ArticlePDF Available

Exploring Challenges and Opportunities of Biophilic Urban Design: Evidence from Research and Experimentation

  • Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy
  • International WELL Building Institute

Abstract and Figures

Global health emergencies such as Covid-19 have highlighted the importance of access to nature and open spaces in our cities for social, physical, and mental health. However, there continues to be a disconnect between our need for nature and our daily lived experience. Recent research indicates that our connectedness and relationship with nature, and in particular biophilic design, may be key for improving both health and quality of life. Rather than relying on abstract universal ideas of “nature”, using evidence-based biophilic design and policy at a building, neighborhood, and city scale, to link our daily lives with biodiversity, may encourage sense of place and make environmental action more meaningful. Then, improving our natural capital in the urban built environment might help address the current climate and disease crisis, as well as improving our physical and mental health. Drawing from emerging research and innovative practice, the paper describes key research and design paradigms that influence the way we understand the benefits of nature for different environments, including the workplace, neighborhood, and city, and explains where biophilic design theory sits in this field. Examples from recent research carried out in London and Chicago are provided, aiming at demonstrating what kind of research can be functional to what context, followed by a detailed analysis of its application supporting both human and ecological health. The study concludes indicating key policy and design lessons learned around regenerative design and biophilia as well as new directions for action, particularly with regard to climate change, sense of place, and well-being.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Exploring Challenges and Opportunities of Biophilic Urban
Design: Evidence from Research and Experimentation
Maria Beatrice Andreucci 1, * , Angela Loder 2, Martin Brown 3and Jelena Brajkovi´c 4
Citation: Andreucci, M.B.; Loder, A.;
Brown, M.; Brajkovi´c, J. Exploring
Challenges and Opportunities of
Biophilic Urban Design: Evidence
from Research and Experimentation.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323. https://
Academic Editors: Israa
H. Mahmoud, Eugenio Morello,
Giuseppe Salvia and Emma Puerari
Received: 27 February 2021
Accepted: 10 April 2021
Published: 13 April 2021
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral
with regard to jurisdictional claims in
published maps and institutional affil-
Copyright: © 2021 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and
conditions of the Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
Department of Planning, Design, Technology of Architecture, Sapienza University of Rome, 00196 Rome, Italy
2International WELL Building Institute, New York, NY 10001, USA;
3Fairsnape, Inglewhite, Lancashire PR3 2LE, UK;
4Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade, 11120 Belgrade, Serbia;
Abstract: Global health emergencies such as Covid-19 have highlighted the importance of access to
nature and open spaces in our cities for social, physical, and mental health. However, there continues
to be a disconnect between our need for nature and our daily lived experience. Recent research
indicates that our connectedness and relationship with nature, and in particular biophilic design,
may be key for improving both health and quality of life. Rather than relying on abstract universal
ideas of “nature”, using evidence-based biophilic design and policy at a building, neighborhood,
and city scale, to link our daily lives with biodiversity, may encourage sense of place and make
environmental action more meaningful. Then, improving our natural capital in the urban built
environment might help address the current climate and disease crisis, as well as improving our
physical and mental health. Drawing from emerging research and innovative practice, the paper
describes key research and design paradigms that influence the way we understand the benefits of
nature for different environments, including the workplace, neighborhood, and city, and explains
where biophilic design theory sits in this field. Examples from recent research carried out in London
and Chicago are provided, aiming at demonstrating what kind of research can be functional to what
context, followed by a detailed analysis of its application supporting both human and ecological
health. The study concludes indicating key policy and design lessons learned around regenerative
design and biophilia as well as new directions for action, particularly with regard to climate change,
sense of place, and well-being.
biophilia; greening cities; health and well-being; nature-based solutions; urban design;
urban green infrastructure
1. Introduction
Improved environmental and human health outcomes have long been associated with
the integration of nature into our urban form [
]. Pandemics such as Covid-19 have
highlighted again the importance of access to nature and open spaces in our cities for our
social, physical, and mental health [
]. People living in neighborhoods with worse air
pollution—which also often lacks greenspace—have been shown to have a higher death
rate from Covid-19 [
]. Access to urban nature has also been shown to be influential
in stress reduction and socialization [
], with urban parks receiving attention on the
benefits of nature as urbanites seek out safer outdoor space in which to work, socialize, and
play [
]. This renewed attention is supported by a trend in urban planning and design that
is trying to provide opportunities to connect urbanites with nature through community-
based ecosystem services projects, regenerative and biophilic design interventions, and
residential greenspace, all of which have been linked to increased well-being, concentration,
socialization, sense of place, and a connection with nature [9].
However, there continues to be a disconnect between our need for nature, our daily
lived experience, and sustainable behavior. This is a missed opportunity given that a
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 2 of 24
recent systematic research [
] has suggested that our connectedness and relationship with
nature, and in particular our experience of biophilic design, may be key for improving
both sustainability and our quality of life. However, though there is over forty years of
research on the benefit of access to nature for human and climate health, there is still
confusion in the sustainability and design fields on exactly what types of nature can lead
to which types of benefit, and for whom. This confusion is partly rooted in a failure
to understand how to interpret and apply research on nature and health to different
design and policy interventions at different scales [
]. Specifically, issues arise from a
disconnection between biophilic design principles, urban planning interventions, and
specific health and well-being outcomes, as well as from a lack of integration between
different disciplines. This confusion has real implications as buildings, cities, and regions
attempt to align regenerative design goals with human health ones but often lack the tools
and knowledge to do so, which can result in a lack of evidence to support the effectiveness
of these interventions.
The identification of these issues has led to the research objectives of this paper.
Specifically, this paper aims to (a) give researchers, designers, and urban planners a better
understanding of the types of research on the benefits of nature, particularly studies
following an adaptive or utilitarian paradigm, (b) compare this research to the most well-
known application of these principles, i.e., biophilic design; (c) evaluate how real-world
case studies in London and Chicago have used (or not used) this research and design
foundation for positive human and ecological outcomes, and (d) provide detailed analysis
of where biophilic design is working well and highlight new directions and opportunities
that can help to address current shortfalls. Drawing from established and emerging theories
and innovative practice, this contribution evaluates key research and design paradigms
that influence the way we understand the benefits of nature, and then uses this foundation
to assess the effectiveness of three applied case studies according to different pathways, and
at different scales: the workplace, the neighborhood, and the city. The paper finally reflects
on key policy and design lessons learned about regenerative design and biophilia and how
these can be leveraged for a better connection with nature and a sense of place, which
may make environmental action more meaningful. The study is structured as follows:
Section 2explains the methodology; Section 3presents the conceptual framework, in which
the theoretical and practical interrelations between regenerative design and biophilia are
highlighted; Section 4introduces and develops the London and Chicago case studies;
Section 5elaborates results and their discussion; and Section 6presents the conclusions.
2. Methods
In order to achieve the objectives mentioned, the work has adopted a mixed-qualitative
methodology that has been structured developing a combination of critical literature review
and field research. A critical, in-depth review of the theoretical paradigms, underlying the
most influential scientific programs on nature and health, was undertaken with the goal
to understand how the paradigms influenced the kind of study that comes out of these
research programs, the goals of this investigation, as well as how and why this research
has been influential in policy circles, highlighting limitations and new directions. A more
extensive analysis, from which this review is based, can be found in [
], as well as in [
two systematic reviews (Cochrane style) on green and blue open spaces and mental health,
developed by a multidisciplinary expert working group, led by one of the authors, under
the Horizon 2020-funded programme EKLIPSE.
In the second phase, the research designed the protocol for the development of the
case studies [
] and applied it to two different cities. The case study was selected as
the method to undertake this part of the work as it allows investigating the phenomenon
under study, in relation with its urban context, using different sources of evidence. Field
research was conducted focusing on the analysis on cities that have already demonstrated
good capacity to integrate biophilic design at multiple scales, i.e., cities with good potential
to innovate and with more financial, technical, and institutional capacity and experience
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 3 of 24
in running regenerative architecture and urban projects. The objective was to understand
the level of integration of biophilic design, the theoretical foundation, and the policy, and
implementation process for this, as well as drivers and limitations. The selection of cities
was based on the following criteria: (1) focusing on two cities for different biophilic design
scales, i.e., workplace, neighborhood, city; (2) sufficient secondary sources to develop
the analysis; (3) availability to conduct interviews to designers, public servants, and/or
other stakeholders. The cities selected for the development of the case studies were finally
London and Chicago.
For London, field research was developed by the authors also within the wider scope
of working group activities of the COST (Cooperation in Science and technology) Action
“RESTORE Rethinking Sustainability Towards a Regenerative Economy”, in the period
For Chicago, key stakeholder interviews and media and policy analysis were con-
ducted, in the period 2016–2019, as part of a larger project on Chicago’s urban greening,
climate change, and resilience initiatives. The Resilient Corridors project emerged as a pilot
in 2019 from the City of Chicago.
3. Theoretical Frameworks on Health and Nature
3.1. Adaptive and Utility Paradigms
The link between access to nature and human health benefits is supported evidence
accumulated over the last 40 years [
]. This has been of interest to designers who
include access to nature for its diverse benefits, such as in the workplace [
], and city
planners who are interested in the socio-cultural benefits of green infrastructure for human
health and well-being [
]. Although the evidence points to clear benefits between access
to nature and human health outcomes, there remains a lack of alignment between this large
body of research and the type of evidence that convinces stakeholders that adding nature
will reap tangible and trackable benefits for their unique project [
]. This misalignment is
partly due to the types of research—and the paradigms that support them—that undergird
the vast majority of findings that have gotten the attention of policy makers and building
owners. Furthermore, these types of research tend not to align with the more holistic
approach of designers using a biophilic framework [11,22].
Comparing research on nature is complicated by the wide variety of types and mea-
sures used, which can complicate the establishment of robust results between them [
The most influential research programs in the last forty years have been based on adaptive
or utility paradigms. The adaptive paradigm is based on the assumption that evolution,
or biological survival, motivates physiological and psychological responses to the experi-
enced environment, and that some environments are better suited to human health and
well-being than others. There are two research programs that have emerged out of an
adaptive paradigm that have garnered the most attention and subsequent research. The
first focuses on restorative environments that help with the restoration of attention or to
improve cognition, notably Stephen and Rachel Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory
(ART) [
]. The second focuses on the ability of restorative environments to support stress
recovery and positive mood, notably Roger Ulrich’s Psychophysiological Stress Reduction
Theory (PSR) [25].
The original ART research argued that nature possesses four attributes necessary to
hold our attention involuntarily and be experienced as restorative: fascination, mystery,
coherence, and the feeling of being away, and this research has been heavily tested in
subsequent studies [
]. A key component of research testing ART has looked at
aesthetic preferences for different types of nature. These studies argue that some types
of nature are more favorable to restoration than other types of nature, and that nature
overall is more restorative than urban environments [
]. Research testing the
PSR theory also uses an evolutionary biology theory but tends to focus on the affective or
emotional aspects of this relationship. At its core, evolutionary biology argues that because
we evolved in nature, we tend to feel connected with things that remind us of nature; this
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 4 of 24
attitude is called biophilia (translated as a love of nature) [
]. This love of nature has
begun to be studied for its potential to link to our connectedness to nature, which has been
shown to improve health and well-being outcomes as well as sustainability behaviors and
belief in climate change [
]. While the utility paradigm also draws on the idea that our
natural environment is connected with our well-being, it focuses on the role that nature
plays as a quality of an environment to satisfy current personal or interpersonal needs.
These are often measured by known benefits of access to nature, such as increased levels of
physical activity, restorative experiences, or social cohesion, interaction, and safety [
3.2. Understanding Nature-Health Research through the Adaptive and Utility Paradigms
The adaptive and utility theories underlie the vast majority of research linking access
to nature and improved physiological and mental health and well-being. Some researchers
have continued to develop these theories and have proposed that these relationships
can be viewed as a series of pathways that have formed the basis of multiple research
streams: (1) stress reduction, (2) physical activity, (3) social cohesion, and (4) air quality [
Understanding the key types of research on the benefits of nature and the aim of these
research streams can help designers and planners determine which research is relevant to
their project goals.
