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Bringing Nature into Interior Design Projects: The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design

In episode 23 of Think Big Podcast, I'm talking about Biophilia and how designers can incorporate it into their designs.

This conversation episode is for you if you want to learn more vocabulary to address biophilic principles to have a more humanistic approach to design. You'll learn lots of vocabulary around connecting design to nature and biophilia. I discuss some of my own projects as well as some examples you can also explore yourself.

In the episode I discuss:

✨ What is Biophilic design and why is it important?

✨ How interior designers, architects and landscape architects incorporate biophilia into their designs

✨ The 14 Patterns of Biophilic design

✨ Example projects

✨ Comparative language

Tara's details:

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull


Extended Show Notes



Andrew Grant - Landscape cities

What are the 14 Patterns of Biophilic design:

Project examples:

O-I Office

150 Charles Apartment

Memorial Cemetery Parque das Cerejeiras


soften the edges - to reduce the impact

the bottom line - the fundamental and most important factor.

recharge your batteries - regain one's strength and energy by resting for a time

miss a trick - not take advantage of an opportunity


To say that something is the same, we use

as +adjective + as

By Including plants indoors the impact to our health can be just as good as being in nature.

To say that something is not the same, we use

not as + adjective + as

Being inside amongst natural elements is not as effective as being in nature.

This house is not as expensive as the other one.

We can use not nearly as + adjective + as to show a

big difference between things

Working in an office with not connection to nature is not nearly as enjoyable as being surrounded by plants and natural elements.

To compare things and show a smaller difference between them, we use a bit, slightly, a little

Working in an office full of plants in a little more motivating than working in one with out them

To compare things and show a stronger difference between them, we use a lot, far, much, so much

Working in an office with views to nature is far better than working in one with views to a concrete wall.


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to think big episode 23.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:14

Hello, big thinkers and welcome to episode 23 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host, Tara Cull, Australian language teacher, coach, and landscape architect. And I'm bringing all these things together to help you build more outstanding communication skills. If English is your second language and you're an architect, a landscape architect, interior designer, a student or you work in the built environment, then you are definitely in the right place. To find out more about my coaching programmes, you can go to arky And I'm very excited to share with you that I recently just opened the doors to the archiEnglish community. You'll find out details about how you can join this community in the show notes. Or you can go to And as always, you'll find the free transcript with key vocabulary grammar points, and expressions for today's episode at archi Well, that's a lot of internet websites. But hopefully you know where to find everything. In today's episode, you'll hear me discuss a lot of vocabulary to discuss the benefits of biophilia. It will be a good listening practice exercise for you. And also to help you build some vocabulary. I suggest referring to the transcript to keep track of any vocabulary that is new or unfamiliar to you. And today, we'll be talking about how you can bring nature into your designs, and I'll share a few examples of some projects with you. Towards the end of the episode, I'm going to explain a few of the examples of key vocabulary. And I'm also going to give you a few examples of language using comparatives to explain why we need to consider the principles of biophilia in our designs. And now as I'm recording this episode, I'm actually looking outside my window to a big area of eucalyptus trees. And I can actually smell the scent of the lemon scented gum and that wasn't planned. That's just exactly what is happening. And the birds are making lots of chirping noises. So you may hear this, as I am speaking because I'm recording this from Australia. So I'm going to be spending the next few months in Australia. So for the next few podcast episodes, you may hear those birds in the background. And to kick off today's episode, I have a very important question to ask you.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 02:51

