The Benefits of Biophilic Design - Design Assembly (2024)

  • Thought Leadership

The Benefits of Biophilic Design

4 days ago by Miranda Brown

For the month of April we’ve put a special focus on projects and discussions around Design & Planet in alignment with our 2024 Autumn Conversations events. The author of this article, Miranda Brown, will be one of our featured speakers at the upcoming Ōtautahi Autumn Conversations event on 15 April.

Evidence based research on Biophilia and nature inspired art in the built environment for wellbeing and health benefits, in particular Health Care environments.

As humans we have integrated natures symbols and cultural narratives into our built environment and earliest human structures including represenations of animals and plants to give symbolic meaning, share stories and connect people to place.

The fact that across all cultures nature themes exist in historic buildings suggests that biophilic design is not a new phenominon but rather a natural expression of an intuitive culture that understands natures principles and the human need to incorporate nature in the urban environment to maintain a vibrant and healthy life.

Biophia human beings innate love of life’

The word biophilia originates from the Greek, ‘philia’ meaning ‘love of’. It literally means a love of life or living things. E.O. Wilson coined the phrase Biophilia in 1960’S.

Biophilic Design is the process of designing for people in relationship to place by integrating nature into the built environment to enhance human nature connection and creativity while nurturing the local ecosystem.

In biophilic spaces patients recover more quickly, students learn better, retail sales are higher, workplace productivity goes up, and absenteeism goes down.

Sometimes the differences are up to 15 or 20%

The Benefits of Biophilic Design - Design Assembly (1)

Samson Corporation Workplace – site specific

Visual art in hospitals: case studies and review of the evidence

Journal for the royal society for medicine:

Louise Lankston,1 Pearce Cusack,1 Chris Fremantle,2 and Chris Isles1 Author information

That the arts and sciences are seen as two contrasting disciplines, and indeed are defined as such, immediately presents challenges to a discussion of art in medicine, one of the foremost branches of science. There has, nevertheless, always been an awareness of the ‘art of medicine’ and a realization that health is influenced by a wide range of factors, many of which fall outside the conventional boundaries of medical science. As Kirsty Schirmer, Policy Officer of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, argues, ‘broader determinants impact on health and … often art acknowledges these determinants where science cannot’.1

There is moreover increasing evidence that the display of visual art, especially images of nature, can have positive effects on health outcomes, including shorter length of stay in hospital, increased pain tolerance and decreased anxiety.2–5

Visual images, which might be more easily incorporated into healthcare settings than videos or window views have also been studied. Levels of depression and anxiety tended to be lower in patients undergoing chemotherapy who were exposed to visual art than in patients not exposed to visual art.5

Nature themes were studied by Diette and colleagues in a randomized controlled trial of patients undergoing flexible bronchoscopy. They found that pain control was significantly better in the intervention group than in controls.4

Ulrich investigated the effects on patients recovering from open heart surgery of exposure to one of the following: an image of nature, an abstract image or no image. Patients exposed to the nature image experienced less postoperative anxiety than either of the other two groups. They were also significantly more likely to switch from strong analgesics to weaker painkillers during their recovery. Of note the patients exposed to an abstract image experienced more anxiety than those with no image.2

The Benefits of Biophilic Design - Design Assembly (2)

Impact of Visual Images on Health

A compelling body of evidence in place today argues for the role of nature images in visual art to improve the patient experience of healthcare through reduced stress, anxiety, and pain perception, and improved perception of quality of care (Hathorn & Nanda, 2008; Nanda, 2011; Ulrich, 2009).

‘The combination of bright colors, engaging themes, and nature content is consistently highly rated by pediatric patients.’

The biophilia effect doesn’t require real natural environments. Imagery of nature is enough to see the effect including visual design and nature inspired art

Based on research by Ulrich, summarized in Kellen 2005.

The Benefits of Biophilic Design - Design Assembly (3)

Burwood Hospital curtain design

The Economics of Biophilic Design

Reference: Terrapin whitepaper Biophilia_Terrapin-Bright-Green-2012e.pdf

‘We believe that incorporating nature into the built environment is not just a luxury, but a sound economic investment in health and productivity, based on wellresearched neurological and physiological evidence. In this paper, we will share several examples of small investments involving very low or no up-front cost, such as providing employees access to plants, natural views, daylight, and other biophilic design elements. These measures provide very healthy returns. Integrating quality daylighting schemes into an office space can save over $2,000 per employee per year in office costs, whereas over $93 million could be saved annually in healthcare costs as a result of providing patients with views to nature

One of the many components of biophilia’s influence is the connection that humans have with certain fractal patterns that appear commonly in the natural world. Fractal patterns found in nature can positively affect human neural activity and parasympathetic system mechanisms.

Test results showed that subjects were more wakefully relaxed when exposed to natural landscapes with the study concluding that in environments with many stimuli and patterns, the patterns that are most likely to hold our attention and induce a relaxed response are fractal patterns commonly found in nature (Hagerhall, 2008).

Daylighting harnesses the power of biophilia. Daylight affects both our eye functions and our inherent circadian rhythms. When there is an imbalance of serotonin and melatonin in our bodies, our sleep-wake pattern is disturbed, which in turn inhibits our neurological and immune system functions.

Sunlight on a clear day is 500 to 1,000 times greater than artificial lighting (Boyce, 2010).

This is an important consideration while designing indoor environments to incorporate more natural light. These explanations of nervous system activity in mankind provide some of the fundamental physiological value of biophilia.

