Biophilia

Humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature.
This is the concept of Biophilia.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact that plants have on our mood, performance, and perception of a place. These benefits have real impacts in workplaces and living spaces by increasing productivity, boosting creativity, and elevating mood.

Ready to enhance your building with the power of plants?

Contact our Urban Plantscapes team today for a free consultation and to customize your plant program.

The Origins of Biophilia

The term “Biophilia” was coined by social psychologist Erich Fromm to describe our love for life and life forms of all types around us. Biologist, researcher, and naturalist E.O Wilson expanded on Fromm’s work with his 1984 book Biophilia, in which he argued that our connection to other life forms—be it plants or animals—is a fundamental part of our humanity. But perhaps the most surprising discovery in the research of biophilia is the power that plants have on our wellbeing.

Photo of Biologist Edward Osborne Wilson by Jim Harrison
Office kitchen with tiers of ferns and handing plants by Urban Plantscapes

What Is Biophilic Design?

Biophilic design focuses on connecting people with the natural environment. In practice, this means designing buildings using organic shapes and incorporating natural elements into buildings, including lots of plants!

This is where we come in. No matter the layout and details of your space, our experienced and knowledgeable team can design, install, and maintain plants and moss art to enhance your space and bring life to your building.

The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design

These patterns were compiled by Terrapin Bright Green.

Nature in the Space

1. Visual Connection with Nature: A view to elements of nature, living systems, and natural processes.

2. Non-Visual Connection with Nature: Auditory, haptic, olfactory, or gustatory stimuli that engender a deliberate and positive reference to nature, living systems, or natural processes.

3. Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli: Stochastic and ephemeral connections with nature that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

4. Thermal & Airflow Variability: Subtle changes in air temperature, relative humidity, airflow across the skin, and surface temperatures that mimic natural environments.

5. Presence of Water: A condition that enhances the experience of a place through the seeing, hearing, or touching water.

6. Dynamic & Diffuse Light: Leveraging varying intensities of light and shadow that change over time to create conditions that occur in nature.

7. Connection with Natural Systems: Awareness of natural processes, especially seasonal and temporal changes characteristic of a healthy ecosystem.

Nature Analogs

8. Biomorphic Forms & Patterns: Symbolic references to contoured, patterned, textured, or numerical arrangements that persist in nature.

9. Material Connection with Nature: Material and elements from nature that, through minimal processing, reflect the local ecology or geology to create a distinct sense of place.

10. Complexity & Order: Rich sensory information that adheres to a spatial hierarchy similar to those encountered in nature.

Nature of the Space

11. Prospect: An unimpeded view over a distance for surveillance and planning.

12. Refuge: A place for withdrawal, from environmental conditions or the main flow of activity, in which the individual is protected from behind and overhead.

13. Mystery: The promise of more information achieved through partially obscured views or other sensory devices that entice the individual to travel deeper into the environment.

14. Risk/Peril: An identifiable threat coupled with a reliable safeguard.

The Benefits of Biophilia

Biophilic design, specifically bringing plants indoors, has been shown to have numerous benefits in a variety of settings. Here are several outcomes that have been studied—please see the sources listed at the bottom of this page for more information.

Improved Health & Energy

Improved Health & Energy

Increased Focus & Productivity

Increased Focus & Productivity

Positive Feelings & Reduced Stress

Positive Feelings & Reduced Stress

Increased Creativity

Increased Creativity

Better Air Quality

Better Air Quality

Reduced Noise Pollution

Reduced Noise Pollution

3 small round planters with succulents in an apartment mailroom by Urban Plantscapes

Along with increased productivity, efficiency, and concentration, further benefits include fewer reports of fatigue and headaches, higher positive ratings of a space from visitors and workers, and faster healing times for patients in hospital settings with plants in the room. Perhaps most noteworthy, 97% of employees would like to have more indoor plants in the workplace, and 88% of workers say that access to natural indoor elements increases their wellbeing.

Let us help you elevate your space, increase occupant satisfaction, and bring life to the office!

