What is biophilic design?

Biophilic design is about bringing nature indoors. Studies have shown that the benefits of effective biophilic design can include improved mental health and wellbeing, as well as making progress toward architectural sustainability goals, which is why these principles are a key consideration for some when researching office or workspace interiors.

Here we’ve looked in detail at biophilic design, what it entails, and the potential pros of introducing it to an office space.

If you’re searching for a new work environment where your business and your team are able to thrive, our in-depth market knowledge and and wide array of offices listed on our platform can assist you in finding the right choice.

What does biophilic design mean?

The term ‘biophilic design’ originates from the word ‘biophilia,’ which is the theory that humans desire to be closer to nature due to evolutionary instinct. Biophilic design therefore refers to the process of bringing nature closer to us via our surroundings.

Much of our environment (particularly in the workplace) is artificial – often unavoidably so – be it the core architecture, technology or furnishings. The study of biophilic design aims to unify these aspects with natural sources like plants and make use of sustainable or recycled fixtures.

Uncommon, Liverpool Street

The benefits of biophilic design

Biophilic design’s benefits have been, and continue to be, much studied. In a hybrid world of working from home and in-office setups, it has the potential to become increasingly valuable to workers and businesses. Depending on how the principles are implemented, these benefits might include:

  • Improved mood and positivity
  • Heightened creativity
  • Better sleep quality
  • Reduced depression
  • Increased productivity
  • Enhanced engagement and satisfaction
  • A calming effect on the nervous system
  • Superior cognitive performance, from memory to focus
  • Artificial-energy savings from light to air conditioning
  • Increased air quality
  • Improved water conservation
  • Responsibly sourced materials

It’s also suggested that the combination of some, or all, of these benefits can encourage further environmentally friendly behaviours in those experiencing them, essentially building a foundation for an even more sustainable setting.

Second Home, Holland Park

 The three pillars of biophilic design

Biophilic design can be distilled into three core pillars that define the theory, though they are sometimes interpreted slightly differently, and there can be some crossover:

  • Nature in the space
  • Natural analogues
  • Nature of the space

  Nature in the space

This pillar refers to the literal inclusion of living elements in a space, like true light, water and oxygen-giving plants, or views of the same. Plants, trees and flowers in particular can bring a sense of peace to a room, as well as enhancing brain function. Because features like plants can be added to a space without much effort needed, this is one of the easiest ways to introduce elements of biophilic design to an older setup.

 Natural analogues

Natural analogues mimic what we find in nature or are made from natural materials. For example, a metal table textured to look like rippling water, bamboo shelving, curved furniture, or seats made to resemble rock formations.. This kind of biomimicry is favoured for biophilic design as studies suggest that it can reduce stress and anxiety levels.

 Nature of the space

The very architecture of a building can positively impact the wellbeing of those within it, and that’s what nature of the space relates to. Environments designed with biophilic design in mind from the outset can feature shapes seen in nature, like arches instead of symmetrical walls, as well as walking paths, open spaces or staircases that encourage movement.

Crucially the layout will usually give lots of access to natural light and air, such as sky lights, sliding glass doors and balconies. This allows a steady flow of fresh air to channel through the space; a simple one, but it can yield significant mood-boosting health benefits.

These locations might also offer areas of refuge for the senses; smaller alcoves with low ceilings or canopies where workers can relax.

The Crown Estate, One Heddon Street

 The five senses and biophilic design

Biophilic design affects all five senses in different ways.


The appearance of organic furnishings such as plants, and even earthy-coloured paints, can evoke feelings of the natural world. This visual element taps into biophilic design’s core philosophy: the idea that we yearn for iconography that reminds us of nature.

As mentioned, layout planning is also important. This can be the sight of wide-open areas that simulate the freedom of nature, pools of light through windows, or glass partitions instead of solid walls.


Running water, windchimes or the rustling of trees; these noises can help drown out the drone of urban life outside the building, and any artificial sounds inside. Various ways natural sounds might be realised include water features and recordings of environments such as rainforests.

This type of peaceful background noise can boost productivity in an office, as studies have shown it to improve mood and cognitive ability of those working in the space.


The presence of plants, and the ability to physically interact with natural materials allows us to connect with the outside world. Think living walls (or even potted plants) and textured fabrics.

Replacing synthetics like plastic with wood or stone can also offset an artificial feel and help us feel at ease in our surroundings.


Natural décor is not just visually or physically important to biophilic design. The different smells emitted by grass, plants, fabrics like wool and materials like bamboo can be a gateway to nature that fosters a positive mindset.

Herbs, salts and essential oils can also be used effectively in compliance with safety considerations.


While a less obvious sense to consider within biophilic design, taste can be engaged through having local, organic produce on offer, or the incorporation of herb gardens, salad walls and food towers.

Fora, Black & White Building

 Is biophilic design sustainable?

As many elements of biophilic design come from nature, the philosophy can certainly increase the sustainability of a space.

For example, if natural materials are used and are sourced locally, emissions and plastic use may be consequently reduced. Natural light, too, is more sustainable and cost-effective than electrical lighting, but the effect of natural light can also be soothing and warming for those working in it.

Paddington Works, Hermitage Street

Flexible offices that incorporate biophilic design

  • Second Home – Holland Park: this office space has a ‘bubble roof’ that responds to weather in real-time by inflating and contracting to adjust the temperature and light filtration
  • Uncommon – Liverpool Street: incorporates an abundance of plants and wooden furnishings throughout the space and the inclusion of curved desks in some of their hot desking areas
  • The Crown Estate - One Heddon Street: features a living wall and indoor garden alongside trees planted on each floor
  • Fora – Black & White Building: the space is crafted from responsibly-sourced wooden materials. Timber shading fins also line the exterior of the building and tilt upwards for optimum heat and natural light
  • Paddington Works, Hermitage Street: the air circulation system includes anti-viral filtration that brings 25% more fresh air into the building
  • The Ministry – Borough Road: throughout some of the communal areas, sounds of nature are played through the speakers.
The Ministry, Borough Road

Biophilic design can be as comprehensive or simple as the planner wants; the opportunities are vast, which is a benefit in itself. Our market experts will be happy to help you find an office with biophilic design aspects built in, whether it’s a private or self-contained office or a co-working space.

There are other ways you can continue to improve wellbeing in the workplace, which can go a long way to boosting employee happiness and enhancing productivity.

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