Creating Positive Spaces using Biophilic Design

Following our design guide, ‘Creating Positive Spaces using the WELL Building Standard’, we have written an inspirational guide on the topic of Biophilic Design (designing nature back into the built environment) and how to use its principles in creative and cost-effective ways. In this guide, we:

  • Discuss research around the area
  • Provide insights into why Biophilic Design is more than an aesthetic consideration, based on the profound effects it can have on wellbeing in a range of environments
  • Provide you with both an understanding of its human and economic benefits
  • Arm you with a convincing business case
  • Propose a range of practical methods for implementing Biophilic Design no matter what your budget
  • Show you some inspiring examples of biophilic projects in both the workplace and hospitality

With a vast body of research to support the ethos, it’s important that we find ways to creatively develop the implementation of the principles of Biophilic Design, at the same time as making it financially accessible to increase the uptake.

Here’s a breakdown of the guide to give you a better idea of what you’ll find inside:

So, what is Biophilic Design?

Biophilic Design offers guidelines for how to create built environments that support our innate human attraction to nature and natural processes (biophilia – “The passionate love of life and of all that is alive1), stemming from our evolutionary development and survival.

Why is it relevant now?

We provide you with some compelling statistics we have found on why we need to make a change to the way we design the buildings we spend so much of our lives in. For example, in the UK in 2015/16, 11.7 million working days were lost due to stress.2 Thus, we should be considering why this is happening, and addressing it.

What’s the missing piece? We argue that our distancing from nature and rising stress, along with many other health issues, go hand in hand.

The science behind Biophilic Design

We’ll teach you the basics of ideas such as:

  • Prospect-refuge theory3
  • Savannah hypothesis4
  • Attention restoration theory5     
  • Ecological valence theory6
  • Blue space theory7

How to get your clients on board

We offer a ‘sales pitch’ for architects and designers to present to their clients by compiling some research they can’t ignore. For example, in schools, optimising exposure to daylight alone can increase the speed of learning by 20-26%. Further, the inclusion of living elements or views onto nature in an office environment can increase wellbeing by 15%, productivity by 6% and creativity by 15%8. Convinced yet?

Biophilic Design patterns at different scales

Perhaps one barrier to the uptake of Biophilic Design is that it’s seen as an expensive option. So, to change this view, we have provided Biophilic Design solutions at a range of scales and costs (from having no budget at all to splashing the cash), using Terrapin Bright Green’s “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design9 as a framework.

We’ve broken this down into a handy table that you can reference quickly, and pick and choose from when you need to.

Here’s a little snippet:Biophilic Design Pattern

Who’s doing it?

We then move onto some inspirational case studies from around the world to illustrate everything we’ve been talking about. We look at two hospitality and two office projects that incorporate biophilic elements at a medium and high cost/scale. We discuss the intent, impact and features of the design.






Vastak © Chris Tonnesen


Vastak © Chris Tonnesen


WWF UK © Janie Airey


WWF UK © Janie Airey

So, what’s the future of human centered design?

Finally, we explore what might be next for Biophilic Design and how you can help to spread the word.

So, we hope our Biophilic Design Guide will inspire you to implement some of these design elements into your next project. If it’s not quite for you, or you don’t have any projects on the horizon, simply increasing the conversation and awareness is a step in the right direction.



You can download the guide here or watch Oliver introducing the guide.



Fromm, E. (1973). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, New York (Holt, Rinehart and Winston) 1973.
Appleton, J. (1975) The Experience of Landscape
Orians, G.H. & J.H. Heerwagen (1992). Evolved Responses to Landscapes. In J.H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture (555-579). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
MathewWhiteaAmandaSmithaKellyHumphryesaSabinePahlaDeborahSnellingbMichaelDepledgec Blue space: The importance of water for preference, affect, and restorativeness ratings of natural and built scenes Journal of Environmental PsychologyVolume 30, Issue 4, December 2010, Pages 482-493
Human Spaces Report (2015) The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace P19-30

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

One response to “Creating Positive Spaces using Biophilic Design”

  1. Holly Welles says:

    Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful post! It’s interesting how impactful biophilic design really is – enjoyed your focus on how to sell the idea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

CBRE Madrid: WELL Building and the Benefits in Practice

April 12, 2018

In 2013, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) launched a movement to address issues regarding health and well-being within the built environment (issues which are somewhat overlooked by existing standards). From this the WELL Building Standard™ was established, with the aim to provide architects and designers with guidelines on how to make a real and…

Biophilic Retail Spaces

March 18, 2016

Living within a consumer society means that retail environments play a central position in our everyday lives – in fact, retail covers 43% of the total value of commercial property1 and a recent House of Commons report stated that during 2014, consumers in the UK spent around a staggering £378 billion.2 Research has shown that…