Stress reduction has traditionally received the most empirical and theoretical attention.
Research looking at stress reduction has tended to follow the ART and PSR restoration
theories outlined above. These two theories rely mostly on the visual and aesthetic qualities
of nature, and they link to the assumed characteristics of nature seen in evolutionary and
related biophilia (or biophobia—fear of nature) theory [
]. While the variety of contexts
for this research supports the strength of the research, it has been harder to evaluate their
application at a building scale given the high number of variables involved.
Physical activity has been gaining attention and follows the utility paradigm. As
opposed to sedentary behavior, outdoor physical activity has been shown to have positive
effects on mental health, showing for example better outcomes in green areas than indoor,
or non-green urban areas [
]. However, the results have been unclear in cross-sectional
and/or epidemiological studies at the neighborhood scale [
], showing the difficulty
of applying lab-based studies to real-world situations. Real-world situations have other
explanatory variables that may influence health outcomes. Furthermore, lab-based studies
do not always take into account other factors such as green space characteristics, loca-
tion, and other influences, or mediators, on behavior or preferences. Studies have found
that multiple factors over and above the amount of greenspace—including quality and
accessibility—determine urban greenspace use and physical activity [4244].
The third pathway looks at how access to nature is linked to improvements in social
interactions (at the individual level) and social cohesion (at the neighborhood level) and
varies in its research paradigms—ranging from utilitarian, which focuses on characteristics
of parks that influence desired uses, to the design of parks, which influences social cohe-
sion [
]. Although the link between social interaction and mental health has been firmly
established [
], the link between social interactions, social cohesion, and green space has
received less research attention than the first two pathways.
The research linking air pollution, nature, and health has equally received less at-
tention. While the link between air pollution and negative effects on physical health and
mortality has been long established [
], newer studies have also linked air pollution with
negative impacts on mental health [
], and cognitive performance [
]. Some researchers
have gone further and proposed that air pollution, together with traffic-related sounds, can
put a constraint on the restorative potential of an environment as a whole [
]. This holistic
approach is important for understanding negative environmental influences or ecosystem
disservices. This last pathway can be one of the most easily integrated into regional-
level planning and regenerative policies and can be a good way to balance synergies and
trade-offs at this scale.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 5 of 24
Lastly, the concept of Topophilia [
] has received renewed interest recently among
planners, designers, and academics in Europe, who see the focus on personal identity
and meaningful attachment with place and landscapes as a powerful design tool for re-
connecting urbanites with local nature and thus inspiring sustainable behavior. While in
theory, place attachment can be used to inform a regenerative approach to urban and re-
gional planning, it has not been used much in application to date due to its more theoretical
and qualitative approach and the lack of alignment with design and planning practice.
While there has been some qualitative research conducted in the adaptive and utility
paradigms, the vast majority of this research follows a psychometric research approach,
which aims to generalize relationships through quantifiable measures [
]. The psy-
chometric approach aligns well with the kind of data promoted by urban planning and
green building researchers and has created a vast amount of data on the benefits of ac-
cess to nature (outlined below). It has also been very influential in public policy [
and has provided much of the support for adding nature into buildings, neighborhoods,
and cities to date. However, the type of linear and somewhat mechanistic approach to
nature and health in psychometric research does not always align well with the more
holistic, design-thinking approach seen in biophilic design and green infrastructure work
to support human health. There has also been some criticism from social scientists that
research based in the adaptive paradigm tend to not address the larger context of place
and that the underlying evolutionary paradigm—i.e., that love of nature is innate—can
hide cultural, socio-economic, and power differences that can influence the success of
urban nature interventions and the equitable access to nature. The utilitarian paradigm has
also been criticized for its limited understanding of the socio-economic and socio-cultural
factors influencing access to nature, the reduction of environmental values to utility, and
the general lack of acknowledgement of the symbolic aspect of nature [
]. In short, while
research following the adaptive and utility paradigms have provided strong evidence
to support the health goals of biophilic design, biophilia’s focus on sense of place, lived
experience, and holistic design-thinking may be more aligned with some of the relational
and sense of place work on the human relationship to nature that rarely gets cited [
outside of academia.
3.3. Research to Practice: Design Theory, Research, and Application
One of the most commonly understood “popular” urban greening and design ap-
proaches is biophilia. Popularized by the biologist E. O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis,
which prompted the modern biophilic design movement, biophilia is defined as the “
[ . . . ]
innate emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. ‘Innate’ means
hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature” [
] (p. 31). Kellert and Wilson
operationalized this concept to the built environment [
], and it was further developed in
Kellert’s proposed attributes for biophilic design [
], where he introduced key dimensions,
elements, and attributes of biophilic design. As two main dimensions, the author identified
organic/naturalistic and place-based/vernacular. Organic dimension refers to “shapes and
forms in the built environment that directly, indirectly, or symbolically reflect the inherent
human affinity for nature” [
] (p. 5). Vernacular dimension refers to “buildings and
landscapes that connect to the culture and ecology of a locality or geographic area” [
(p. 6). Further classifications refer to six main elements, which then break out into more
than 70 biophilic design attributes. These attributes can be as simple and straightforward
as the presence of water, air, sunlight, plants, animals, as well as more articulated, such
as sensory variability, information richness, exploration and discovery, or geographic,
historic, ecological, and cultural connection to place. Importantly, biophilic designers need
to understand that the environment can be an atmosphere, a process, an experience.
There have been some further revisions to Kellert’s work, an example of which is
Terrapin Bright Green’s 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design—Improving Health and Well-
Being in the Built Environment. This report [
] defines 14 patterns of biophilic design
organized into Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues, and Nature of the Space Patterns.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 6 of 24
Another is the Biophilic Interior Design Matrix [
], which adopts and adapts Kellert’s
work to operationalize it for interior environments, in order to provide tangible and clearer
guidance for designers.
3.4. Experimental Biophilic Design Approaches
In addition to more traditional biophilic design, alternative approaches strive to
explore biophilic principles, ideas, and attributes in more experimental, even esoteric ways,
trying to grasp the essence of human experience of space and model it in line with biophilic
principles. Design, and architecture in particular, has been called a hybrid discipline,
relying and building upon different elements within science, technology, and art [
This is in direct conflict with many of the quantitative and linear approaches favored by
many researchers. Not all qualities of architectural space can be quantifiable and not all
qualities of our experience of space can be translated into rational language. The process of
developing space for designers and architects is that of an artist providing experience and
hopefully emotional attachment.
One of the foremost thinkers in experimental biophilic design is Juhani Pallasmaa, who
explores the art of building, elements of architectural experience, and meaningful spaces
that stimulate people and provide existential encounters. Key components of his work
include the experience of architecture through mental and physical frameworks which
shape our identity, attachment, and sense of place. He argues that the mental component
of experience has been widely neglected “in the field of architecture
. . .
where scientific
criteria or methods have mainly been applied in its technical, physical and material aspects,
whereas the mental realm has been left to individual artistic intuition” [
] (p. 4). He
hopes for neuroscience to provide a deeper understanding of the mental implications and
impacts of “the art of building”. Pallasmaa also argues that our architectural experience
is multi-sensory, and we experience architecture with our physical, emotional, mental,
and social bodies, and that environments have the potential to stimulate our imagination
and identity. Pallasmaa argues that the architectural attributes of hierarchies, information
richness, order and complexity, affection and attachment, attraction and beauty, reverence,
and spirituality [
], are all attributes that are also in biophilic design, and that they should
be studied following an artistic and scientific approach.
Some of the limitations of the adaptive and utilitarian approaches to nature–human
research may be addressed by Pallasmaa’s suggestion of a biological historicity approach.
This approach blends sense of place and biological and historical aspects of the place.
For example, sense of place as an attribute does not rely only on biological, geographical,
or natural features of the place but also on its historical layers, site-specific social devel-
opments, and cultural layers embedded in its core. These include historic and cultural
connections to place, the integration of culture and ecology, age, change, and the patina of
time [
]. Biophilic design addresses some of the gaps in adaptive and utilitarian research
by acknowledging these social and cultural dimensions of places. Pallasmaa calls this
a bio-psychological heritage, which—he argues—particularly influences the qualities of
refuge and prospect, which are key factors in the evolutionary approach to the benefits of
access to nature for humans [
]. Pallasmaa also connects biophilic attributes such as fear
and awe [
] to the pleasure principle, which understands our experience of space through
the dichotomy of pleasures and displeasures that drive our behavior and perception of
space. Combined, these experiential approaches to the experience of space and design have
the potential to create a more embodied and place-based understanding of the impact of
biophilic design and access to nature on our health well-being and sense of place, which
may help foster better nature–human connections, attachment, and a sustainable ethos.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 7 of 24
4. Mainstreaming Biophilic Design: Research, Design, and Practice
How cities can build resilience has become a major undertaking and priority. It
requires cities to address a variety of pressing global and local challenges through multi-
functional strategies, including climate change, community health, economic downturns,
and political uncertainty.
The integration of evidence-based research and design on nature and health has
already proved to be successful toward these long-term goals, but it requires a gen-
uine acknowledgement and a deep understanding of how it can be applied at different
scales. This is particularly true when attempting to align, in policy and practice, building-
level, neighborhood-level, or city-level initiatives with community resiliency or climate
change measures.
As a reminder, a taxonomy of biophilic elements can be identified at three main levels
(Table 1).
Table 1. Taxonomy of biophilic elements. Adapted from [64].
Scale of Biophilic Design Forms of Biophilic Elements Taxonomy of Biophilic
Building scale
Green roofs, green walls,
shade trees, vegetation, and
natural elements inside and
around the building
Green roofs, green walls, shade
trees, vegetation, and natural
elements inside and around the
District and neighborhood
Street trees, pocket parks,
orchards and community
gardens, business parks
Many installations,
small-medium in size,
restoration possible, high
technical and technological
requirements, public and
private properties
City scale City parks, urban forests,
urban agriculture, waterfronts
Few installations, large in size,
restoration possible, high
technical and technological
requirements, public land
The selected case studies demonstrate the application of research and design practices
on the benefits of nature in cities and will be followed by a discussion of limitations and
suggested next steps. The first two use biophilic design, while the third uses a more
socio-ecological approach to the benefits of nature. In order to support the relevance of a
multiscale design investigation and related knowledge transfer from research to practice
and policy, the implementation of “informed” biophilic design is illustrated in the following
sections describing a research study conducted in the City of London, which is focused
on biophilic implementation at different scales. The emphasis is on the value of biophilic
design principles for people and the lived environment in application at multiple scales for
regenerative design and community resilience.
By 2041, the population of London is forecasted to reach 10.3 million people, which
is an increase of 1.2 million people when compared with 2019 [
]. London is also one of
the greenest cities in the world [
]. All across London, a network of Royal Parks, pocket
gardens, planted roofs, rain gardens, living walls, urban forests, community gardens, and
street trees are greening the city, making its public spaces accessible, colorful, and vibrant
places to visit, live, and work.
This nature is a vital part of the complex organism of the city bringing benefits right
into the places where people work and live. Moreover, as London’s population grows, and
its neighborhoods experience more development, that will be more important than ever.
4.1. Building-Scale Applications: Living Lab at the Shard, London
With the growing research and interest focused on biophilic design, it is interesting to
look at buildings specifically designed and constructed as a model to highlight the biophilic
indoor attributes.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 8 of 24
DaeWha Kang Design has created an experimental work environment on the 12th
floor of the Shard, in London, that has the express purpose of measuring the impact of
biophilic design on worker wellness and productivity.
Working in collaboration with Mitie (the client) and Dr. Marcella Ucci (head of the
MSc in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings at the University College of London),
the designers have designed a pilot study to measure the impact on employees through a
detailed post-occupancy evaluation.
Biophilia, as said, refers to human beings’ innate need for a connection with nature.