How Biophilic Design Improves the Spaces
Where We Live, Work, and Play

The following statistics and results were gathered from various case studies and compiled by Green Plants for Green Buildings.

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Workplaces

  • Increased productivity by 6%
  • Increased creativity by 15%
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced sick building syndrome
  • Increased collaboration and positivity
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Reduced absenteeism by up to 15%
  • Brand awareness and alignment
office plants icon

Healthcare

  • Faster patient recovery rates by 8%
  • Reduced perception of pain
  • Reduced pain medication consumption by 22% per hour
  • Reduced length of stay with natural daylight by an average of 2.6 days
  • Reduction of employee burnout
  • Increased staff satisfaction
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Education

  • Increased test scores by 5-14%
  • Increased learning rates
  • Enhanced focus
  • Improved mood and behavior
  • Mental restoration
  • Increased attendance 3+ days a year
  • Increased progress through curricula by 20-26%
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Communities

  • Increased tourism attraction
  • Enhanced community cohesion
  • Reduced violence/aggression by 25%
  • Reduced crime by 8%
  • Increased property value
  • Reduced obesity
  • Superior treatment of ADHD and ADD
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Real Estate

Property increases, including:

  • Waterfront = 58%
  • Views of nearby park = 37%
  • Large trees = 7%
  • View of water feature = 5%
  • Landscaping = 5%

 

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Retail

  • Calming effects of greenery draw consumers
  • Improved brand image
  • Stores experienced 15-40% increase in gross sales after skylight installation
  • Consumers willing to pay 25% more

The Economic Benefits of Biophilic Design

We’ve seen the impacts that biophilic design has on people in a space, including productivity, efficiency, creativity, mental health, physical health, and much more, but maybe it’s just not in your budget. However, we’ve concluded that the economic benefits and returns on investment (ROI) are undoubtedly worth the cost.

Wood staircase with planter and plants in front of a 29' tall moss art piece at the Oregon Treasury building by Urban Plantscapes

In a case study hosted by Green Plants for Green Buildings (GPGB), they found that the quality of a person’s view at work is a significant predictor of absenteeism.

In numerous healthcare setting studies, external views of nature accelerated surgery recovery rate by ~8%, reduced the need for post-surgery medication, and increased cost savings compounded over time.

In retail settings, case studies showed a 15-40% increase in gross sales after skylights were installed, especially with trees, open spaces, and water features. This also led to an increase in customers’ willingness to pay 15-25% more.

Biophilic elements are correlated with lower felony rates and appear to reduce hostility among prison inmates, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

How to Incorporate Plants & Biophilic Design into Your Space

Access to nature is increasingly critical for employee mental health and overall wellbeing.

Within the last decade, workplace design has embraced bringing the outdoor environment indoors using light, natural materials, organic textures, views of nature, access to outdoor spaces such as patios or terraces, and the integration of plants. Indoor environments that mimic nature help make your office, foyer, or hotel a destination that staff and guests look forward to visiting.

Living wall at Adidas in Portland, Oregon designed by Dennis' 7 Dees Urban Plantscapes

A moss wall or living wall can transform dull office walls, adding color and life as an alternative to paint. Place one in the break room to promote relaxation or one in a high foot traffic area to bring energy and vitality to employees passing by. You can even use them as mobile dividers to separate meeting spaces.

Planters separating a hallway from a casual meeting space with red chairs

Add interior plants to your work and living space. If you can’t see trees outside, you can still enjoy greenery inside. We’ll help you choose varieties that will grow in your specific lighting conditions. Ask your architect or facilities manager about installing subtle grow lights, if needed.

Colorful container plantings on a rooftop of a city by Urban Plantscapes

Use outdoor container plants to welcome staff and visitors, create an inviting outdoor space around picnic tables or in a courtyard, and help boost curb appeal. From colorful annuals to evergreen perennials and shrubs, containers are portable, can be changed seasonally, and make your building stand out.

