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The term biophilia is the title given to a book by the renowned socio-biologist Edward O Wilson in the mid 1980's. His hypothesis postulated, that our innate human biology dictates the character of the physical spaces we feel most at home and alive in.

As human beings we have an instinctive preference to be close to the natural world. It stands to reason therefore, that building design should take account of the importance of our instinctive human kinship with natural elements.


Research into biophilia

Independent research suggest that buildings designed to Wilson's biophilic principles have recovered the added investment in them within the first 4 years of occupancy by reinforcing qualities of increased productivity and wellbeing.

As a bi-product biophilic designs have also been proven to significantly improve organisational brand identity, marketing impact, as well as reduced climate change and corporate social responsibility impacts.

Bright Building Bradford University. Image - Farrell and Clark Architects

The biophilic design patterns shown to be important constituents of a healthy and healing built environment include:

  • Visual Connection with Nature. Views to nature.

  • Non-Visual Connection with Nature. exciting the senses of touch, hearing, and seeing.

  • Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli. causing surprise moments.

  • Thermal & Airflow Variability. Subtle changes in air temperature, relative humidity, airflow across the skin.

  • Presence of Water. hearing or touching water.

  • Dynamic & Diffuse Light. varying intensities of light and shadow that change over time

  • Connection with Natural Systems. connections to outside, opening windows, bird song, rustling leaves


All of which have strong connections to advanced building physics, daylight and sustainability in buildings.



Biophilia and healthcare buildings

As well as workplaces, biophilic design sits extremely well with the design of healthcare buildings.

People who are in hospital or care homes have been shown to benefit from spaces designed to biophilic principles, both mentally and physically.  Having a view over nature, hearing the sounds of nature and the sounds of water have been proven to have a relaxing therapeutic effect on patients, which speeds up recovery, even providing cerebral comfort to aid the wellbeing pallative patients.


Problems of plant pests and maintenace associated can mostly be reduced and more easily managed nowadays with new advances in hydroponics and feeding systems.


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I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy.”  


Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar

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