Human physiology is wired to seek qualities of light, view, material, and other factors
common in the natural world. This project comprises two spaces designed according to
those principles: a “Living Lab” that functions as an immersive work environment, and
two “Regeneration Pods” that provide short-term rest and meditation functions for the
Mitie employees.
The Living Lab is fully immersive, with rich and intricate patterns, natural materials,
and interactive dynamic lighting. The room gains privacy through bamboo screens that
wrap onto the ceiling above. The floor, desks, and task lights are also formed from different
shades and textures of bamboo, providing an organic language for the entire space. The
lighting in the room is circadian and linked to an astronomical clock—cool blue in the
morning, brilliant white in the afternoon, and fire-like orange as the day winds down. The
light softly breathes, very subtly shifting intensity in an almost imperceptible way, giving
additional dynamism to the experience.
In the study, Mitie employees worked at these desks for four weeks at a time, answer-
ing daily surveys about their comfort, satisfaction, and emotional response (Figure 1).
Figure 1.
Post-occupancy evaluation at the Shard Living Lab in London. Photo by Kyungsub Shin,
with graphics by DaeWha Kang Design. Courtesy DaeWha Kang Design.
Then, they spent four weeks working in a control area on the same floor with similar
environmental conditions but without biophilic design, and their responses were compared
between the two spaces.
While studies have established the positive impact of daylight, natural materials, and
a direct visual connection with nature, aesthetic design also has a strong impact. The
bamboo screens strike a balance between the regular rhythm of structural ribs and the
variation and playfulness of discrete leaves that maintain a sense of transparency and
intricacy in the space. The leaves catch natural light but also diffuse embedded lighting
within the screen itself.
While the Living Lab creates a sense of enveloping enclosure toward the rest of the
office, it opens up toward the façade, providing long vistas and a strong connection to the
sky. The Shard has a high-tech aesthetic of glass and metal, and the warm bamboo palette
of the Living Lab establishes a strong counterpoint to that material language.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 9 of 24
Mitie is one of the leading outsourcing and facilities management companies in the
UK, and they have created a new “Connected Workspace” initiative that incorporates
sensor technology, big data, and machine learning to revolutionize the way their portfolio
of buildings is managed and maintained. The Living Lab was commissioned as part of the
health, wellness, and user-experience aspect of Connected Workspace.
Following biophilic principles, the desks are originally crafted from natural bamboo
and incorporate living plants directly into their workspace, and not only relevant tech-
nology. From a scientific point of view, achieving a meaningful experimental study on
the users requires adapting for confounding environmental factors between the lab space
and the control space, while on-desk sensors detect air quality, light levels, temperature,
and humidity. An access card reader identifies the users and allows them to activate the
task lights and charging strips, while an under-desk sensor records when they are actively
working at the desk. All of these data are collected in Mitie’s data lake and can be correlated
with the survey results.
Direct access to living nature is also shown to have a host of benefits, and planters are
organically integrated directly into the desks together with the task lights [67].
In the second section, the “Regeneration Pods” are once again constructed from bam-
boo, following Mitie’s mental health and wellness initiative, providing a tech-free space
for meditative moments within the workday. Similar to the “Living Lab”, the bamboo
construction provides a sense of shelter, while workers access the views outside. The routed
featherlike panels slot into the seventeen identical spines, with minimal cross support.
Upholstered seating is fitted within the spines, also with circadian LED lighting. Envi-
ronmental sensors—monitoring light, movement, humidity, and temperature—were also
integrated into the structures, making this an ambitious technical build for the architects
and team and a good example of research-based design (Figure 2).
Figure 2.
The “Regeneration Pods” provide a sense of shelter while workers access the views outside.
Photo by Tom Donald for Aldworth James & Bond. Courtesy DaeWha Kang Design.
4.2. Scale Jumping: District- and City-Level Applications of Integrated Design and Research
Looking next to the city scale, the translation of biophilic design interventions for
human health and well-being, inspired and informed by research paradigms, is also found
in the larger City of London.
Working together, the Mayor, Natural England, major landowners, and the wider
business community, represented by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), have recog-
nized the increasing importance of biophilic planning and design principles (Table 2) for
future-proofing the capital.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 10 of 24
Table 2. Attributes of biophilic design. Adapted from [68].
Direct Experience of
Nature Indirect Experience of Nature Experience of Space and
Weather Conditions
Natural Landscape
and Ecosystems
Images of Nature
Natural Materials
Natural Colors
Simulated Natural
Light and Air
Naturalistic Shapes
and Forms
Evoking Nature
Information Richness
Age, Change, and
Patina of Time
Natural Geometries Biomimicry
Prospect and
Organized Complexity
Integration of Parts to Wholes
Transitional Spaces
Mobility and Wayfinding
Cultural and Ecological
Attachment to place
4.3. Urban Park-Scale Applications: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is one of the largest urban parks (102 ha) created
in Western Europe for more than 150 years, which was designed by LDA Design in con-
junction with Hargreaves Associates (2012), to enrich and preserve the local environment
by restoring wetland habitats and planting native species of plants.
Its environmental features include the restoration of the River Lea, in the northern
section of the park, the habitat-creation strategy, and the park’s connection with its hin-
terland ecosystem. The landscape is dominated by native trees and flowering meadows
of designed plant communities (Figure 3). “Flowing schemes are not arbitrary but have
carefully thought-out shapes running through them: S-curves, lines of grasses, successive
waves of plants, rising up through the season, anchor plants with satellites and fuzzy edges
between one habitat and another” [
] (p. 24). Sensory and spatial variability, information
richness, and natural shapes and forms encourage exploration, fostering sense of place and
the human–nature relationship. Other elements and attributes of biophilic design include a
lighting scheme designed by Speirs + Major, integrating natural light and shadows with
filtered, diffused, or reflected light, all emphasizing spatial variability and harmony.
Figure 3.
The European Garden at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a distillation of the “meadow
aesthetic”: a visually dramatic, highly designed, and enhanced evocation of a wildflower meadow
(Nigel Dunnett and Sarah Price). Photo by Maria Beatrice Andreucci.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 11 of 24
4.4. District-Scale Applications: Greenwich Millennium Village
Greenwich Millennium Village (GMV) is a mixed-tenure modern development on
an urban village model, which is located on the Greenwich Peninsula, in Greenwich,
in southeast London, and it is part of the Millennium Communities Programme, under
English Partnerships. GMV was originally designed by visionary architect Ralph Erskine
as part of the regeneration of the whole brownfield site of East Greenwich Gas Works. The
whole district landscape considers wildlife in the design of the soft estate around the built
forms, through choice of species and inclusion of artificial refuges, in appropriate locations
and numbers.
In particular, the Ecology Park is an exemplar of biophilic and biodiverse design,
providing a significant boost to the value of the GMV in terms of exploration/discovery,
affection/attachment, security/protection, and attraction/beauty. An Ecology Park Centre
manages biodiverse areas of Southern Park as well as new habitats associated with future
developments (Figure 4).
Figure 4.
The biophilic features of the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park has been playing an
important role in the area’s regeneration and community life since its creation in 2002. Photo by
Maria Beatrice Andreucci.
Greenwich Peninsula and GMV offer to residents and visitors alike multiple connec-
tions to place—i.e., historic (Maritime Greenwich heritage site), geographical (the Prime
Meridian of the world, Greenwich Mean Time, and the Observatory), cultural (colleges
and universities, artworks, museums, etc.), and ecological (Ecology Park)—fostering place-
based relationships.
4.5. Neighborhood-Scale Applications: The Barbican
The Barbican is Europe’s largest arts and conference complex, and it also includes a
significant residential community. It is a noted example of uncompromising modernist
architecture, built mostly in the 1970s. The original design aimed to create a self-contained
“urban village”, with the residential and public spaces separated completely from vehicle
traffic. Most of the landscape elements, including the water bodies, are “podium land-
scapes” or “landscapes above structure”: roof gardens and green roofs, with car parks, the
arts complex, and recreational facilities beneath [
]. In 2013, following re-waterproofing
of the roof gardens, the opportunity arose for completely new plantings to be installed. The
new design takes a radically different approach. The concept for The Barbican plantings
is to create continuous and successive waves of color over long periods of time through
orchestrating a series of dramatic color washes over the entire site, from spring through
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 12 of 24
to late autumn, and then to finish off the year with a textural array of seeds heads, plant
structures, and foliage. Although the plantings are very diverse, at any one time, there
are only two or three plant species that create the main flowering display. However, these
species are repeated over the whole area, creating maximum impact. Planting in layers
allows for one set of plants growing up and through the preceding set of plants, leading to
a continuous succession. Naturalistic swathes of perennials and grasses are framed and
contained within clumps, groupings, and scatterings of multi-stemmed trees and shrubs to
give solidity and a three-dimensional framework throughout the year [69].
There is no precise planting plan for most of the species, but the proportion of each
species in a mixture is carefully considered, and the plants are placed within the planting
areas according to a set of rules and instructions aiming at replicating natural patterns and
processes. Plants that are adapted to extreme dry conditions often have gray or silvery
leaves (Figure 5), and there is a natural unity to plantings that comes from bringing plants
together from similar habitats [69].
Figure 5.
The “shrub steppe” plantings at the Barbican combine mixes of perennials and grasses
to the steppe plantings, with additional low-density shrubs and multi-stemmed trees, to create
multi-layered plantings with year-round structure and interest. Photo by Maria Beatrice Andreucci.
4.6. Community-Scale Applications: Mudchute Park and Farm at the Isle of Dogs
The Mudchute Park and Farm was established by the local island community. Orig-
inally, it was a piece of derelict land created during the last century from the spoil of
construction from dredging Millwall Dock. For decades, Mudchute environmental fea-
tures, natural patterns, and processes remained untouched. However, in 1974, the site was
earmarked by the Greater London Council for the construction of a high-rise estate. The
resulting public campaign against these plans reflected the affection that local people, and
those working on the island, felt for the Mudchute. Their success secured it as the “People’s
Park” for the area. In 1977, the Mudchute Association was formed to preserve and develop
the area. Farm animals and horses were introduced, trees and plants were planted by
generous volunteers and corporate teams, and the educational benefits of the area were
also recognized. Local schools are encouraged to use the project to study the natural world
on their doorsteps (Figure 6). Since the establishment of the association, the Mudchute
has steadily built a reputation for providing place-based relationship and direct nature
experience through a variety of educational and leisure activities, on a London-wide basis.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 13 of 24
Figure 6.
School children are encouraged to experience the “biophilia effect” at Mudchute Garden
and Farm. Photo by Maria Beatrice Andreucci.
4.7. Exploring Multi-Sensory Experiences through Experimental Biophilic Design: Olafur Eliasson
at Tate Modern
Attempts to humanize architecture through the exploration of issues such as multi-
sensory experiences and human perception, physical and psychological boundaries, the
role of imagination and empathy in space, and the pleasure principle can provide very
effective experiences of biophilic design in space.
One example is the practice and work of Olafur Eliasson, a Dutch–Islandic artist who
is fusing many disciplines into his explorations of the human–nature–built environment
nexus. Similar to many researchers who explore sense of place [
], he is concerned with
phenomenological experiences. Eliasson is an artist, but he could also be called an architect,
as many of his works are immersive environments with ephemeral spatial qualities that
question perception, trigger the senses, and create a feeling of temporary community
between people experiencing the environment (Figure 7).
Figure 7.
