Biophilic design in the built environment

Biophilic design has a firm place within the built environment, offering health and mental wellbeing benefits to residents.

Biophilic design incorporated into the built environment - Manor Interiors | BTR News

By Farhan Malik, CEO, Manor Interiors

Biophilic design describes human beings’ innate attraction to nature. Biophilia contributes to health and mental wellbeing – it improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances creativity and clarity of thought. We’re much more happier when we’re around parks, beaches, waterfalls and other elements of the natural world. 

The concept of biophilic design has many benefits to the built environment – it increases residents’ connectivity to nature and promotes positive health and mental wellbeing.

Although there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when we talk about biophilic design in the built environment, the design concept can be incorporated into a Build to Rent development while considering the scale of a building, the demographics, and the history and geography of the area.

When it comes to interior design, there are various ways to incorporate biophilic design into materials, furnishings and accessories. The design principles are used to increase residents’ connectivity through both indirect and direct nature.

Stephen Kellert who is considered as one of the pioneers in biophilic design has created a framework to support the implementation of biophilia into the built environment. The framework has been designed to respect and celebrate nature, while providing an enriching, multisensory urban environment. 

The framework is split into three key categories – direct nature, indirect nature and space and place conditions. Focusing on interior design, biophilia can be incorporated through direct and indirect nature.

Biophilic design through direct nature

Direct nature relates to tangible contact with natural elements. This includes plants which reduce stress and increase productivity, performance and physical health. Vertical farming and green walls are also a great addition to the built environment. Vertical farming allows residents to grow their own herbs, salad and vegetables, promoting wellbeing while also contributing to a sustainable future.

Direct nature also includes lighting which presents an orientation of seasons and the time of day, providing wellbeing benefits. In interiors design, there are ways to amplify natural light – for example through mirrors and reflective surfaces. Water, which is multisensory can also be featured through accessories such as small water features. It provides sound, sight, touch and movement, which helps to reduce stress and provide overall resident satisfaction.

Biophilic design through indirect nature

On the other hand, indirect nature relates to having contact with representations or images of nature. Good examples are photos or paintings of nature which can be used as wall art or be framed and placed on sideboards. Natural materials in biophilic design include wood, stone and natural fabrics and furnishings which provide mental stimulation. Organic materials which are sensitive to weather and that changes over time will offer residents intriguing items – as they change colour as time goes by. These accessories have mental wellbeing benefits which are ideal in a built environment.

The goal of using Stephen Kellert’s framework is to consider each aspect of the principles defined within it individually and to apply the relevant ones to your Build to Rent project, whilst also taking into account the scope of your development and your target residents.