Do you ever need to escape from the chaos of life work and other commitments to relax and unwind? Maybe your ultimate break would be going for a walk along the beach at sunset, or enjoying the peace and tranquillity of a Forest Retreat. Maybe simply heading to your local park to eat your lunch or stepping away from your desk helps you recharge your batteries, get creative and feel calm. If so you'll understand how soothing nature can be. And this isn't surprising at all. Many 1000s of years ago, the natural world was all we knew. And it gave us everything we needed. We hunted wild beasts we gathered plants to feed ourselves and our families. We found shelter from the weather and protection from our predators. We drank from the rivers and streams enjoyed that beautiful feeling of the sun hitting our skin. And we're born lived and died right there in nature. I know that when I feel down being in nature and having the sun on my face makes me feel alive. However, around 6000 years ago, we were thrust into a world of cities, towns and urban landscapes, far from the natural world. In fact, it's estimated that these days we spend an astonishing 93% of our time indoors. We all know that this affects us. We feel the difference, don't we? As architects, I'm sure that you've had many a conversation about it with your clients, colleagues and others. It seems like barely a day goes by when scientists, business experts and health professionals aren't telling us about the healing benefits of green spaces and the natural world. So it's hardly surprising that we're seeing interior designers, architects and designers and individuals bring elements of the natural world into their homes, offices and public buildings. But what exactly does this mean? How can you embrace biophilic design as it's called into your Interior Design schemes effectively. And that's exactly what we are going to talk about in this episode of the podcast. What is biophilic design? And why is it important? As I just mentioned, biophilic design is the name given to the idea of bringing nature into our built environments and communities. It uses natural resources to connect people to nature, and soften the edges of the urban world. We often use this expression soften the edges when we want to say we want to include natural elements, such as trees or greenery, alongside our built environment, so amongst our buildings, although it appears to be a very modern trend, it actually dates back to the early 1980s When a biologist named Wilson describe human's innate need for the natural world. Numerous studies over the years have proved that he was right, we need access to green space. To maintain our mental health and alleviate stress. We need natural light to keep our body clocks working effectively and produce the right hormones. We need exposure to sunlight to produce vitamin D. And we need to eat as many or as many unprocessed foods as possible to get the nourishment that we need to thrive. The list goes on and on and on. But the bottom line here is that humans are built to respond to nature. You only need to Google the benefits of green space to discover hundreds of studies that show that nature can reduce stress, ease mental health, help with focused, boost immunity, improve social cohesion, reduce exposure to air pollutants, and much more. In today's show notes, I've included a link to a video with landscape architect Andrew Grant, who says in his opening line of the TED talk, I want to promote landscape and nature as the key foundation to the future of City Planning. I want to really make this the sort of focus for how we think about the design, planning and management of our cities. Because I think we're missing a huge trick in the way we've been thinking about it. So when you miss a trick, it means to not take an advantage of an opportunity. So I really highly recommend watching this video he talks about the benefits of the colour green. He talks about the benefits of having green spaces in cities. And he backs up his ideas using research.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 07:44

So how do interior designers, architects and landscape architects incorporate Biophilia into their designs? Given all these benefits, it's no wonder that interior designers and architects are working to incorporate Biophilia into their designs. But how do we do that? When I was working in Australia, I worked in a nursery. So the last job before I left Australia, I was working with retailers, architects and local businesses to include greenery in their spaces. And something that I was starting to notice was that more people were understanding the benefits and importance of including greenery into our design spaces to bring life into the space. So cafes, restaurants, and places within the city. If you bring nature, you connect people to nature. However, the answer for how to bring Biophilia into a space is somewhat complex. And it isn't just about adding as many plants as you can. biophilic design can include everything from boosting airflow, embracing natural light, bringing natural materials into the space, using natural shapes and forms, considering the unique local environment and so much more. In fact, there are 14 patterns of biophilic design that I'd love to share with you today. And I want to take a look at them in more detail. So let's have a look at what the 14 patterns for biophilic design are. I've also put an a link to an article that you can go and read more about what these 14 patterns are. And what I'm going to do is try to summarise what these are. The patterns of biophilic design can be broken into three distinct groups. So number one is nature in the space, two is natural analogues, and three is nature of the space. Let's have a look at these in more detail starting with nature in the space. This element is concerned with the features that we add to our design scheme that directly reference Nature air, water and light. This includes elements of water, air, light, animals, soil, Earth, and vegetation, as well as human constructed features such as aquariums, Greenwald's, and nature scenes. We also think about sounds, sensations, fragrances and how they can stimulate our senses. This particular group is broken down into seven parts. So one visual connection with nature to non visual connection with nature, three, non rhythmic sensory stimuli, for thermal and airflow variability, five presence of water, six, dynamic and diffuse light, and seven connection with natural systems. So let's have a look at each of these in turn. And also, I'll give you some examples of what this might look like in in terms of a design or something that you might incorporate into a concept. But before I start, remember, you can always refer back to the show notes, to refresh your memory, and also to follow along with the transcript. The first is visual connection with nature. And this talks about how we respond to visual stimuli found in nature, and includes plants, animals and other nature inspired designs. So this would include things like including plants and animals, within the space in the office space or in the retail space. Next, we have non visual connection with nature. And this refers to how all our senses apart from what we see, can create a reference to nature, or natural living systems or natural processes. So this could be things like digital simulations of nature sounds, this is actually something I've been incorporating into my office environment recently. Often I have it very quietly just behind me so it sounds like birds and the flow of water, it can be mechanically released natural plant oils. And again, this is also something that I've been using recently using a diffuser. So I drop a few drops of citrus oil into a diffuser. And so my office smells like citrus. Also things like highly textured fabrics and textiles that mimic natural material textures. It can also include things like the sounds of water features, or water features that are close by to the space that you can hear next to the space, or music with fractal qualities,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 12:39