) “Moss Wall” (1994), (
) “Regenfenster” (1999), (
) “Your Blind Passenger”
(2010), artworks by Olafur Eliasson, exhibited at “In Real Life” exhibition, Tate Modern, 2019. Photos
by Jelena Brajkovi´c.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 14 of 24
Of relevance for biophilic design, his work contains many biophilic principles and
attributes, such as affection and attachment, attraction and beauty, and reverence and
spirituality. His spaces also include transitional spaces, a dynamic balance and tension, and
generally, almost all attributes outlined by Kellert in his principles of biophilic design [
4.8. Linking Resilience with Social Justice and Economic Revitalization: Learning from Chicago
Similar to many cities, Chicago faces environmental challenges linked to climate
change, such as increasingly hot summers and flooding from heavy rain and older stormwa-
ter systems [
]. After the heatwave of 1995, in which over 700 people died, many of them
low-income and people of color [
], Chicago has undertaken a series of initiatives to
increase the environmental and ecological resilience of the city. While some of these
initiatives—such as the beautification of key boulevards with seasonal flowers—were
more focused on economic neighborhood revitalization than ecological goals, many of the
initiatives combined urban greening with ecological resilience. Key initiatives include their
Building Green Matrix (now called Sustainability Development Matrix), which required
nature-based design choices for projects in select neighborhoods, extensive use of TIF
(tax incremental financing) at the district scale to incentivize sustainability, and urban
revitalization projects in both high-profile (Figure 8) and disadvantaged neighborhoods,
greening alleyways (Figure 9) that replaced pavement with permeable pavement, and their
signature green roof program, supported by their Sustainability Matrix, which led them to
be North American leaders in green roof implementation for over a decade [71,73,74].
These initiatives have been supported by larger policy plans, such as their 2015 Climate
Change Action Agenda, their stormwater management plans [
], and their nomination
as one of Rockefeller’s 100 Resilient Cities, and subsequent resilience plan [
These policy plans regularly cite evidence of benefits of nature from research programs,
which tend to use an adaptive and utilitarian paradigm. However, concerns about equity
have meant that they have needed to also address social and economic aspects of urban
nature. Chicago has also implemented a vacant lot revitalization and neighborhood
stabilization plan, as well as a creative re-use of an abandoned elevated railway into a linear
park, thus supporting active transportation that connects lower-income neighborhoods, in
the west of the city, with wealthier neighborhoods, closer to the lake, in the east [7982].
Figure 8.
Crown Fountain, an interactive work of public art and video sculpture featured in Chicago’s
Millennium Park, in the Loop community area. Designed by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, it features
themes of dualism, light, and water. Photo by Maria Beatrice Andreucci.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 15 of 24
Figure 9. Resilient Corridor stormwater street-level feature, Chicago. Photo by Michael Berkshire.
Despite the leadership of a neighborhood association, the involvement of a non-profit
who did extensive stakeholder engagement, the inclusion of equity goals and artist’s work,
and the provision of a safe bikeway for active transportation, along a busy corridor, there
have still been complaints that the project has spurred gentrification and is potentially
displacing some of the more vulnerable residents in the eastern end of the 606 trail [
While this has been challenged by some groups involved in the project, who have claimed
that such a large investment is an easy target for larger-scale gentrification forces, it is still a
good example of the challenges of implementation for cities wishing to balance ecological,
social, and economic goals in urban greening projects. It is also a good example of the need
to include social and economic values into any discussion about ecological or regenerative
urban initiatives.
The City of Chicago is a good example of a new hybrid approach to urban greening
and is well aware of these challenges. For some of these projects, city administrators have
deliberately framed them as urban stabilization projects, instead of environmental projects
in economically distressed neighborhoods and have worked hard to ensure that their
work on resilience, and the resulting Resilient Chicago plan, define resilience as inclusive
and incorporate economic and social resilience into any environmental agenda [
One of the most innovative urban greening projects to come out of Chicago recently
balances ecological, social, and biophilic goals. It is an instructive case study on how to use
stakeholder engagement and collaboration to fill some of the gaps outlined above, which
are typical in nature–health research approaches, from adaptive and utilitarian paradigms.
In 2015, after Hurricane Sandy, there was a significant amount of funding available to
municipalities to address resilience and adaptation for extreme weather events. The City of
Chicago began to examine which areas in the city had a combination of the most vulnerable
populations and extreme weather, looking at sociodemographic data, health data, street
and basement flooding, and urban heat island areas, finding that many disadvantaged
neighborhoods, in the south and west of the city, suffered from extreme weather events as
well as health and economic disadvantages. Learning from their experience in previous
urban greening and environmental projects, they held a series of meeting organized by
a local non-governmental organization (NGO) to discuss where the biggest issues were
with the communities. They applied for funding for using green infrastructure, such
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 16 of 24
as stormwater management, bioswales, green roofs, etc. as a strategy to address both
vulnerability and extreme weather issues with the funding. While their application in that
round was unsuccessful, in 2017, there was another found of disaster relief money called
the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which they repurposed the project for,
and they were successful. The City argued for using city-owned vacant land and turning
them into storm water management landscapes, similar to what the City of Philadelphia
had been doing [86,87].
The project builds on a 2008 stormwater ordinance that requires projects to keep half an
inch of rainwater on site or increase the permeability of the site by 15%—thereby reducing
both volume and rate of stormwater flow, which aligns with their Sustainability Matrix,
which awards points for exceeding the stormwater ordinance requirements [
]. The project
uses traditional green infrastructure strategies, such as permeable pavement, bioswales,
and rain gardens, in combination with large underground storage and filtering strategies
to drain stormwater from surrounding streets and alleys into these new landscapes, thus
getting water out of people’s basements. There are multiple linked parcels of land in
the project, including three corridors, ten distinct projects, and 23 formerly city-owned
vacant parcels, but the one with the strongest biophilic attributes is the parcel on 16th street
(Figure 9). Of particular interest for the implementation of ecological, biophilic, and equity
goals is the collaborative and ecological approach taken by the City. The City worked very
closely with community groups, whom the City had previous experience working with,
and who had the ability to help manage the projects. The City provided the community
groups with a list of possible plants but let the community groups chose the plants and
trees, and they collaborated extensively on the goals and design of the projects. The final
project combines a nursery, green roof on an affordable housing project, and a runnel
between the street and sidewalk, where the runoff will drain. The runnel blends big rock
outcroppings in a serpentine pattern that crosses over the runnel so that children going to
school can walk on the outcroppings and cross the runnel, mimicking a forest creek. The
combination of interacting water features, community engagement, and native plantings is
a good example of blending biophilic design with ecological and community-benefit goals.
The City collaborated with local neighborhood groups on a maintenance and stew-
ardship plan, which is often a weak point with urban greening projects, and even hired
locally for the installation [
]. They estimate that the entire Resilient Corridors project will
provide over half a million gallons of storage of rainwater, lowering the level of water in
the combined sewer area by 0.2 to 8.2 inches, and reducing the risk of basement flooding of
almost 600 buildings in the area [
]. The project won an American Society of Landscape
Architects (ASLA) award in 2018 [
]. While research on the outcomes of the project is
ongoing, initial responses from the community have been very positive, with one resident
commenting that she “couldn’t believe they were doing this for them, that they listened to
them, that they are getting exactly what they wanted, and that it is beautiful” [87] (p. 87).
5. Discussion
5.1. Understanding the Application of Research to Practice
The review of the two key paradigms underlying most research programs on nature
and human health highlighted the strengths and limitations of these initiatives, emphasiz-
ing their easy transfer to policy, due to their psychometric methods, but also their tendency
to miss socio-cultural and power dynamics of place. The conducted study also pointed to
the disconnect between the design and lived experience of place goals of biophilic design
and research programs used in policy as well as new directions in somatic experience of
place that can be used to connect urbanites to biophilic design.
The case studies exemplified the translation of research to practice, and the use of a
diversity of evidence in real-world contexts. The City of London case study represents
a good example of what kind of research can be applied to which context, supported by
several applications at different scales. The translation of research to practice at a building
scale could benefit from a critical analysis of which studies can be applied to the workplace
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 17 of 24
and why, combined with an attention to biophilic design principles and a sense of place.
At a larger scale, urban parks, wetlands, and community gardens in London’s initiatives
can help achieve ambitious goals to green and re-wild the city for people and nature. These
implementations represent “an acknowledgement to how vitally urban lives are bound up
with and enriched by nature” [
]. The City of Chicago Resilient Cities project is equally
an innovative example of bridging research and practice while envisioning a more resilient
and just neighborhood through green infrastructure and biophilic design principles. It
blends known research on the benefits of access to nature and lived experience of place
with active and adaptive collaboration with community partners, so that the new “place”
is both ecologically and socially important to the community while addressing real climate
change and economic vulnerabilities.
The discussion below draws on the insights of the different research paradigms,
design practices, and case studies, aiming to provide key lessons learned that designers
and planners can apply to their practice.
5.1.1. Benefits of Nature in the Workplace
One of the outcomes of great interest to business and industry is the potential improve-
ment in human performance from access to nature in the workplace. However, biophilic
design, which translates research to practice, has been criticized for not linking specific
studies to specific design outcomes. One way to do this is to examine which studies address
the desired outcomes and then analyze if they can be applied to the context of the design
intervention. Multiple studies have shown improved task performance from access to
nature, which is measured often through cognitive tests and proxies for productivity. These
studies have been criticized, in turn, for not replicating the actual day-to-day tasks of office
workers, and there has been limited research done in situ for office workers.
However, the benefits of improved task performance from better concentration are
supported by multiple studies in nature [
]. These studies should not be used alone to
prove increased performance from biophilic design interventions, due to limitations in how
performance is measured, its applicability to different types of work and workplaces, and
a lack of research specifically looking at nature, performance, and the workplace. However,
if studies showing improved concentration from access to nature at multiple scales are
combined with other performance measures, at an individual and organizational level, such
as absenteeism, or commercial output—such as at the Living Lab at the London Shard—
they can provide a reasonable indication that design interventions that increase access to
nature for workers will likely lead to improved cognitive function and performance in
the workplace.
5.1.2. Biophilic Design and Mental Health
Getting out of buildings, into natural green space, walking, or forest bathing, has
long been recognized as beneficial and a prescribed option for general practitioners. Even
observing the ordered complexity of fractals, which are self-similar scales found within
nature, can reduce stress [
]. This is a key relief that is especially needed during Covid-19.
Covid-19 has highlighted the role of nature in mental health and socialization [
We have been forced to slow down and pay attention to nearby nature and value the role it
can play in our mental health and well-being. Urban parks, or the lack thereof, are making
headlines for their role in nurturing quarantined people’s mental and physical health [
Throughout the lockdown, governments, regional and city officials have recognized the
importance of space, from country parks, to city parks, urban green spaces, as vital for
physical and mental well-being.
The (re)discovery of the joy and refuge of nature, specifically local nature on doorsteps
and in backyard gardens, has led to newfound delight in fractal minutiae around us and a
slowing down of the pace of urban life. This slowed pace—at the core of neighborhood
projects such as The Barbican and GMV, in London—may be key to mainstreaming the
restorative benefits of nature.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 18 of 24
5.1.3. Biophilic Design and Connectedness to Nature: A Tool for Environmental
Behavior Change
This review proposes biophilic design as a possible framework or pathway to con-
necting humans with nature through design that encourages sensory contact, emotion,
meaning, beauty, and compassion, and which builds on the biophilic elements from Kellert.
This is aligned with calls to improve human–nature relationships as a way to address
our climate crisis and ecological separation [
], as well as research that has shown that
connectedness with nature is linked to pro-environmental behavior [
]. However, research
has also found that some elements of the human–nature relationship are not covered by
biophilic design and follow a more dominion-utility framework [
], or values [
]. The
research of Lumber, Richardson, and Sheffield [
] found that four of Kellert’s [
] values of
biophilia were unrelated to nature connectedness. These were fear of nature [
], dominion
over nature [
], the utilitarian use of nature [
], and a purely scientific relationship [
These types of relationship are often emphasized within capitalistic societies and can be
seen as essential pathways for human survival and progress that, unchecked, have led
to nature’s decline [
]. For transformative change, there is clearly an urgent need
for a new relationship with nature, yet these negative types of relationship with nature
still dominate [
]. Addressing these underlying values and perceptions will be essential
to creating effective biophilic design interventions as well as fostering a connection with
nature [104].
5.1.4. Connecting Biophilic Design with Environmental Justice, Health, and
Climate Change
At a global scale, climate change has been described as: “[
. . .
] the most serious threat
to global economic, social, and environmental stability in recorded history [
. . .
] with
many [ . . . ] prevalent human diseases linked to climate fluctuations” [105].
