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What Is Biophilic Design and Why Is It Important?

Bespoke stainless steel swimming pool set in the ground in a luxury outdoor space surrounded by decking and gabion basket stone walls

Have you ever felt instantly relaxed after a walk in the park, or energised by the sight of a cascading waterfall? These experiences tap into our inherent love of nature, a concept known as biophilia. Biophilic design takes this love and translates it into the spaces we create, bringing the calming and restorative effects of nature indoors into our living and workspaces. 

What exactly is biophilic design?

Biophilic design is a concept used within the building and interior design industry that aims to build a greater connection between people and nature in modern buildings and landscapes.  Biophilic design aims to incorporate natural elements into buildings and interiors, whether that be with plants, natural shapes, colours, naturally occurring patterns or references to animals and other life forms. 

We all desire biophilic design without even realising it.  Home buyers are thought to spend 58% more on homes with a view of water and 127% more on homes that are on a waterfront.  We travel and spend money to visit national parks, beaches and mountains and many of us choose to escape into nature as a form of relaxation and recuperation.  Modern life disconnects us from nature and so biophilic design aims to bring the benefits of this connection back into our daily lives. 

What are the benefits of biophilic design?

Studies have shown that incorporating biophilic elements into our surroundings can have a significant positive impact on our well-being. Here are just a few benefits:

  • Enhanced well-being and mental health: Biophilic elements like sunlight, greenery, and water features have been linked to reduced stress, improved mood, and a general sense of calm.
  • Increased productivity and creativity: Studies suggest that biophilic design can boost cognitive function, leading to better focus, problem-solving skills, and even a spark in creativity.
  • Improved physical health: Research indicates that spending time in nature-inspired spaces can promote better sleep patterns, lower blood pressure, and even strengthen the immune system.
  • Reduced stress and anxiety: Biophilic design can have a calming effect, lowering stress hormones and promoting feelings of peace and tranquillity.
  • Connection to nature in urban environments: As modern life takes us further and further from natural environments, biophilic design offers a way to reconnect with nature even in densely populated areas.

How to incorporate biophilic design into your garden

Even a small garden can benefit from biophilic design principles and it's something we think about a lot when we design our hot tubs and spas for clients.  There are already many health promoting benefits of water when it comes to bathing, but biophilic design principles look beyond this to factor in the landscape and soundscape too.  Here are some ideas:

  • Embrace natural materials: Use wood, stone, and water features to create a connection to the earth. Spas and hot tubs can be sunken within a natural setting, or wooden cladding is a popular option.
  • Bring in the greenery: Plant trees, shrubs, flowers, and other vegetation. In smaller gardens, tiered vertical gardens are popular and can really make a space feel larger with the right layering.  
  • Welcome wildlife: Create a habitat for birds, butterflies, and pollinators by planting native flowers and providing nesting boxes.
  • Maximise natural light: Design your garden layout to take advantage of sunlight, and incorporate strategically placed lighting for the evening.  For smaller spaces, reflective surfaces can help to bounce natural light around and make a space feel bigger. 
  • Incorporate water features: The sound of bubbling water is incredibly calming. If a bubbling hot tub isn’t an option for you, consider a small fountain,waterfall, or even a birdbath to add to your soundscape. 
  • Colours and shapes: Think about using natural colours on fencing, patios and furniture.  For any ornaments or features, think about using shapes and lines which are naturally-occuring in nature to mimic natural formations such as rockeries and water paths. 

What are the main patterns of biophilic design?

Biophilic design doesn’t need to be as obvious as using plants and water.  It also incorporates the various patterns found in nature to create a subtle connection. Some of the most common include:

  • Natural geometries: Using shapes like arches, spirals, and biomorphic forms found in leaves, water paths, rock formations and flowers.
  • Water: Water features, like spas, fountains and ponds bring a sense of tranquillity and movement. 
  • Light and shadow: Natural light is essential, but incorporating dappled light, reflection and shadows adds depth and texture. 
  • Natural materials: Wood, stone, and other organic materials create a connection to the earth.
  • Sensory connections: Encourage the use of all senses by incorporating natural textures, scents from plants, air flow, and the sounds of nature.

One of our favourite projects at SpaFlo really captures the essence of biophilic design.  The image below shows one of our resistance swim spa pools at Floreat House, a home set within the hill itself and surrounded with rocks, plants, swishing trees and sloping lines.  The finished space is a tranquil haven, basking in sunshine, that blends itself into its natural surroundings.  

Bespoke stainless steel swimming pool set in the ground in a luxury outdoor space surrounded by decking and countryside

Does biophilic design help the environment?

Absolutely! By fostering a connection with nature, biophilic design can encourage a respect for the environment.  Additionally, incorporating plants can improve air quality and provide natural habitats for wildlife.  Green roofs and walls are becoming popular as a way to regulate temperature, buffer rainwater, encourage animals and to increase the connection to nature. 

So, why not bring the benefits of nature into your own outdoor space? By incorporating biophilic design principles, you can create a beautiful, tranquil space that promotes relaxation and well-being. And who knows, you might find yourself spending more quality time outdoors, surrounded by the calming presence of nature – all while enjoying a soak in your luxurious stainless steel hot tub!