which to me, I guess seems like music that has a lot of repetition, with beats, and sounds and they create a composition together. So it's in keeping with our natural forms and natural flows. Number three is non rhythmic sensory stimuli. This includes those things that indirectly reference nature, such as birds chirping, water, babbling, billowing fabrics and shadows. For instance, selecting plant species for window boxes that will attract bees and butterflies is also an example of non rhythmic sensory stimuli. Then it's thermal and airflow variability. This includes airflow across the skin and subtle changes in air temperature. So thermal comfort or designing in features that allow users to easily adapt and modify their perceived thermal conditions. So how can we practically do this in our designs as architects and designers? Well, it's looking at our haitch HVAC systems. So our heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, did you know that they actually account for up to 50% of a commercial buildings energy use and dominant peak electricity demand. So if we can implement a strategy, which also follows our natural rhythms and systems, then we're also improving our connection to natural systems as well as the efficiency of the building. And this requires coordination of the design strategies among a project team. So with the architect, the lighting designer and MEP engineers, as early as the schematic design process, and this will be particularly important for achieving this particular design intent. After this, it's the presence of water and this is how we feel after seeing hearing or touching water, such as waterfalls, fountains, and even aquariums and this can be achieved in our designs with imagery that has water in it in the composition. We may have a pond which is close by or that we can see an aquarium, anything that directly references water. Then we have have dynamic and diffuse light. This refers to varying intensities of light and shadow that occur as they would in nature, and the colour of that light. So ambient diffuse lighting on walls and ceilings accent lighting, personal user dimming controls, colour tuning lighting that produces white light during the day, and minimises blue light at night. Just recently, I've invested in a few different lights or smart lighting that I've put into my office. And I've programmed it so that during the day, it's one particular colour, and at night, it's another colour, so there's less blue light at night. And also I can change the intensity of this light. And I have found that it's made a big difference. Maybe it's just a perceived difference, but I feel like it's made a big difference to my sleeping patterns, I often work late. And so having to have the light in my eyes up until nine o'clock at night has a serious impact on my body, my body clock. So I invested in these lights, and I really noticed a big difference. And finally, for this group, his connection with natural systems. This is an awareness of natural processes including seasonal changes, climate and weather, animal behaviour, and the natural life cycle and so on. So this can include things like wildlife habitats, so we might be a bird house, a bee house, hedges and flowering vegetation. But it can also include things on the materials so for example, the natural patina of materials on leather stone copper bronze, Corten steel, for example, on wood. Now we can move on to the next group, which is natural analogues. This group includes just three concepts, biomorphic forms and patterns, material connection with nature and complexity in order. So firstly biomorphic forms and patterns refers to the patterns, textures, and numerical arrangements that are found in nature. parametric design, which is making this concept much easier in construction is an example of this. Some other examples include acoustic panelling in wall or ceilings, railings and bannisters fencing and gates. And also the biomorphic forms can include the building form itself. Next we have material connection with nature. And this includes materials and elements that go through minimal processing to reflect the natural environment. And it can include woodwork, bamboo, stones, footpaths, and so on. It can also be things like war construction, with wood and stone, and structural systems like heavy timber beams. So being able to have that connection to nature, we have this innate connection to what we see and what we feel is natural. And as you'd expect, complexity in order the final concept for this group refers to space that reflects what is found in nature. And this can include the spacing of materials so how we space plants, or window details, trims and mouldings, and so on. It can also be about how we arrange the Floor Plan or the landscape plan and the urban grid to better connect with our natural systems can also be pedestrian and traffic flows. A new building or a landscape should take into account its impact on the fractal quality of the existing urban skyline. It can also be things like prioritising artwork and material selection, architectural expressions and landscape and master planning schemes that reveal factual geometries and hierarchies that are more natural. Again, I know I'm using a lot of vocabulary. So if you're losing track, make sure you refer back to the show notes. Or even as I have been suggesting to a lot of people create a diagram of all the things that you're hearing as I'm speaking. Finally, group three is nature of the space and it includes prospect, refuge, mystery, risk and peril. And this refers to the space and how humans feel within that space. The first one prospect refers to a person's unimpeded view over a distance, and can include partition heights, focal lengths, transparent materials, open floor plans and views, open, elevated plains views including shade trees, bodies of water or evidence of human habitation. So all of these Things are really important when we're considering how we design the space, how we see other aspects outside of the building or outside of the space. Next is refuge. And this is how we feel safe in our environment. And in it this can include smaller or larger elements such as high back chairs and trellis reading books, and covered walkways or even meeting rooms. Perhaps it will be important in the space that you're designing to have spaces reserved for reflection, meditation, rest, relaxation, or even more complex cognitive tasks. Next is mystery. And this is the promise of more information that encourages the person to move through the environment. It includes elements that partially reveal a view and should ideally obscure one edge of the object. So this can include things like artwork or installation, light and shadow, sound or vibration, and even sent. The next one is my favourite one, and it's risk or peril, and it refers to the combination of an identifiable threat, along with a reliable safeguard. It includes heights, gravity, life sized images of dangerous wildlife or plants or anything that suggests getting hurt, wet or losing control. A great example of this in architectural terms would be architectural cantilevers, or infinity edges on pools, experiences or objects that are perceived to be defying or testing gravity, exactly what risk and peril encourages. A great example of this is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is an enormous boulder that spans over a pedestrian ramp and under which visitors pass. Another great example would be the stepping stone path through a water feature at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin in Germany. So I've put some pictures of those two examples of risk or peril. Now that we've covered the 14 patterns of biophilia design, I want to show you what that really looks like in real life. So I'm going to talk about three projects, including one that I've worked on, where they're incorporating several of these principles. So I will include links to show notes, links to articles that you can see and look at these particular projects. I'm sure there are many other projects that you will find that you can have a look at yourself, as well. As a landscape architect, in my previous job, I was working for a place called the Lygon Street nursery. And I worked with a company called Breathe architecture on one particular project. But with other with several other retailers and restaurants, we worked at trying to incorporate indoor planting schemes, green walls, interior courtyards, and trying to create a connection with nature. So I've put a link to some of those projects in the show notes for you to have a look at one of my favourite projects was working with a restaurant in the city of Melbourne to incorporate herbes and vegetables on a rooftop garden, but also to try and incorporate Bush foods. So using indigenous plants so that they could incorporate that into the cooking projects that I worked on included looking at how we can include nature within the space to also improve productivity at work, and people's connection to nature through visual and sensory connection. So that involves also reading a lot of articles about how can you incorporate plants and greenery into a space to improve the air quality