Authors [
] have argued that it is our destruction of natural habitats that helped the
current Covid-19 pandemic and that we can expect more zoonotic-originated diseases in
the future: “There is a single species that is responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic—us.
As with the climate and biodiversity crises, recent pandemics are a direct consequence of
human activity.” [106].
In figuring out how to address future global emergencies, such as climate change and
Covid-19, our relationship with nature, and in particular biophilic design, may be key for
improving sustainable behavior and, ultimately, our well-being. Rather than relying on
abstract universal ideas of nature to encourage sustainable behavior, using design and
policy at a building, neighborhood, and city scale to connect our daily lives with nature
may encourage connection, improve our health and well-being, and make action feel more
meaningful. Then, improving sustainable behavior might help address the current climate
and disease crisis. While inaction and business as usual has plagued climate change
policies, Covid-19 has exposed the connection between climate change and infectious
disease, with those who have been exposed to air pollution dying at a higher rate [
]. This
direct and personal connection between climate change and health may prove to be more
effective in shifting policy and practice around climate change.
From a health perspective, this may require a shift from risk reduction and the treat-
ment of illnesses to biophilic research and practice that embraces salutogenic thinking, i.e.,
the medical concept [
] that encourages a focus on factors that improve and support
human health and well-being, rather than on factors that reduce illness [
]. With the
health and well-being of humans intrinsically linked to the health and well-being of the
planetary ecosystems, the combination of biophilic and salutogenic design approaches may
provide a more holistic framework to link ecosystem, human, and non-human dimensions.
Considering that, at a building scale, research attention has tended to focus on threats to
health, a more holistic way of thinking would also be useful to foster health-promoting
environments [109].
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 19 of 24
5.1.5. Looking Forward: Engaging with Nature and Fostering a
Systems-Thinking Approach
Engaging with nature necessitates a mindset focused on developing the capacity and
capability for systems evolution. It is not about a sustainability that maintains what it
is—or is attempting to restore something to what it was by only reducing impacts. Rather,
it is about creating systems (places, buildings, communities, organizations) that have
the capacity to evolve and regenerate toward states of health that thrive over time. The
understanding of our position on the planet has a crucial role in building the awareness for
regenerative sustainability.
On a larger scale, an emerging trend is the Bio-Leadership, i.e., a concept of an ecosys-
tem made of people and projects transforming leadership by working with nature [
Within the design and policy world, the concept switches from a mechanistic perspective
(where the world is seen to function as a machine), to a natural fluid approach. This
framework has been used to describe the hoped-for next era of our relationship with the
environment. This new way of envisioning the nature–human relationship in design and
policy aims to nurture a co-evolving mutuality [
] and may provide hope for both a
more equitable and regenerative future. If combined with work on equitable access to
nature, along with evidence on the benefits of access to nature at multiple scales, this
large-scale application of biophilic principles can play a part in restoring both human and
ecological health.
6. Conclusions
Humans’ disconnection with nature has already negatively impacted mental and
physical health. Buildings today are often designed, constructed, and operated apart
from nature, rather than as a part of nature. Over the last thirty years (since Brundtlandt,
1987) [
], sustainability in design and construction has been a core element in the built
environment, and yet climate and biodiversity indicators have worsened, while the impact
of building design and practice on health conditions is increasingly researched but still
remains opaque. Evidence from the last forty years has shown that contact with nature in
general can improve human health, but there are gaps in the application at different scales
and a lack of understanding of which research to apply to which situation.
Conversely, biophilic design is growing in popularity, but it still suffers from a lack
of specificity on research outcomes and variables. There is a tendency for it is to be
dismissed from many design circles as “nice to have but dispensable” versus an effective
intervention to improve health and performance. The research on nature and health to
date supports many of the biophilic design attributes outlined above; however, in practice,
biophilic design is often limited to a few variables, which limits its application in design
practice. Furthermore, there is still much that is not known about the potential benefits
of biophilic design interventions, individually and as a whole. This gap has not been
overcome by the confusion of green design interventions in green buildings and green
infrastructure over the last few decades, which may or may not have had any link to
evidence-based or biophilic design. It is also complicated by the differing underlying
paradigms in nature and health research and design: research that examines nature as a
linear input with an expected outcome does not align well with the more philosophical
sense of place and lived experience goals of biophilic design. Drawing on some experiences
developed in experimental biophilic design, it may help to bridge some of the gaps in
traditional nature–health research and address the nuances and complexities of the holistic
lived experience, as connected to nature or biophilic design projects. Connecting to sense
of place, historicity, and embodied experience in biophilic design may soften some of
the criticisms of the adaptive and utilitarian approaches to nature–health research while
creating design solutions that work for real people in real contexts.
Lastly, there is still a need to provide a synthesis with respect to the available knowl-
edge about the relationship between nature design and policy interventions, natural sys-
tems, and health. This seems to be confirmed by the growing demand from policy makers.
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 20 of 24
For instance, in the “Urban green spaces: brief for action”, which was published recently,
the World Health Organization [
] emphasized the need for a change in urban health
initiatives with a strong focus on the creation, promotion, and maintenance of green spaces,
with an explicit call for expert advice. How this expertise is developed is a current gap in
both education and practice.
The discussion above argues that understanding the strengths and limitations of the
most influential research on health and nature can help it support and align with biophilic
design at multiple scales. This knowledge can result in a more effective and holistic
understanding of how nature can be incorporated into our buildings, neighborhoods, and
cities. Critically combining research on health and nature with biophilic design principles
may also provide a more holistic and just approach to connecting us with nature and
encouraging sustainable behavior. This can further support regenerative policy and action.
As we look to life with and after Covid-19, the shape of the future built environment
remains unknown, but it provides an opportunity for re-evaluation and new insights about
our human, natural, and built environment relationships.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, M.B.A. and A.L.; methodology, M.B.A. and A.L.; writing—
original draft preparation, M.B.A. and A.L.; writing—review and editing, M.B.A., A.L., M.B., J.B.;
visualization, M.B.A.; supervision, M.B.A., A.L.; funding acquisition, M.B.A., M.B., J.B. All authors
have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
This article is based upon work from COST Action ( CA16114 ‘RESTORE’ Re-
thinking Sustainability Toward a Regenerative Economy, supported by COST (European Cooperation
in Science and Technology).
Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Data Availability Statement:
No new data were created or analyzed in this study. Data sharing is
not applicable to this article.
This article is based upon work from COST Action ( CA16114 ‘RE-
STORE’ Rethinking Sustainability Toward a Regenerative Economy, supported by COST (European
Cooperation in Science and Technology). COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology)
is a funding agency for research and innovation networks. COST Actions help connect research
initiatives across Europe and enable scientists to grow their ideas by sharing them with their peers.
This boosts their research, career, and innovation. Authors wish to thank DaeWha Kang Design for
authorizing (March 29th, 2021) the use in this article of two images (Figures 1and 2) of their project
“Shard Living Lab”, in London.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
An initial version of this paper was presented at the Greening Cities Shaping Cities
Symposium in October 2020.
The following abbreviations have been used in this manuscript:
ART Attention Restoration Theory
PSR Psychophysiological Stress Reduction
COST Cooperation in Science and Technology
RESTORE Rethinking Sustainability Toward a Regenerative Economy
Hadavi, S.; Kaplan, R.; Hunter, M.C.R. Environmental affordances: A practical approach for design of nearby outdoor settings in
urban residential areas. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2015,134, 19–32. [CrossRef]
Kaplan, S. The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. J. Environ. Psychol.
,15, 169–182. [CrossRef]
Thompson, C.W.; Roe, J.; Aspinall, P.; Mitchell, R.; Clow, A.; Miller, D. More green space is linked to less stress in deprived
communities: Evidence from salivary cortisol patterns. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2012,105, 221–229. [CrossRef]
4. Acuto, M. COVID-19: Lessons for an Urban(izing) World. One Earth 2020,2, 317–319. [CrossRef]
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 21 of 24
Wu, X.; Nethery, R.C.; Sabath, B.M.; Braun, D.; Dominici, F. Exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United
States. Available online:
202&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_energy202 (accessed on 12 May 2020).
Beute, F.; Andreucci, M.B.; Lammel, A.; Davies, Z.; Glanville, J.; Keune, H.; Marselle, M.; O’Brien, L.A.; Olszewska-Guizzo, A.;
Remmen, R.; et al. Types and Characteristics of Urban and Peri-Urban Green Spaces Having an Impact on Human Mental Health and
Wellbeing. Report Prepared by an EKLIPSE Expert Working Group; Centre for Ecology & Hydrology: Wallingford, UK, 2020.
Beute, F.; Davies, Z.; de Vries, S.; Glanville, J.; Keune, H.; Lammel, A.; Marselle, M.; O’Brien, L.; Olszewska-Guizzo, A.; Remmen,
R.; et al. Types and Characteristics of Urban and Peri-Urban Blue Spaces Having an Impact on Human Mental Health and Wellbeing.
Report Prepared by an EKLIPSE Expert Working Group; Centre for Ecology & Hydrology: Wallingford, UK, 2020.
Surico, J. The Power of Parks in a Pandemic. Available online:
pandemic-the-parks-are-keeping-us-alive (accessed on 23 June 2020).
9. Beatley, T. Handbook of Biophilic City Planning and Design; Island Press: Washington, DC, USA, 2016.
Frumkin, H.; Bratman, G.N.; Breslow, S.J.; Cochran, B.; Kahn Jr, P.H.; Lawler, J.J.; Wolf, K.L. Nature contact and human health: A
research agenda. Environ. Health Perspect. 2017,125, 075001. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Loder, A. Small-Scale Urban Greening: Creating Places of Health, Creativity, and Ecological Sustainability; Routledge: Abingdon,
UK, 2020.
12. Yin, R.K. Application of Case Study Research; Sage: London, UK; New Delhi, India, 1993.
13. Yin, R.K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods; Sage: London, UK; New Delhi, India, 1994.
Keniger, L.E.; Gaston, K.J.; Irvine, K.N.; Fuller, R.A. What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature? Int. J. Environ. Res. Public
Heal. 2013,10, 913–935. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
15. Hartig, T.; Mitchell, R.; De Vries, S.; Frumkin, H. Nature and Health. Annu. Rev. Public Heal. 2014,35, 207–228. [CrossRef]
Dzhambov, A.M.; Markevych, I.; Hartig, T.; Tilov, B.; Arabadzhiev, Z.; Stoyanov, D.; Gatseva, P.; Dimitrova, D.D. Multiple
pathways link urban green- and bluespace to mental health in young adults. Environ. Res. 2018,166, 223–233. [CrossRef]
Bratman, G.N.; Anderson, C.B.; Berman, M.G.; Cochran, B.; De Vries, S.; Flanders, J.; Folke, C.; Frumkin, H.; Gross, J.J.; Hartig, T.;
et al. Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Sci. Adv. 2019,5, eaax0903. [CrossRef]
Labib, S.; Lindley, S.; Huck, J.J. Spatial dimensions of the influence of urban green-blue spaces on human health: A systematic
review. Environ. Res. 2020,180, 108869. [CrossRef]
Ballard, B. Biophilic office designs drive productivity and creativity. European CEO. Available online: https://www.europeanceo.
com/business-and-management/biophilic-office-designs-drive-productivity-and-creativity/ (accessed on 16 June 2019).
20. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis; Island Press: Washington, DC, USA, 2005.
Gómez-Baggethun, E.; Barton, D.N. Classifying and valuing ecosystem services for urban planning. Ecol. Econ.
,86, 235–245.
22. Wilson, E.O. Biophilia: The Human Bond with Other Species; Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 1984.
Somarakis, G.; Stagakis, S.; Chrysoulakis, N. (Eds.) ThinkNature Nature-Based Solutions Handbook. ThinkNature project
funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 730338. 2019. Available
online: (accessed on 15 March 2021).
