What is biophilic design?

5 years ago
2 minutes

A new trend is taking over the architectural world — one that seeks to enhance the connection between built forms and nature. It’s called biophilic design, and you’d be forgiven if you don’t quite understand what it means.

The word biophilia refers to a deep-seated need for humans to connect with nature, as observed by the late Stephen R. Kellert — one of the pioneers of biophilia research. In recent years, the scientific study dedicated to exploring this connection has grown and its findings reveal that most of our ‘inherent tendencies to affiliate with nature continue to exercise significant effects on people’s physical and mental health, performance and well-being.” Unfortunately, the built environments in which we live and work can obstruct our connections to nature.

On the plus side, more and more architects in Australia are taking inspiration from this new trend and constructing buildings using biophilic guidelines — Ed.Square in Sydney is a great example of this.


According to Kellert and his cohort, there are 14 different patterns of biophilic design. These are divided into three categories. The first is a direct experience of nature in order to foster a closer connection. In off-the-plan apartments, this looks like floor-to-ceiling windows which allow plenty of sunlight, floorplans designed to increase airflow and ventilation, and the inclusion of water features and landscaped areas.


The second is an indirect experience of nature, where all five senses are used to experience space. In apartment projects, we see this represented in nature-inspired textures and colour palettes or geometric patterns found in the natural world, like the Fibonacci ratio.

The last category is the experience of space and place. This refers to aspects like balconies which enable long views of the surrounding setting. Open floor plans are a great example of this design principle, as biophilia research has found that people covet settings where disparate parts comprise an integrated whole.

The design theory is both ecological and ethical. One paper notes, “Biophilic design is about creating a good habitat for people as a biological organism in the built environment.” This means ecologically sound and productive environments. In this way, biophilia incorporates sustainable design, a trend which we know is becoming ever more popular in the world of apartment developments. Many of the new projects you see on our website are built with sustainable design in mind and therefore meet biophilic design practices. Check out Balfe Park Lane or 17 Union Street to see what we mean.


The design practice is still yet to flourish in Australia, but with the trend’s momentum, it’s only a matter of time.

“We will never be truly healthy, satisfied or fulfilled if we live apart and alienated from the environment in which we evolved.” — Kellert.