces without natural elements. Another study also shows that five-medium sized plants in an average living household can increase air quality by around 75% and mental health by 60%.

Therefore, biophilic design is important in the current building industry as it can also be used to counter mental health diseases such as depression.

To learn more about how Biophilic light is better than other light. Click here.

Six principles of Biophilic Design

  • Environmental Features – Using well-know characteristics of the natural environment into the built environment. This characteristic includes water, air, sunlight, plants, animals and natural materials.
  • Natural Shapes and Forms – Shapes like straight lines and right angles should be avoided. It should imitate natural features such as vaults and domes.
  • Natural patterns and Processes – Using fabric colours, patterns and processes that happen naturally in the natural environment around the occupants. This is to provide a connection between occupants and the natural environment.
  • Light and space – Allow variation of lighting, sufficient natural light or artificial light technology that can imitate the lighting outdoors. Artificial light technology can include warm, cool, filtered and much other light variation. For example, the light is able to dim itself when evening approaches. The same goes for ensuring there is a variation of spaces; shaped, harmonious, jarring, etc.
  • Place-based Relationship – The significance of a place is tied to meaning such as history, culture, geographic, spiritual or ecological. We can honour the place-based relationship within the built environment.
  • Evolved human-nature relationships – It is about recreating the thousand of years of relationship between human and nature. The biophilic design uses all the other principles as mentioned above. Offices or homes will focus on specific themes like discovery, safety and etc.

14 Biophilic Design patterns

Biophilic Design is categorised into 3 groups. They are Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues, and Nature of Space.

Nature in the space

It is the direct physical contact we have with nature in a space or place. It involves the presence of plant life, water features, animals, sounds, scent, breeze and other natural elements. Examples include potted plants, ponds, gardens, aquariums, etc. 

        Nature in Space includes seven biophilic design patterns:

1. Visual Connection with Nature – A view to elements of nature like plants, sea or hills.

2. Non-Visual Connection with Nature – Design interactions that stimulate our senses of touch, smell, sound and taste to remind us of nature.

3. Non-rhythmic Sensory Stimuli – The sensory stimulation of nature inconsistent yet unpredictable motions such as the gentle sway of grass in a breeze.

4. Thermal & Airflow Variability – The indistinct changes in air and surface temperature.

5. Presence of water – To see, hear or touch so to connect with nature.

6. Dynamic & Diffuse Light – Changing light’s brightness and shadow that varies over time to create conditions that occur in nature.

7. Connection with Natural Systems – Awareness of natural processes, especially seasonal changes to remind us of the process of a healthy ecosystem.

Natural Analogues

Focuses on the organic, non-living and elements with an indirect connection to nature. It manifest elements found in nature into artworks, furniture, etc. Examples of it could be furniture with organic shapes or wood tables. This is to trigger the biophilic connection of humans with nature.

        Natural Analogues includes three biophilic design patterns.

8. Biomorphic Forms & Patterns – Symbolic Representation using the design of patterns, textures, shapes or numerical arrangements found in nature.

9. Material Connection with Nature – Using materials or element from nature that reflect the local ecology to create a distinct sense of the natural world.

10. Complexity & Order – Rich sensory information that adheres to a spatial hierarchy similar to those encountered in nature.

Nature of Space

Defines how we relate to a building, room or space around us on a deeper understanding. Our innate desire to want to see beyond our immediate surroundings and our fascination with the slightly dangerous or unknown. The Nature of the space experience is achieved through the creations of deliberate and engaging space configurations using patterns of nature.

       Nature of space includes four Biophilic Design:

11. Prospect – A not obstructed view over a distance, for surveillance and planning

12. Refuge – A place to protect an individual from behind and overhead with withdrawal while being able to look out for their surroundings.

13. Mystery – The promise of more information, achieved through partially obscured views or other sensory devices that entice the individual to travel deeper into the environment

14. Risk or Peril – An identifiable risk with a reliable safeguard. For example, a high glass walkway meters above the ground or a glass wall overlooking a city skyline.

Biophilic city in Singapore

In 1963 a tree-planting campaign was launched across Singapore by Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew. It was the prime minister’s vision that a greenery provision was to be crucial to Singapore’s socioeconomic and national infrastructure development. Lee Kuan Yew personally becomes the chairman of the Garden City Action Committee which set up in 1970. The objective of the tree planting campaign was to make Singapore a green city. The plan would ensure a minimum of 10,000 saplings to be planted a year.

The prime minister explains that Singapore needed to be unique to impress other foreign investors that Singapore is well organised and has an efficient government. Besides the economic potential, the prime minister believed that making greenery accessible to all Singaporeans would create a sense of belonging and also creating unity.

Fast forward 50 years, Singapore is known as a garden city or otherwise a Biophilic City. It also had attracted a lot of investors overseas. The island is now a green oasis with numerous gardens, nature reserves, parks and vertical greenery. Everywhere you go in Singapore, a tree will always be on sight.


It is important to know that Biophilic Design is not just another Design to aesthetically beautify your environment. A successful Biophilic Design of a place can help improve a person’s wellbeing while reminding us of the beauty of nature.

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