Skip to main content

All You Need To Know About Biophilic Design

All You Need To Know About Biophilic Design

All You Need To Know About Biophilic Design


Being cooped up indoors more often than customary has probed many of us to reevaluate our relationship with the environment. Launched mid-pandemic, our latest collection, Vitamin D, speaks of this very sentiment – the deficiency of sunlight in urban realities and interventions through design to bring vibrancy back into our homes.

Biophilia is humankind’s innate biological connection with nature. It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows and heights instill fascination and fear; and why animal companionship and strolling through a park have restorative effects.


(L): Vitamin D, our latest bedding collection, featuring hues, textures and prints inspired by natural forms; (R): The Great Sphinx of Giza. Image © Cris Bouroncle/AFP via Getty Images.

“Biophilic design is the designing for people as a biological organism, respecting the mind-body systems as indicators of health and well-being in the context of what is locally appropriate and responsive.”

The consistency of natural themes in historic structures and places suggests that biophilic design is not a new phenomenon. Rather, as a field of applied science, it is the codification of history, human intuition and neural sciences showing that connections with nature are vital to maintaining a healthful existence as an urban species. A study by Terrapin Bright Green, available online, elucidates the topic in a manner of value to both individuals and society. Policy makers, entrepreneurs, architects, designers and homeowners: we urge you to read it in full.

“Our key takeaway? Biophilic design nurtures a love of place.”

Organized into three categories – Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues, and Nature of the Space, here are top design considerations for your home and study, using patterns within the first:


The New York Times Building moss and birch garden, by Renzo Piano, acts as an oasis of calm. Image © Hubert J. Steed.

A view to elements of nature, living systems and natural processes. Benefits include reduced stress, positive emotional functioning, and improved concentration and recovery rates. Stress recovery from visual connections with nature have reportedly been realized through lowered blood pressure and heart rate; reduced attentional fatigue, sadness, anger, and aggression; improved mental engagement, attitude and overall happiness.


Naturally Occurring Simulated or Constructed
– Natural flow of a body of water – Mechanical flow of a body of water
– Vegetation, including food bearing plants – Koi pond, aquarium
– Animals, insects – Green wall
– Fossils – Artwork/screen or an expansive window view depicting nature
– Terrain, soil, earth
– Highly designed landscapes




A fountain and gardens in the Calat Alhambra in Granada, Spain provide a non-visual experience of nature. Image © Dax Fernstrom/Flickr.

Auditory, haptic, olfactory, or gustatory stimuli that engender a deliberate and positive reference to nature, living systems or natural processes. Benefits include reductions in systolic blood pressure and stress hormones; impact of sound and vibration on cognitive performance; and perceived improvements in mental health and tranquility as a result of non-visual sensory interactions with non-threatening nature. Each sensory system has a vast body of research to support it; here we provide just a taste.

Naturally Occurring Simulated or Constructed
– Fragrant herbs and flowers – Digital simulations of nature sounds
– Songbirds – Mechanically released natural plant oils
– Flowing water – Highly textured fabrics/textiles that mimic natural material textures
– Weather (rain, wind, hail) –Audible and/or physically accessible water feature
– Natural ventilation (operable windows, breezeways) Music with fractal qualities
– Textured materials (stone, wood, fur) – Horticulture/gardening, including edible plants
– Crackling fire/fireplace – Domesticated animals/pets
– Sun patches, warm/cool surfaces




The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore by RMJM Architects uses fresh air and sunlight to increase thermal comfort. Image © Jui-Yong Sim/Flickr.

Subtle changes in air temperature, relative humidity, airflow across the skin, and surface temperatures that mimic natural environments. This pattern has evolved from research measuring the effects of natural ventilation, its resulting thermal variability, and worker comfort, well-being and productivity; physiology and perception of temporal and spatial pleasure (alliesthesia); and, generally speaking, a growing discontent with the conventional approach to thermal design, which focuses on achieving a narrow target area of temperature, humidity and air flow while minimizing variability.


Naturally Occurring Simulated or Constructed
– Solar heat gain – HVAC delivery strategy
– Shadow and shade – Systems controls
– Radiant surface materials – Window glazing and window treatment
– Space/place orientation – Window operability and cross ventilation
Vegetation with seasonal densification




The Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT, by Louis Kahn utilizes natural lighting to softly illuminate art and create dramatic experiences. Image © K. Kendall/Flickr.

Leverages varying intensities of light and shadow that change over time to create conditions that occur in nature. Recent research has focused more heavily on illuminance fluctuation and visual comfort, human factors and perception of light, and impacts of lighting on the circadian system functioning. Sunlight changes colour from yellow in the morning, to blue at midday, and red in the afternoon/evening; the human body responds to this daylight colour transition. 

The response is apparent in body temperature, heart rate, and circadian functioning. Higher content of blue light (similar to skylight) produces serotonin; whereas, an absence of blue light (which occurs at night) produces melatonin. The balance of serotonin and melatonin can be linked to sleep quality, mood, alertness, depression, breast cancer and other health conditions.

Naturally Occurring Simulated or Constructed
– Daylight from multiple angles – Multiple low glare electric light sources
– Direct sunlight – Illuminance
– Diurnal and seasonal light – Light distribution
– Firelight – Ambient diffuse lighting on walls and ceiling
Moonlight and starlight – Daylight preserving window treatments
Bioluminescence – Task and personal lighting
– Accent lighting
– Personal user dimming controls
– Circadian colour reference