Biophilic Design Patterns

Posted by on 13 November 2017

Blog Biophilic Design PatternsBiophilic design builds on our innate biological relationship with nature. We all know the feeling we get when we are immersed in nature. The sounds that relax us, the visuals that are captivating, the smells that remind us of the past can be explained through biophilia. A term that is used to describe human kinds innate biological connection with nature; which can be stimulated through biophilic design and buildings. When designing a biophilic home the term ‘pattern’ is often used. Biophilic patterns are not limited to physical patterns that we can see. Patterns are used to describe the psychological, physiological and cognitive benefits that biophilic design has to offer. It is a way of clarifying how patterns fit together and are dependent on the environment, just as biophilic design does.

To gain a better understanding and appreciation of how biophilic design can benefit us, we must first look at those patterns that influence our psychological and physiological states. The visual and non-visual patterns of biophilia are analysed to show the health benefits and connection with nature they provide.

View of Nature:

A space that is attractive has a visual connection with us, it pulls us closer and we begin to feel relaxed or stimulated. We naturally seek biophilic spaces even when we don’t realise. Biophilia is genetically encoded in us, that is why we want offices with a window or go out for fresh air. We are trying to satisfy our natural desire to be outdoors, which is only becoming more difficult with our ‘built environment’. Researchers first began identifying what people wanted to see. They wanted to know what parts of nature were the most stimulating. They found the visual preference for participants to be a scene that looked down a slope with woods, flowering plants, relaxed animals and clean water. Taking the research a step further, they compared those who were frequently exposed to natural environments at work and those who had plain offices and spent majority of their time indoors. The results are not surprising. Participants exposed to nature or simulations of nature benefited from lower blood pressure, reduced stress, improved concentration and productivity and positive mood. It’s evident that being exposed to nature has greater health benefits than our traditional plain built environment.

Visual patterns are those elements that remind us of nature when we see them. The obvious element to choose would be plants, which is the best visual stimulator. But, there are other elements within nature that trigger the connection. The use of wood, soil, rough textures, and even art that imitates nature can be used. It provides a biodiverse environment that triggers the brains visual receptors and also stimulates other senses such as touch and smell.  

Non-Visual Connection with Nature:

Our innate need for a connection with nature is not limited to our visual senses, all of our senses are connected with nature. When we hear birds chirping, our senses are heightened and we immediately know what the sound is. Sounds are often mesmerising and relaxing to us. This too comes as no surprise. If you are having trouble sleeping many people listen to nature sounds. Whether it be a rainforest, birds or ocean waves, there is an incredibly relaxing emotion that comes as a result.

Studies show that exposure to natural sounds is linked to faster physiological and psychological repair when exposed to different stressors. We become less fatigued and more motivated after listening to natural sounds, compared to urban and office noise. The participants of the study had best results when they were listening to river sounds. To achieve best results, visual and non-visual exposure to nature is effective. The study also compared the sound of traffic with waves. It was found that they are very similar in pattern. Participants listening to the sound only found it pleasing when they were watching a video of waves rather than listening to the sound on its own. It is evident that there is a connection within our brains that helps to identify pleasurable sounds and visuals.  

The use of non-visual connection patterns is to create a natural environment using senses other than visual. Sounds, scent and touch can be used to create an environment on its own or used to compliment your visual senses.    


Visual and non-visual patterns of biophilic design has proven real health benefits. Our connection with nature should not be limited to our visual sensory. Finding ways to stimulate all our senses is becoming easier with more research and education on the health benefits it provides.