Over fifty studies have been published that associate biophilic elements as primary influences for faster recovery rates for patients, decreased dependency on medication, reduced staff and family stress, and improved emotional wellness as a result of natural daylighting and views to nature. In 1984, Roger Ulrich pioneered a seminal study to measure the influence of natural and urban sceneries on patients recovering from gallbladder surgery. Some patients were provided with views to nature, whereas others looked at brick walls. With all other variables equal, his findings revealed accelerated recovery rates and reduced stress for the patients who had views of nature. On average, patients whose windows overlooked a scene of nature were released after 7.96 days, compared with the 8.71 days it took for patients whose views were of the hospital’s exterior walls to recover sufficiently to be released—a decrease of 8.5% (Ulrich, 1984).’


Creative New Zealand: Arts in health: a review of the medical literature ternational_literature.pdf?1411611918

Living Futures Institute

Biophilia & Healing Environments: Healthy Principles for Designing the Built World. Salingaros, Nikos & Ryan, Catherine. 2015. Terrapin Bright Green & Metropolis Magazine.

“Inducing physiological stress recovery with sounds of nature in a virtual reality forest — Results from a pilot study.”

Annerstedt, Matilda, Peter Jönsson, Mattias Wallergård, Gerd Johansson, Björn Karlson, Patrik Grahn, Åse Marie Hansen, and Peter Währborg. Physiology & Behavior 118 (May 2013): 240-50. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.05.023.

“Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings.”

Baicker, K., D. Cutler, and Z. Song. Health Affairs 29, no. 2 (February 2010): 304-11.


“The influence of school architecture on academic achievement.”

Tanner, C. Kenneth. Journal of Educational Administration 38, no. 4 (February 2000): 309-30. doi:10.1108/09578230010373598.

About the Author:

The Benefits of Biophilic Design - Design Assembly (4)

Bio: Miranda Brown has been a leader in the sustainable design movement for the past two decades and is driven by regenerative principles that look after nature and all life.“ Essentially my practice is all about connecting people to the beauty of nature to enhance wellbeing and to inspire people to look after our natural world. Research shows us that when people are connected to their place they look after that place. Our role is to be the Kaitiaki, guardians of the creatures, the air, earth, water and life force – the mauri ” Miranda’s unique art and biophilic design work is integrated into projects and the built environment where she connects people to nature through creative community engagement, site specific art commissions, biophilic consultation and her interiors range of textiles and wallpapers. Her portfolio includes commercial and residential projects, workplace, health and hospitals, aged care, hotels and public spaces.

The Benefits of Biophilic Design - Design Assembly (5)

Register to attend the 2024 Autumn Conversations Events happening on: 4 Apr – AKL, 9 Apr – WLG, and 15 Apr – CHC

The Benefits of Biophilic Design - Design Assembly (2024)


What are 5 benefits of biophilic design? ›

Incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment have been demonstrated through research to reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity, creativity and self reported rates of well-being.

What are the three principles of biophilic design? ›

Biophilic design can be organized into three categories – Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues, and Nature of the Space – providing a framework for understanding and enabling thoughtful incorporation of a rich diversity of strategies into the built environment.

What is the impact of biophilic design in architecture? ›

Enhanced Well-being: Biophilic design has been associated with improved mental health, stress reduction, and increased overall well-being. Integrating natural elements into architectural spaces, such as natural light, greenery, and water features, creates environments that resonate with our innate connection to nature.

What are the benefits of biophilic design in children? ›

Biophilic Design for Children's Health and Well-Being. Biophilic design, inspired by Wilson's 1984 hypothesis of 'biophilia', advocates that people have an instinctive affinity with nature and that increasing the presence of nature in the built environment can lead to an increase in benefits [99,100,101].

What are the main points of biophilic design? ›

This can include a sense of safety and protection, a balance of variety with regularity, fostering curiosity and exploration and engendering a sense of accomplishment and mastery over our environment. Our attachment and attraction to nature can also be tapped into through biophilic design.

What are the principles and benefits of biophilic design? ›

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.

How does biophilic design improve wellbeing? ›

Here are just a few of the notable call outs: Visual connection with nature can lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve mental engagement, and attentiveness, and positively impact attitude and overall happiness. This is linked to lower incidence of depression, heart disease, and diabetes.

How does biophilic design help the environment? ›

The sustainability aspect of biophilic design is crucial for living buildings and environments. Providing green spaces, water features, abundant plants and natural materials creates a host of benefits, including helping to reduce a development's carbon footprint and regulating the temperature of buildings.

How does biophilic design affect mental health? ›

Biophilic Design not only achieves good mental health but it also builds resiliency to cope with stress and anxiety. These are very important life skills to develop from a very early age.

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.

What are the economic benefits of biophilic design? ›

This research, supported by case studies and comprehensive literature reviews, reveals the tangible benefits of biophilic design. The economic implications are substantial, including reduced absenteeism, lower healthcare costs, heightened productivity, and improved employee retention.

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 is the biophilic effect? ›

The “biophilia effect” describes any of a number of positive impacts experienced when this affinity is evoked through a sensory experience of nature: sight, sound, smell, or feel.

How does biophilic design affect people? ›

Visual connection with nature can lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve mental engagement, and attentiveness, and positively impact attitude and overall happiness. This is linked to lower incidence of depression, heart disease, and diabetes.

What are the benefits of biophilic building? ›

When embraced from the beginning of construction projects, biophilia can support sustainability. The benefits of biophilic design, such as greater air quality, optimised thermal comfort, improved water management, and increased building lifespans, to name a few, align with the SDGs set by the UN in 2015.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Domingo Moore

Last Updated:

Views: 5803

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Domingo Moore

Birthday: 1997-05-20

Address: 6485 Kohler Route, Antonioton, VT 77375-0299

Phone: +3213869077934

Job: Sales Analyst

Hobby: Kayaking, Roller skating, Cabaret, Rugby, Homebrewing, Creative writing, amateur radio

Introduction: My name is Domingo Moore, I am a attractive, gorgeous, funny, jolly, spotless, nice, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.