Kaplan, R.; Kaplan, S. Preference, Restoration, and Meaningful Action in the Context of Nearby Nature. In Urban Place:
Reconnecting with the Natural World; Barlett, P., Ed.; MIT Press: Cambridge, UK, 2005; p. 330.
Ulrich, R.S. Biophilia, Biophobia, and Natural Landscapes. In The Biophilia Hypothesis; Kellert, S.E.O.W., Ed.; Island Press:
Washington, DC, USA, 1993; pp. 74–137.
26. Kaplan, R.; Kaplan, S. The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 1989.
Hartig, T.; Mang, M.; Evans, G.W. Restorative Effects of Natural Environment Experiences. Environ. Behav.
,23, 3–26.
Korpela, K.M.; Ylén, M.; Tyrväinen, L.; Silvennoinen, H. Determinants of restorative experiences in everyday favorite places.
Heal. Place 2008,14, 636–652. [CrossRef]
29. Fromm, E. The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness; Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York, NY, USA, 1973.
Church, S.P. Exploring Green Streets and rain gardens as instances of small scale nature and environmental learning tools. Landsc.
Urban Plan. 2015,134, 229–240. [CrossRef]
Davison, A. The trouble with nature: Ambivalence in the lives of urban Australian environmentalists. Geoforum
1284–1295. [CrossRef]
Liuna, G.; Jingke, X.; Lijuan, Y.; Wenjun, Z.; Kexin, Z. Connections with Nature and Environmental Behaviors. PLoS ONE
Perrin, J.L.; Benassi, V.A. The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of emotional connection to nature? J. Environ. Psychol.
2009,29, 434–440. [CrossRef]
Wang, J.; Geng, L.; Schultz, P.W.; Zhou, K. Mindfulness Increases the Belief in Climate Change: The Mediating Role of
Connectedness With Nature. Environ. Behav. 2019,51, 3–23. [CrossRef]
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 22 of 24
Wyles, K.J.; White, M.P.; Hattam, C.; Pahl, S.; King, H.; Austen, M. Are Some Natural Environments More Psycho-logically
Beneficial Than Others? The Importance of Type and Quality on Connectedness to Nature and Psychological Restoration. Environ.
Behav. 2019,51, 111–143. [CrossRef]
Braubach, M.; Egorov, A.; Mudu, P.; Wolf, T.; Thompson, C.W.; Martuzzi, M. Effects of Urban Green Space on Environmental
Health, Equity and Resilience. In Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas: Linkages between Science,
Policy and Practice; Springer International Publishing: Cham, Switzerland; Berlin/Heidelberg, Germany, 2017; pp. 187–205.
37. Kim, D.; Jin, J. Does happiness data say urban parks are worth it? Landsc. Urban Plan. 2018,178, 1–11. [CrossRef]
Han, B.; Cohen, D.A.; Derose, K.P.; Marsh, T.; Williamson, S.; Raaen, L. How much neighborhood parks contribute to local
residents’ physical activity in the City of Los Angeles: A meta-analysis. Prev. Med. 2014,69, S106–S110. [CrossRef]
39. Kellert, S.R.; Wilson, E.O. The Biophilia Hypothesis; Island Press: Washington, DC, USA, 1993.
Barton, J.; Griffin, M.; Pretty, J. Exercise, nature and socially interactive-based initiatives improve mood and self-esteem in the
clinical population. Perspect. Public Heal. 2011,132, 89–96. [CrossRef]
Berg, M.M.V.D.; Van Poppel, M.; Van Kamp, I.; Ruijsbroek, A.; Triguero-Mas, M.; Gidlow, C.; Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J.; Gražule-
viˇciene, R.; Van Mechelen, W.; Kruize, H.; et al. Do Physical Activity, Social Cohesion, and Loneliness Mediate the Association
Between Time Spent Visiting Green Space and Mental Health? Environ. Behav. 2019,51, 144–166. [CrossRef]
Schipperijn, J.; Bentsen, P.; Troelsen, J.; Toftager, M.; Stigsdotter, U.K. Associations between physical activity and characteristics of
urban green space. Urban For. Urban Green. 2013,12, 109–116. [CrossRef]
PennPraxis. Green2015: An Action Plan for the First 500 Acres. Philadelphia: City of Philadelphia. Available online: http:
// (accessed on 30 August 2020).
44. City of Philadelphia. Greenworks: A vision for a sustainable Philadelphia; Office of Sustainability: Philadelphia, PA, USA, 2016.
Peters, K.; Elands, B.; Buijs, A. Social interactions in urban parks: Stimulating social cohesion? Urban For. Urban Green.
93–100. [CrossRef]
Holt-Lunstad, J.; Smith, T.B.; Layton, J.B. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med.
e1000316. [CrossRef]
Sun, Z.; Zhu, D. Exposure to outdoor air pollution and its human health outcomes: A scoping review. PLoS ONE
e0216550. [CrossRef]
Klompmaker, J.O.; Hoek, G.; Bloemsma, L.D.; Wijga, A.H.; van den Brink, C.; Brunekreef, B.; Janssen, N.A. As-sociations of
combined exposures to surrounding green, air pollution and traffic noise on mental health. Environ. Int.
,129, 525–537.
Calderón-Garcidueñas, L.; Torres-Jardón, R.; Kulesza, R.J.; Park, S.B.; D’Angiulli, A. Air pollution and detrimental effects on
children’s brain. The need for a multidisciplinary approach to the issue complexity and challenges. Front. Hum. Neurosci.
8, 613.
von Lindern, E.; Hartig, T.; Lercher, P. Traffic-related exposures, constrained restoration, and health in the residential context.
Health Place 2016,39, 92–100. [CrossRef]
51. Tuan, Y.F. Rootedness versus sense of place. Landscape 1980,24, 3–8.
Williams, D.R. Making sense of ‘place’: Reflections on pluralism and positionality in place research. Landsc. Urban Plan.
74–82. [CrossRef]
53. Zufferey, C.; King, S. Social work learning spaces: The Social Work Studio. High. Educ. Res. Dev. 2016,35, 395–408. [CrossRef]
Cornell Health. Nature Rx. Cornell University. Available online:
(accessed on 16 June 2019).
Kallen, C. NaturePHL Bringing ‘Nature Prescriptions’ to Local Doctors’ Offices. Family Focus Media, Philadelphia. Available
online: (accessed on 16 June 2019).
Lachowycz, K.; Jones, A.P. Towards a better understanding of the relationship between greenspace and health: Development of a
theoretical framework. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2013,118, 62–69. [CrossRef]
Trentelman, C.K. Place Attachment and Community Attachment: A Primer Grounded in the Lived Experience of a Community
Sociologist. Soc. Nat. Resour. 2009,22, 191–210. [CrossRef]
Stedman, R.C.; Beckley, T.M. If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? Soc. Nat. Resour.
2007,20, 939–943. [CrossRef]
Williams, D.R.; Patterson, M.E. Snapshots of What, Exactly? A Comment on Methodological Experimentation and Conceptual
Foundations in Place Research. Soc. Nat. Resour. 2007,20, 931–937. [CrossRef]
Kellert, S.R. Dimensions, Elements, and Attributes of Biophilic Design. In Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of
Bringing Buildings to Life; Kellert, S.R., Heerwagen, J., Mador, M., Eds.; John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ, USA, 2018.
61. Browning, W.D.; Ryan, C.O.; Clancy, J.O. 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design; Terrapin Bright Green LLC: New York, NY, USA, 2014.
McGee, B.; Park, N.; Portillo, M.; Bosch, S.; Swisher, M. Diy Biophilia: Development of the Biophilic Interior Design Matrix as a
Design Tool. J. Inter. Des. 2019,44, 201–221. [CrossRef]
Pallasmaa, J.; Amundsen, M. Q&A with Juhani Pallasmaa on Architecture, Aesthetics of Atmospheres and the Passage of Time
Questions-réponses avec Juhani Pallasmaa sur l’architecture, l’esthétique des ambiances et les effets du temps. Ambiances.
Environnement sensible, architecture et espace urbain Comptes-rendus. Available online:
ambiances/1257 (accessed on 30 August 2019).
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 23 of 24
Reeve, A.; Desha, C.; Hargroves, K.; Newman, P. Informing healthy building design with biophilic urbanism design principles:
A review and synthesis of current knowledge and research. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Healthy
Buildings, Brisbane, Australia., 8–12 July 2012.
Statista. Forecasted population in London (UK) from 2019 to 2041. Available online:
/london-population-forecast/ (accessed on 16 March 2021).
Greenspace Information for Greater London CIC (GiGL). Key London Figures. Available online:
keyfigures/ (accessed on 16 March 2021).
DaeWha Kang Design and Aldworth James & Bond. Using cutting-edge fabrication technology to construct unique working
spaces in the UK’s tallest building. Kellert, S.R., and Calabrese, E.F. 2015. The practice of Biophilic design. Available online: (accessed on 10 February 2021).
Kellert, S.R.; Calabrese, E.F. The practice of Biophilic design. Available online: (accessed on 10
February 2021).
69. Dunnett, N. Naturalistic Planting Design: The Essential Guide; Filbert Press: London, UK, 2019.
70. Smith, C.J.; Relph, E. Place and Placelessness. Geogr. Rev. 1978,68, 116. [CrossRef]
Loder, A. ‘There’s a meadow outside my workplace’: A phenomenological exploration of aesthetics and green roofs in Chicago
and Toronto. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2014,126, 94–106. [CrossRef]
72. Klinenberg, E. Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago; University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL, USA, 2002.
City of Chicago, Department of Transportation. The Chicago Green Alley Handbook: An Action Guide to Create a Greener, Envi-
ronmentally Sustainable Chicago. Available online:
(accessed on 12 June 2019).
Berkshire, M. Chicago Green Projects. In Small-Scale Urban Greening: Creating Places of Health, Creativity, And Ecological Sustainability;
Loder, A., Ed.; Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2020; p. 94.
City of Chicago, Department of Water Management. Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy. Available online: https://www. (accessed on 10 July 2015).
City of Chicago, Department of the Environment. New Stormwater Management Ordinance. Available online: https://www. (accessed on 4 Septem-
ber 2018).
Andreucci, M.B. Progettare L’involucro Urbano. Casi Studio di Progettazione Tecnologica Ambientale; Wolters Kluwer: Milano,
Italy, 2019.
78. 100 Resilient Cities. Available online: (accessed on 10 May 2019).
Gobster, P.H.; Stewart, W.P.; van Riper, C.J.; Williams, A.R. Vacant Lot Stewardship and the Creation of New Natures in Chicago.
In Proceedings of the International Association for Landscape Ecology Conference, Chicago, IL, USA, 8–12 April 2018.
WLS-TV Chicago. City of Chicago selling more than 4K vacant lots for 1.ABC7EyewitnessNews. Available online: https://$-$of$-$chicago$-$selling$-$more$-$than$-$4k$-$vacant$-$lots$-$for$-$1.ABC7EyewitnessNews.
$1-/1630671/ (accessed on 29 November 2019).
Lindsey, G.; Qi, Y.; Gobster, P.H.; Sachdeva, S. The 606 at Three: Trends in Use of Chicago’s Elevated Rail- Trail, Proceedings of
the Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning, 6, 37. Available online:
vol6/iss1/37 (accessed on 10 June 2020).
The Trust for Public Land. Our Story. The 606. Available online: (accessed on 26
May 2019).
Smith, G.; Duda, S.; Lee, J.M.; Thompson, M. Measuring the Impact of the 606: Understanding How a Large Public In-vestment
Impacted the Surrounding Housing Market. Chicago: Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University. Available online: (accessed on 12
June 2019).
Rodkin, D. Was gentrification around the 606 inevitable? Crain’s Chicago Business. Available online: https://www. gentrification-around-606-inevitable (accessed on 13 December 2019).
Wessel, M. Chicago’s Resiliency Plan Aims for Equity. Next City. Available online:
resiliency-plan-aims-for-equity (accessed on 24 April 2019).
Green Stormwater Infrastructure Partners. Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. The Economic Impact of Green
City, Clean Waters: The First Five Years. 2016. Available online:
2014/07/Local-Economic-Impact-Report_First-Five-Years-GCCW_full-downloadable- web2.pdf (accessed on 12 June 2019).