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 23:52

and how many plants it would take to improve the air quality. Many of the internal courtyard projects that I worked on included the incorporation of natural ponds, or natural pools that included a natural filtration system. So when it has a natural filtration system, that means it doesn't have to have chlorine. And the water feature aims to provide both a visual stimulus and this connection to a natural system. And the reason I think this is important is we were trying to convince the client to divert a downpipe. So capturing water from the roof and channelling it into the pond. So we weren't taking water from mains. We were getting it from the roof it as it was naturally falling on the roof. So the client becomes more aware of the natural system. And the reasons this is exactly the reason why I loved working on these particular types of projects because we're trying to encourage the client to embrace the natural system and to incorporate it into their design. I also loved working on projects where I worked with one particular client where they were from New Zealand. And we tried to incorporate plants from New Zealand in the project so they have this better connection to their home, and also to nature. So I put some links to some of the projects that I worked on to show you how I've been incorporating some of these principles of biophilia. Another project I want to share with you, which I've included a link to as well which is from Ark daily, is 150 Charles apartment building, with Cooke Fox architects, where ideas of biophilia were incorporated throughout the building with themes of prospect, so they had wide open views and refuge so safe and protected interior spaces. This particular space offers a waterfront high rise Riverview with cascading terraces, and offers over 10,000 square metres of lush green rooftops, planted terraces, and courtyards. So have a look at the link to that particular project. In the show notes.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 26:10

