top of page
  • Sharon Lomas

biophilia: what is biophilia?

This space in my journal will be a place to talk about all things biophilic - how embracing the ideas surrounding our connection to nature can improve our mental wellbeing, physical health and more widely how biophilic design can improve our homes, workspaces and everyday lives.

So what exactly is biophilia?


: is an innate affinity to life or living systems.

: an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems

: bio – life or living things

: originates from the Greek “philia” meaning “love of “

: love of life or living things

Greystoke Forest, Cumbria

I first began hearing the words biophilic, biophilia and biophilic design about 3 years ago mainly in relation to architectural design and urban planning. I was instantly fascinated that there was a whole hypothesis for something I had just taken for granted.

The term biophilia was first used by psychiatrist Erich Fromm in 1964 to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is living and alive. Fast forward to 1984 when American biologist Edward O Wilson publishes his book, Biophilia, in which he documents his fascinating studies and research into our connections to other species.

It was Wilson’s book that popularised the hypothesis of the human urge to affiliate with nature and other life forms. Wilson is widely considered to be the most important living biologist in the world, dubbed the father of sociobiology and the new Darwin. Wilson’s studies in the 1980s have since influenced the works of not only biologists and ecologists but architects and designers who have really grasped the importance of reigniting the human connection to nature for a greater sense of wellbeing.

Leading the way today in the promotion and implementation of biophilic design is Oliver Heath who is widely regarded as a global expert in the field. Oliver's human centered approach to sustainable architecture and interior design focuses on improving heath & wellbeing through biophilic design principles. From their Brighton base, Oliver and his team are delivering projects for clients that are really embracing the connection to nature, and which harnesses these positive effects at the core of everything they do.

Dodd Wood, Cumbria

The World Health Organisation recognise that right now we are living in a time when mental health, stress and cardio vascular disease are the greatest threats to global health and this is before you factor in the long term effects of our immediate lives lived under lockdown from the threat from Covid 19.

Over the last three decades there has been a growing body of research into how our homes & workspaces (and their contents) shape our lives and our health. Some of the key findings from designing with biophilic principles include:

Home spaces - making our homes a haven to create a space to calm and restore us. Homes with access to nature have 8% less crime and command 5% increases in property values*.

Work spaces - employees show an increase of 8% in productivity + 13% increase in creativity*

Learning spaces - 20-25% improvements in test results, concentration levels and attendance*

Health spaces - a 22% reduction in pain medication + post operative recovery times decreased by 8.5%*

Hospitality spaces - Guests willing to pay 23% more for rooms with biophilic elements*

Retail spaces - Planting and landscaping increases retail rents and customers have indicated they will pay more for goods purchased from these environments.*

As global environments become more urbanised and we become disconnected from nature, we need to consciously seek out these connections to the natural world. Currently our species hurtles towards a life huddled around cities, consumed and administered by smart technology, obsessed with how fast our wi-fi speed is and if can we download that movie in 2 seconds flat. Living in a digital world means our mental wellbeing is more important than ever and so is reconnecting to the natural and the living, to ground ourselves to Mother Earth. Clearly the studies undertaken over the last three decades have shown time after time that there are tangible positive benefits in seeking out natural connections.

This is biophilia in a nut shell, I could go and I will, so coming up in this series I will explore in more detail the specific elements of biophilia, the theory of the 14 patterns of biophilic design, natural practices + share projects, research studies and good reads along the way.

I will also use the space to share some of my favourite nature inspired businesses whose work helps us to connect to nature through design.

If you want to read more about biophilia in the meantime, Sally Coulthards book biophilia: you+nature+home is a great place to start, its an easy read and beautifully illustrated. For case studies in biophilic design Oliver Heath's website is packed full of interesting material and the podcasts over at Argenta Wellbeing make for a great listen.


bottom of page