People feel their best when they are in nature. It strengthens their health, relieves stress, and raises their well-being. In the modern world, however, we spend most of our day living and working in urban environments, instead of being outside in nature. It is possible to bring the positive effects of natural elements into a manufactured environment by applying the principles of biophilic design: Natural principles and analogies to nature can be used to create functional and attractive buildings that affect people positively by bringing them closer to nature.

Biophilic design approaches can be implemented in different ways and also combined. Examples include:

  • Light and airy buildings with natural interior fittings
  • Furniture, walls, and floors made from natural materials
  • Plants and water elements that create a pleasant atmosphere and coziness
  • Decorations made of stone or wood in natural shapes
  • Buildings that provide a view of nature

Studies have proved that experiencing nature directly indoors improves human health, reduces stress, and increases cognition and creativity. (1) (2)

The human desire to be at one with nature
Adding natural elements to buildings and rooms is not an entirely new phenomenon. In various cultures, it has long been the norm to integrate natural elements into the home or into public spaces. There are examples from all over the world, such as the gardens with water channels and fountains in Alhambra in Spain, bonsai in the Japanese home, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and vines grown on German half-timbered houses. (3)

Biophilia — love of live, or living things
The term “biophilic design” developed over time. In 1964, the social psychologist Erich Fromm worked on the concept of “biophilia”, which he defined as the love of life or living things. Around twenty years later, the concept was taken up by biologist Edward Wilson. Wilson posed the hypothesis that people have a genetically determined need to be in harmony with nature. Kellert and co. took up the biophilia hypothesis and formed the concept of biophilic design: Bringing people close to nature in their environment. (4)

Using biophilic design to add comfort to work areas
Biophilic design in the working environment creates an organic work atmosphere, where new ideas can grow and where employees can experience greater well-being. Plants are living things and people particularly like having plants in their environment. Selected species of plant can help to improve the air quality, if present in sufficient numbers, as they have the special ability of filtering pollutants out of the air in the room. Vertical green walls completely covered with plants are particularly effective in this regard. In addition to making the workplace more comfortable for employees, it is also possible to increase their productivity and concentration and promote their health. (5)

1 Browning, W.D., Ryan, C.O., Clancy, J.O. (2014). 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design. New York: Terrapin Bright Green llc
2 Kellert, R., Finnegan, B. (2011), BIOPHILIC DESIGN The Architecture of Life Viewing Guide
3 Browning, W.D., Ryan, C.O., Clancy, J.O. (2014) ibid.
5 Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaft (2007), Gesund und fit im Kleinbetrieb [Federation of Institutions for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention (2007), Healthy and fit in small businesses]