Berkshire, M. Resilient Corridors. In Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities, Chicago: A plan for Inclusive Growth and a
Connected City, City of Chicago. Available online: (accessed
on 5 June 2019).
American Society of Landscape Architects. Chicago Resilient Corridors. Available online:
resilient-corridors/ (accessed on 2 October 2020).
Sustainability 2021,13, 4323 24 of 24
Macfarlane, R. London Becomes the World’s First National Park City. London National Park City. Available online: https:
// (accessed on 14
June 2019).
Choudhry, K.Z.; Coles, R.; Qureshi, S.; Ashford, R.; Khan, S.; Mir, R.R. A review of methodologies used in studies investigating
human behaviour as determinant of outcome for exposure to ‘naturalistic and urban environments’. Urban For. Urban Green.
2015,14, 527–537. [CrossRef]
Li, D.; Deal, B.; Zhou, X.; Slavenas, M.; Sullivan, W.C. Moving beyond the neighborhood: Daily exposure to nature and adolescents’
mood. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2018,173, 33–43. [CrossRef]
92. Taylor, R.P. Reduction of Physiological Stress Using Fractal Art and Architecture. Leon 2006,39, 245–251. [CrossRef]
Richardson, M.; Dobson, J.; Abson, D.J.; Lumber, R.; Hunt, A.; Young, R.; Moorhouse, B. Applying the pathways to nature
connectedness at a societal scale: A leverage points perspective. Ecosyst. People 2020,16, 387–401. [CrossRef]
Schultz, W.P.; Zelezny, L.C. Values as predictors of environmental attitudes: Evidence for consistency across cultures. J. Environ.
Psychol. 1999,19, 255–265. [CrossRef]
Stern, P.C.; Dietz, T.; Kalof, L.; Guagnano, G.A. The new environmental paradigm in social psychological perspective. Environ.
Behav. 1995,27, 723–745. [CrossRef]
Lumber, R.; Richardson, M.; Sheffield, D. Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are
pathways to nature connection. PLoS ONE 2017,12, e0177186. [CrossRef]
97. Nash, R. Wilderness and the American Mind. Yale University Press: New Haven, CT, USA, 2001.
Merchant, C. Reinventing Nature: Western Culture as a Recovery Narrative. In Uncommon Ground; Cronon, W., Ed.; W. W. Norton
& Company: New York, NY, USA, 1995; pp. 132–159.
Smith, N. The Production of Nature. In Future Natural: Nature, Science, Culture; Robertson, G.M.M., Tichner, L., Curtis, B., Putnam,
T., Eds.; Routledge: London, UK, 1996; pp. 35–54.
100. Baskin, J. Paradigm dressed as epoch: The ideology of the antropocene. Environ. Values 2015,24, 9. [CrossRef]
101. Catton, W.R.; Dunlap, R.E. Environmental Sociology: A New paradigm. Am. Sociol. 1978,13, 41–49.
IPBES. Summary for Policymakers of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the Intergovernmental
Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; Díaz, S., Settele, J., Brondízio, E.S., Ngo, H.T., Guèze, M., Agard, J.,
Arneth, A., Balvanera, P., Brauman, K.A., Butchart, S.H.M., et al., Eds.; IPBES: Bonn, Germany, 2019.
103. Ison, R.; Straw, E. The Hidden Power of Systems Thinking: Governance in a Climate Emergency; Routledge: London, UK, 2020.
Loder, A. Regeneration. Between Ecological and Human Systems. In Progettare l’involucro Urbano: Casi Studio di Progettazione
Tecnologica Ambientale; Andreucci, M.B., Ed.; Wolters Kluwer: Milano, Italy, 2019; p. 179.
Africa, J.; Heerwagen, J.; Loftness, V.; Ryan Balagtas, C. Biophilic Design and Climate Change: Performance Parameters for
Health. Front. Built Environ. 2019,5, 28. [CrossRef]
Settele, J.; Díaz, S.; Brondizio, D.; Daszak, P. COVID-19 Stimulus Measures Must Save Lives, Protect Livelihoods, and Safeguard
Nature to Reduce the Risk of Future Pandemics. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem
Services (IPBES Report). Available online: (accessed on 10 June 2020).
107. Antonovsky, A. Unravelling the Mystery of Health; Jossey-Bass Inc: San Francisco, CA, USA, 1987.
108. Brown, M. FutuREstorative: Working Towards a New Sustainability; RIBA Publishing: London, UK, 2016.
Loder, A.; Gray, W.A.; Timm, S. The international WELL Building Institute’s Global Research Agenda. Available online: (accessed on 10 February 2021).
Roberts, A. How would nature Change Leadership? Available online:
nature_change_leadership (accessed on 7 May 2020).
Mang, P.; Haggard, B. Regenerative Development and Design: A framework for Evolving Sustainability; Wiley: Hoboken, NJ, USA, 2016.
112. World Commission on Environment and Development. Our Common Future; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 1987.
WHO Regional Office for Europe. Urban Green Space Interventions and Health: A Review of Impacts and Effectiveness.
Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe. Available online: (accessed on 12
March 2018).
... Andreucci et al. [46] divided biophilic forms according to the scales of building, district, and city. The authors point out the discrepancies between biophilic designs, urban designs, and designs in terms of health needs. ...
... In the Greenwich Millennium Village project (London), the following features can be pointed out: the protection and basic restoration of wildlife habitats (The Ecology Park), the use of wood as a building material, a high greening index, the human-friendly scale of the place, the occurrence of susceptibility to seasonal variation, etc. In this case, it was the architect Ralph Erskin's idea, and in the case of other projects, the result of a combination of design guidelines and individual decisions [46]. ...
... Although Andreucci et al. divide biophilic forms into three scales, they do not take the process into account. They note, however, that in multi-criteria and interdisciplinary projects, the coordination aspect is essential [46]. This can be provided by a formal approach that takes into account the planning procedures, or by a very highly professional project team. ...
Full-text available
Biophilic design is developed in urban planning concepts for cities—in line with sustainable development. A case study of converting a former paper mill in Nanterre into a university campus showed what factors influence the emergence of the biophilic form. The research informs the planning and design mechanisms and directs attention to the process. As a result, the study demonstrates that biophilic elements from the place-based pattern group are directly related to in-depth environmental analysis—similar to elements from the nature-based and element-based pattern groups. Together they result in a biophilic form. The element of creation is also present in the design process but is not the primary determinant of the choice of a design approach. In part, the form is adapted to the area's environmental characteristics, which result from their interaction with objective determinants. Nevertheless, the implementation is not devoid of compositional, creative, and cultural elements—that is, it assumes the features of biophilic architecture. This fact proves that the environment can influence the creative potential in architecture and urban studies.
... The topic of pinpointing Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in the urban context has been cultivating interests lately from different scholars, urban planning practitioners and policymakers. This Special Issue originates from the Greening Cities Shaping Cities Symposium held at the Politecnico di Milano (12)(13) October 2020), aiming at bridging the gap between the science and practice of implementing NBS in the built environment [1], as well as highlighting the importance of citizen participation in shared governance and policy making. The Special Issue was also made open to other contributions from outside the symposium in order to allow for contributions from a major scientific and practical audience wherever possible. ...
... Andreucci et al. [13] explore how the benefits of nature are understood for different environments and multiple scales, ranging from a building (e.g., workplace) to the neighborhood (e.g., arts and conference complex) and up to the citywide scale. For this aim, the authors embrace biophilic design theory and make a case for the importance of deepening the understanding and application of this approach, which is often considered of secondary priority. ...
Full-text available
The topic of pinpointing Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in the urban context has been cultivating interests lately from different scholars, urban planning practitioners and policy- makers. This Special Issue originates from the Greening Cities Shaping Cities Symposium held at the Politecnico di Milano (12–13 October 2020), aiming at bridging the gap between the science and practice of implementing NBS in the built environment [1], as well as high- lighting the importance of citizen participation in shared governance and policy making. The Special Issue was also made open to other contributions from outside the symposium in order to allow for contributions from a major scientific and practical audience wherever possible. Indeed, we have gathered contributions from Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Brazil, Portugal, Denmark, France, Bulgaria, Sweden, Hungary, Spain, the UAE, the UK, and the USA.
... In particular, papers where mental health was only one of a large number of health-related sub-themes, or where climate change was only a justification for the study rather than a topic of focus, were excluded. Excluded papers also included those primarily covering "resilience" rather than any specific mental health issues (e.g., Theron et al., 2020), or papers concerning "natureconnectedness", such as the mental health and wellbeing impacts of green spaces (e.g., Korn et al., 2018) or green urban infrastructure (e.g., Andreucci et al., 2021) rather than climate change. The review also excluded papers which seemed to be on the in-out boundary and whose themes were repetitive of other papers which had been included (i.e., they offered little new information for the purposes of this review stage), as well as editorials. ...
Full-text available
The impacts of climate change-related events on mental health and emotional wellbeing have gained increased attention in recent years. However, research exploring how climate mitigation action, i.e., moving toward more sustainable lifestyles, interrelates with mental health is arguably a more hidden body of work. This research is scattered across fields and uses a variety of concepts to explore both the role that emotional and mental health management skills may play in enabling personal climate mitigation actions, as well as the ways in which accelerated transitions toward lower carbon emitting ways of life may impact on mental wellbeing at both an individual and societal level. Our systematic review therefore aims to bring together for the first time research which has been undertaken in the emerging area of mental health and climate mitigation action. To facilitate this exploration, systematic Web of Science searches were undertaken which: (1) identified 165 publications exploring climate change and mental health issues broadly, and (2) identified 26 publications relating climate mitigation actions with specific mental health impacts (anxiety, trauma, suicide, OCD). We find that mental health is primarily being seen as an outcome of climate change impacts, not a factor in our ability to work to avoid them. The limited work which does exist around mental health and climate mitigation action focusses on anxiety and trauma and spans the psychological, psychosocial, public health and wider social sciences. Anxiety and trauma-avoidance has been found to both stimulate and stifle action in different circumstances. One explanation may be the role organizations (and other social structures like family or gender identities) play in maintaining cultures which either support social defenses against mitigation action or provide emotionally-safe spaces for building climate commitment. Anticipating potential mental health impacts during policy planning—and putting in place appropriate support measures—will be vital to successfully meeting climate targets. We therefore conclude with implications for policy and practice, including the need to: build appropriate psychological support into behavior change interventions, work with groups who can provide each other with emotional peer support, and ensure health and social care professionals are given adequate training.
... Green infrastructure is a system of multifunctional green space that promotes natural and ecological processes that are critical to human health and quality of life. Social functions of green infrastructure have often been investigated, improving mental and physical [1]. Besides that, it has been found many green infrastructure components have been identified for green infrastructure system application. ...
Full-text available
The need for green infrastructure has increased with the awareness towards a sustainable environment. Trees are considered one of the “green infrastructure” elements due to the “green” benefits they have provided to the urban environment. Greener environments are associated with mental health, and to the urban inhabitants, trees bring a multitude of environmental benefits. Even though there are various opinions on pro-environmental behavior (PEB), there are similar understandings of protecting and preserving the environment. Psychological Restoration (PR) is a cognitive progression in replenishing a good emotion via a connection with the natural environment and urban park. This paper reviews the literature published between 2005-2021 on SCOPUS and describes the current knowledge regarding PEB and PR connected to urban trees. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses known as PRISMA were employed, which deals with identification, evaluation, exclusion, and inclusion of data. Some studies have focused on how the natural environment can affect human health and well-being. Other studies have looked into the built environment and considered urban trees as a positive solution to stress alleviation and social cohesion. Hence, the reviews will provide a proposition for future research in the respective field to yield relevant results to the societies.
... Accordingly, the biophilic approach-the concept of bringing back nature in the city-has emerged as a natural and holistic approach in urban environments through design and governance in recent years [3]. It is the most well-known greening and design approach among the public [4]. The term "biophilic approach" was invented by E.O. ...
