Biophilic design in health care

Interite Healthcare Interiors

By Natassja Wynhorst*
Tuesday, 29 January, 2019

Biophilic design in health care

With many years of research, there is no denying that the exposure to nature has a positive impact on health, wellbeing and overall happiness — even to the extent that green spaces promote prosocial behaviours.

It is due to these evidential factors that many modern designs, including within healthcare, residential and commercial properties, are based on biophilic design. Biophilic design has grown exponentially over the past few years as it has gained a greater understanding and further awareness. There is also overwhelming research supporting how specific design elements create greater patient experience, care and recovery.

Biophilia itself is the inherent human inclination to connect, and have an affiliation, with nature. Biophilic design is an extension to this and can be defined as the incorporation of natural materials, natural light, nature views, vegetation and other experiences from the natural environment into the built environment.1

Essentially, biophilic design focuses on aspects of the natural world that have contributed to human health, happiness and productivity in the constant endeavour to be fit and to survive.2 Another distinguishing feature of biophilic design is its emphasis on the inclusion of the overall setting or habitat, and not just simply an isolated occurrence in nature.2

There is significant evidence showing the substantial positive effects this design concept has within healthcare facilities. Patients within hospitals and other medical locations that have incorporated the natural environment into the facility’s design have been found to have substantial healing benefits. This is because simple inclusions of nature, or interpretations of it, aid in the healing process of patients.3

It is common for stress to be a major factor in inhibiting the body’s healing processes and recovery time. However, when patient rooms have views of nature, less pain medication is dispensed for the respective patients, and the overall condition improves as it reduces stress and relieves pain. Statistically speaking, the incorporation of biophilia within hospitals has reduced post-operative recovery by 8.5% and the use of pain medication by 22%.4

Similarly, biophilic design also results in environments that soothe, comfort, calm and orientate, making it extremely beneficial to healthcare environments specialising in behavioural health. However, to support patient needs within behavioural healthcare environments, it is essential to avoid literal representations of imagery that can trigger unwanted or traumatic feelings or memories.

There are many ways to implement the design concept of biophilia into healthcare design, including the six basic principles of biophilic design: environmental features, natural shapes and forms, natural patterns and processes, light and space, place-based relationships and evolved human-nature relationships.1

These principles are implemented into health care through the creative inclusion and optimisation of spaces with a human focus, thermal comfort levels, air quality, toxin levels and ventilation, acoustic comfort, improved natural lighting, internal and external natural views, the use of natural materials, textures, patterns and colours, the use of recuperative spaces, and the psychological and physiological effect on the space.4

Biophilia and the extension of biophilic design are of significant importance in healthcare clinics, centres, practices and hospitals, especially due to the evident disconnection many have to the natural environment within modern, urbanised areas.

The ability to reduce stress, speed up recovery times, positively impact behavioural disorders and liven up what is traditionally considered a sterile space are only a few benefits of biophilic design. The recognition of our need to connect with nature also boosts productivity, efficiency, morale and overall service delivery, allowing healthcare practitioners to perform at their optimum level, while patients receive their optimum care in a cleverly designed environment.

For further information, visit

*Natassja Wynhorst is Client Experience Executive of Interite Healthcare Interiors.

  1. What is Biophilic Design?, Skyline Art Services, accessed 29 November 2018.
  2. Stephen R. Kellert, What Is and Is Not Biophilic Design?, Metropolis, accessed 29 November 2018.
  3. Natures Cure: How Biophilic Design Can Enhance Healing, MCD Magazine, accessed 29 November 2018.
  4. What is Biophilic Design?, Oliver Health Design, accessed 29 November 2018.

Image credit: ©

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