Bird of Paradise potted plant in a hotel lobby, by Urban Plantscapes

Use natural colors and earthy tones like greens, browns, blues, whites, and gold. Think about using botanical motifs and naturally patterned wallpaper—experts suggest irregular patterns that resemble nature, but advise against geometric patterns, as these are man-made.

Plants with communal seating in open commercial office space by Urban Plantscapes

Make the best use of your windows, inviting in ample sunlight and revealing natural views of the outside world. If possible, create open-air spaces like an atrium to bring the outdoors inside.

Potted plants and wooden slats create natural looking seating area by Urban Plantscapes

Consider using wood and stone finishes in your furniture and decoration. Keep in mind that nature is not just about views, but also about materials and texture.

Planters with ferns flank a colorful floral painting in the Oregon Treasury Building, designed by Urban Plantscapes of Dennis' 7 Dees

Incorporate paintings or other art inspired by your favorite landscapes or photos of nature—it’s been shown that even representations of nature have biophilic benefits!

Apartment courtyard landscaping with water feature, container plants, and trees by Urban Plantscapes of Dennis' 7 Dees

Include an indoor water feature in your space to provide style, tranquility, and a gentle acoustic element. These can also help mask unwanted noise.

Greenery has a powerful impact on everyone who enters a space, whether they live or work in the building or are just visiting for a day.

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Peer-Reviewed Sources

Antonelli M, Barbieri G, Donelli D. Effects of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) on levels of cortisol as a stress biomarker: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Biometeorol. 2019 Aug;63(8):1117-1134. doi: 10.1007/s00484-019-01717-x. Epub 2019 Apr 18. PMID: 31001682.

Deng L, Deng Q. The basic roles of indoor plants in human health and comfort. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018 Dec;25(36):36087-36101. doi: 10.1007/s11356-018-3554-1. Epub 2018 Nov 1. PMID: 30387059.

Green Plants for Green Buildings; https://greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org/research/

Grinde B, Patil GG. Biophilia: does visual contact with nature impact on health and well-being? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009 Sep;6(9):2332-43. doi: 10.3390/ijerph6092332. Epub 2009 Aug 31. PMID: 19826546; PMCID: PMC2760412.

Lee MS, Lee J, Park BJ, Miyazaki Y. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. J Physiol Anthropol. 2015 Apr 28;34(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8. PMID: 25928639; PMCID: PMC4419447.

Nieuwenhuis M, Knight C, Postmes T, Haslam SA. The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: three field experiments. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2014 Sep;20(3):199-214. doi: 10.1037/xap0000024. Epub 2014 Jul 28. PMID: 25068481.

Park SH, Mattson RH. Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Sep;15(9):975-80. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0075. PMID: 19715461.

Pérez-Urrestarazu L, Kaltsidi MP, Nektarios PA, Markakis G, Loges V, Perini K, Fernández-Cañero R. Particularities of having plants at home during the confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Urban For Urban Green. 2021 Apr;59:126919. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126919. Epub 2020 Nov 24. PMID: 34754288; PMCID: PMC8569528.

Terrapin Bright Green, “The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design”. https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/report/14-patterns/

Yeager RA, Smith TR, Bhatnagar A. Green environments and cardiovascular health. Trends Cardiovasc Med. 2020 May;30(4):241-246. doi: 10.1016/j.tcm.2019.06.005. Epub 2019 Jun 18. PMID: 31248691; PMCID: PMC7995555.

Yin J, Arfaei N, MacNaughton P, Catalano PJ, Allen JG, Spengler JD. Effects of biophilic interventions in office on stress reaction and cognitive function: A randomized crossover study in virtual reality. Indoor Air. 2019 Nov;29(6):1028-1039. doi: 10.1111/ina.12593. Epub 2019 Sep 11. PMID: 31418925.

Yin J, Yuan J, Arfaei N, Catalano PJ, Allen JG, Spengler JD. Effects of biophilic indoor environment on stress and anxiety recovery: A between-subjects experiment in virtual reality. Environ Int. 2020 Mar;136:105427. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.105427. Epub 2019 Dec 24. PMID: 31881421.

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