Full-text available
This study proposed a plan for implementing a pleasant and healthy indoor landscape in subway station space. To this end, it established a 3D landscape model of the subway interior by reviewing previous studies on indoor landscape and the greenness index of indoor spaces. Moreover, it investigated and analyzed psychophysiological responses of users to environmental indoor landscape design in subway station space. Subway stations were classified as underground subway stations and ground subway stations according to the presence of natural light inflow. The greenness index of indoor spaces was also divided into four types of 0%, 10%, 15%, and 20%. Through this process, eight 3D landscape models of the subway interior were implemented. In addition, this study investigated psychophysiological responses of 60 male and female adults in their 20s and 30s using the models implemented. The investigation result was analyzed based on a frequency analysis, the χ2 test, T-test, one-way analysis of variance, and multidimensional scaling, which were performed in SPSS Statistics 25. The results of this study can be summarized as follows. First, physiological responses of research subjects were analyzed based on their prefrontal α wave asymmetric values. The analytic result showed that the environment where interior landscape was adopted produced more positive effects than the environment where interior landscape was not adopted. Second, psychological responses of research subjects were examined based on their greenness index preference, awareness of interior landscape area, attention restoration effect, and space images. The analytic result indicated that, among eight 3D landscape models of the subway interior, they preferred the model with the greenness index of 15% for underground subway stations. In addition, they preferred the model with the greenness index of 10% the most for ground subway stations.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Studying and teaching Architecture and Design is a versatile endeavour where creativity can channelise into Design and Form. This paper will be outlining the first Exercise of Basic Design which is the antecedent to all other exercises of the Architecture Undergraduate Program in India. As part of Semester 1 Design Studio, various studies were made on a Natural Object, which includes: Analyses, Abstraction and Design. These activities are meant to open the minds of the students and further enhance the learning process. The analyses covers the main components that make up Design: the Principles and Elements of Design. The Abstraction is limited to the way this Object can be disintegrated and re-imagined as Abstract Art or Abstract Design. The Design of it includes the final creativity factor put to work, arriving from the Abstraction to a usable product. An illustrated example has also been documented in the words of a student for visual understanding. The interplay between architectural studies and student psychology is significant and creativity is a critical skill that can be taught, nurtured and increased.
Nature is the biggest teacher and inspirer for humen since it involves the evolution over 3.5 billion years. Nature motivates scientists to capture the diverse models to be transformed into structures. This process is not easy and needs the efforts of experts in different fields. Biomimetics and additive manufacturing have contributed to the development of new design methods for parts and products that are distinct from one another. The combination of the two has resulted in a slew of previously unknown component designs. Individual 3D printed biomimetic parts have had a remarkable marketing effect, but there is yet to be a widespread industrial application. In regard to metal parts, laser additive manufacturing is the most common process among the various additive manufacturing methods. As a result, several case studies of laser additive manufacturing produced biomimetic designs are discussed. Functionally Gradient Materials (FGMs) and Functionally Gradient Structures (FGSs) are considered progressive compounds that have unique characteristics. Taken together, biologically inspired designs will have more future impact on the world of industry by making new designs that cope with future challenges.
The purpose is to study and discuss the design of green intelligent buildings based on biophysical design concepts under the background of the Internet of Things (IoT). Firstly, the biomimetic concept is applied to the design and exploration of children's medical building space, and the biophilia color design method is proposed for children's medical building space and green building lighting system based on the IoT. Meanwhile, the influencing factors of biophilia skin color are studied on children's psychological stress relief. The children's medical building designed with Deep Belief Network in the Deep Learning field can effectively detect human motion in various areas, and the lighting system can be automatically activated by passers-by. Then, Questionnaire Survey method is used to understand the practicability and preference of users and verify the effect of biophilia color design. Consequently, an intelligent dimming lighting system is designed by ZigBee technology. The experiment results indicate that the illuminance error is small for the proposed medical green intelligent building lighting system based on the IoT. Therefore, the implantation of biophilia color in children's s medical building space can promote children’s physical and mental health recovery and have a positive impact on people's s emotions, thereby achieving the role of environmental therapy. Moreover, the proposed medical green intelligent building lighting system based on the IoT can detect the position illuminance of children's s medical buildings and realize intelligent dimming.
Full-text available
The climate emergency and crisis of biodiversity loss show that the human-nature relationship is failing. This paper introduces the psychological construct of nature connectedness as a measurable target for improving the human-nature relationship, and therefore helping tackle the warming climate and loss of wildlife. The 'pathways to nature connectedness' (sensory contact, emotion, meaning, beauty and compassion) provide an important and flexible framework to help improve the human-nature relationship. Research evidence and practical examples are given from organisations using the pathways (e.g. National Trust, Wildlife Trusts, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust). This illustrates how the pathways provide a new methodological approach for improving human-nature relationships. A systems perspective is taken to consider wider application of the pathways framework. The societal relevance of the pathways approach is proposed, and the application of nature connected-ness is considered across a range of leverage points relevant across multiple societal scales (from individuals to societies). Recommendations are given for specific pathways informed interventions to improve the human-nature relationship. These interventions focus on cultural programmes and urban design to increase sensory, meaningful and emotional engagement with nature. The interventions based on the pathways framework engage with leverage points around system goals, design, feedback and parameters across policy areas such as education, health, housing, arts, health and transport. Showing to read This shows that the pathways to nature connectedness have a large scale of societal relevance and the potential to provide solutions across a range of leverage points to foster closer human-nature relationships across society. ARTICLE HISTORY
Full-text available
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are actions inspired by, supported by or copied from nature, which deploy various natural features and processes, are resource efficient and adapted to systems into diverse spatial areas, facing social, environmental and economic challenges. The main goals of NBS are the enhancement of sustainable urbanization, the restoration of degraded ecosystems, the development of climate change adaptation and mitigation and the improvement of risk management and resilience. Moreover, NBS address global challenges, directly connected to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). NBS provide multiple benefits and have been identified as critical for the regeneration and improvement of well-being in urban areas, coastal resilience, multi-functional watershed management and ecosystem restoration. They also increase the sustainability of matter and energy use, enhance the insurance value of ecosystems and increase carbon sequestration. This Handbook has been developed in the framework of ThinkNature project. Its main objective is to gather and promote state-of-the-art knowledge regarding Nature-based Solutions (NBS), comprising a comprehensive guide to all relevant actors. To this end, each aspect of NBS is investigated, from project development to financing and policy making, and is presented in a concise and comprehensive way, in order to be easily understandable. Regarding the EU agenda about NBS, this Handbook contributes to: ● expanding the knowledge base about the NBS’ effectiveness, ● supporting the NBS’ implementation through enhancing their replicability and upscaling, ● utilizing the knowledge and experience of stakeholders, and ● proposing a comprehensive methodological approach towards innovation.
Full-text available
Background: Evidence is emerging that poor mental health is associated with the environmental exposures of surrounding green, air pollution and traffic noise. Most studies have evaluated only associations of single exposures with poor mental health. Objectives: To evaluate associations of combined exposure to surrounding green, air pollution and traffic noise with poor mental health. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we linked data from a Dutch national health survey among 387,195 adults including questions about psychological distress, based on the Kessler 10 scale, to an external database on registered prescriptions of anxiolytics, hypnotics & sedatives and antidepressants. We added data on residential surrounding green in a 300 m and a 1000 m buffer based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and a land-use database (TOP10NL), modeled annual average air pollutant concentrations (including particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)) and modeled road- and rail-traffic noise (Lden and Lnight) to the survey. We used logistic regression to analyze associations of surrounding green, air pollution and traffic noise exposure with poor mental health. Results: In single exposure models, surrounding green was inversely associated with poor mental health. Air pollution was positively associated with poor mental health. Road-traffic noise was only positively associated with prescription of anxiolytics, while rail-traffic noise was only positively associated with psychological distress. For prescription of anxiolytics, we found an odds ratio [OR] of 0.88 (95% CI: 0.85, 0.92) per interquartile range [IQR] increase in NDVI within 300 m, an OR of 1.14 (95% CI: 1.10, 1.19) per IQR increase in NO2 and an OR of 1.07 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.11) per IQR increase in road-traffic noise. In multi exposure analyses, associations with surrounding green and air pollution generally remained but attenuated. Joint odds ratios [JOR], based on the Cumulative Risk Index (CRI) method, of combined exposure to air pollution, traffic noise and decreased surrounding green were higher than the ORs of single exposure models. Associations of environmental exposures with poor mental health differed somewhat by age. Conclusions: Studies including only one of these three correlated exposures may overestimate the influence of poor mental health attributed to the studied exposure, while underestimating the influence of combined environmental exposures.
Full-text available
A growing body of empirical evidence is revealing the value of nature experience for mental health. With rapid urbanization and declines in human contact with nature globally, crucial decisions must be made about how to preserve and enhance opportunities for nature experience. Here, we first provide points of consensus across the natural, social, and health sciences on the impacts of nature experience on cognitive functioning, emotional well-being, and other dimensions of mental health. We then show how ecosystem service assessments can be expanded to include mental health, and provide a heuristic, conceptual model for doing so.
The COVID-19 crisis has changed the face of many of our cities and questioned how we should manage urban life in the wake of a pandemic. This Commentary points to the need to learn urban governance lessons and to the potential value of urban experimentation in crisis.
Background: (free download: There is an increasing volume of literature investigating the links between urban environments and human health, much of which involves spatial conceptualisations and research designs involving various aspects of geographical information science. Despite intensifying research interest, there has been little systematic investigation of pragmatic methodological concerns, such as how studies are realised in terms of the types of data that are gathered and the analytical techniques that are applied, both of which have the potential to impact results. The aim of this systematic review is, therefore, to understand how spatial scale, datasets, methods, and analytics are currently applied in studies investigating the relationship between green and blue spaces and human health in urban areas. Method: We systematically reviewed 93 articles following PRISMA protocol, extracted information regarding different spatial dimensions, and synthesised them in relation to various health indicators. Results and discussion: We found a preponderance of the use of neighbourhood-scale in these studies, and a majority of the studies utilised land-use and vegetation indices gleaned from moderate resolution satellite imagery. We also observed the frequent adoption of fixed spatial units for measuring exposure to green and blue spaces based on physical proximity, typically ranging between 30 and 5000 m. The conceptual frameworks of the studies (e.g., the focus on physical vs. mental health or the definition of exposure to green space) were found to have an influence on the strength of association between exposure and health outcomes. Additionally, the strength and significance of associations also varied by study design, something which has not been considered systematically. Conclusion: On the basis of our findings, we propose a set of recommendations for standardised protocols and methods for the evaluation of the impact of green-blue spaces on health. Our analysis suggests that future studies should consider conducting analyses at finer spatial scales and employing multiple exposure assessment methods to achieve a comprehensive and comparable evaluation of the association between greenspace and health along multiple pathways.
Biophilic design seeks to connect people with nature in the built environment. Growing research supports such nature‐based inclusion in the built environment, yet little detailed guidance exists for how to integrate it. This study used systematic development, testing, and expansion of the Biophilic Design Matrix (BDM) for the incorporation of biophilia specifically for interior design. McGee and Marshall‐Baker developed the original BDM based on Kellert's proposal of biophilic attributes, and it was initially applied in a healthcare setting. To make it more valid and reliable, this study further developed the BDM through cognitive testing with interior design practitioners in another setting type. This included the participants assessing the BDM and completing pre‐ and postquestionnaires. It also guided the finalized BDM development that now contains six elements and 54 attributes. The findings demonstrate that the interior design practitioners' use of the BDM increased perceived knowledge of biophilic design. The modified version is now called the Biophilic Interior Design Matrix (BID‐M), which is valid for biophilic interior design identification. The BID‐M also offers assistance with biophilic inclusion throughout the design process and, as such, can support the more integral incorporation of nature‐based features in the design of interior environments. The finalized biophilic interior design vocabulary should be useful to help designers include thoughtful biophilic variety for unique application, thus assisting with a “do‐it‐yourself” approach.