The last project that I want to share with you is not an interior project. It's an exterior project, but it's a memorial park. It's called the Memorial Cemetery Park, this is Irish in Brazil. Now this design responds to human needs during the mourning process. So the constructed forms reflect these natural shapes, allowing people to feel welcomed and safe and to move through the space by taking refuge. The designers took advantage of an initiative that focuses on the person who remains they say we provide spaces for them to live their grief in its entirety, and as lightly as possible. One of the most symbolic elements of practice is Adas eternity square is formed by several sections, with steel plates in a spiral movement, bringing a narrative with natural forms that make reference to the phases of life, birth, adolescence, adulthood, generation of childhood, maturity, and passage. This touches on elements of mystery refuge. And also biomorphic forms, and patterns. So make sure you have a look at each of these projects. And also think about what are some of those elements that you may have incorporated into your projects? How can you incorporate some of these elements into your next projects. So let's recap what we've covered so far. Firstly, humans have a deep connection with nature thanks to millions of years of evolution. When we can reconnect with the natural world, we can think more clearly reduce stress, tackle mental health issues, focus better, improve our memory, and even help us work more collaboratively. By incorporating elements of biophilic design, we can gently trigger this response in people and help them thrive in the new environment, whether our workplace, home or leisure space. I've also covered the 14 elements of biophilic design that you should consider to maximise the impact of your design. Make sure you listen back if you need to, or check out the show notes for further information. You've also heard about a few projects, just a few that use these elements, including one that I worked on myself. Now what I want to do is share three examples of expressions that I think are really important that come from this episode. And the first one is to soften the edges. We often use this in architecture when we're talking about reducing the impact of the built environment. So we soften the edges by making sure we have greenery or trees or plants to make sure that we have a connection to nature. The next one is the bottom line. So the bottom line is the fundamental and most important factor. So the bottom line is that we need to have connection to nature. The next one is to recharge your batteries. We often talk about the importance of being in nature to recharge your batteries, which means to regain your strength to rest or to feel like you're more efficient and effective. And this is often something that you might do by walking away from your desk. And the last expression that I wanted to share for today is missing a trick. So if you miss a trick, it means you're not taking advantage of an opportunity. And this was an expression that was in the TED Talk by Andrew grant. Now what I want to do is share some examples of comparative language that you might use to describe why thank you About Biophilia is important in your designs. So the first one to say that something is the same as something, we use the structure as plus adjective plus as, for example, by including plants indoors, the impact to our health can be just as good as being in nature. If we want to say something is not the same, we use not as plus adjective plus, as, for example, being inside amongst natural elements is not as effective as being in nature. However, it's better than nothing. We can also use not nearly plus adjective plus as to show when there is a big difference between things. So for example, working in an office with no connection to nature is not nearly as enjoyable as being surrounded by plants and natural elements. However, spending time in an office surrounded by plants is not nearly as beneficial to our health as spending time in nature.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 31:12

If we want to compare things and show a smaller difference between them, we use a bit slightly or a little. For example, working in an office full of plants is a little more motivating than working in one without them. If we want to compare things and show a stronger difference between them, we can use a lot, far, much or so much. For example, working in an office with views to nature is far better than working in one with views to a concrete wall. So that brings us to the end of the episode. As always, thanks for listening to think big English for architects. If you've enjoyed this show, make sure you subscribe for more English tips for architects and share this episode with someone else who you think might find it useful. Remember, you can find the free podcast transcript with key vocabulary, grammar points and useful expressions at archy Until next time, I look forward to sharing my next episode with you very soon.

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