Biophilic Design Blog Series Part 3: 14 Core Principles of Biophilic Design

Biophilic design is a massive study area that is challenging to understand. Designers have broken it into 14 core biophilic design principles that we will outline in this article.

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky

Timber Haus Developments design team uses these principles in every home. Here are the three main categories of biophilic design.

Nature in the Space

We bring natural elements into our urban domain by working on these seven biophilic patterns in home design. It allows us to use all our senses to create a nature-inspired living space.

The sensory connections with these natural elements, mainly through diversity, movement, and multisensory interactions, are defined as:

1) Visual connection with nature creates a view of an element of nature, living system or natural process. There are thousands of examples of visual connections to nature. Timber Haus incorporates this principle through some of these examples;

  • Indoor plant areas
  • Views of water
  • Landscape paintings
  • Garden views
  • Living walls
  • Park views
prospect and refuge

2) Non-visual connection with nature emphasizes the remaining senses: touch, taste, smell, and sound. With a focus on incorporating simultaneous and overlapping elements, the biophilic design creates an experience with depth and a collaborative dimension.

Sounds may be singing birds, the flow of water, or a fireplace. Scent elements may include fragrant plants, essential oil diffusers, or scents from the surrounding outdoors.

Timber Haus stimulates non-visual connections with nature through mechanized scent release, fireplaces, proximity to running water, fountains, and natural birdsong in established infill areas.

natural elements

3) Non-rhythmic sensory stimuli refer to how nature is not predictable. It is never static; always moving, growing, and adapting. In design, this means our space cannot be monotonous. It needs to have variation and change. Think of fire, bird flight, wind rippling across a prairie, and any elements that have unpredictable natural change.

The most prominent way Timber Haus uses non-rhythmic sensory stimuli is through built-in fireplaces and fire pits.

flickering fireplace

4) Thermal airflow and variability are subtle changes in air and surface temperature, humidity and airflow across the skin that mimic natural environments. Timber Haus designers incorporate this using ventilation and airflow controlled by HVAC, window treatments, balconies, patios, and windows.

organic patterns

5) Presence of water is a condition that enhances the experience of a place through seeing, hearing, or touching the water. The sight, sound and humidity of flowing water have many health benefits that home designers try to capture. Timber Haus designers utilize the presence of water, including fountains, living walls, or outdoor features, to incorporate the presence of water in our homes.

flowing water

6) Dynamic and Diffused Light describes how the sun can shape our moods and creativity during different times of day and lighting. From blueish to red, the sun’s light gives us energy, peace, and harmony. Timber Haus uses dynamic and diffused lighting through skylights, strategically placed windows, or window treatments that create shadows.


natural lighting

7) Connection with natural systems is an awareness of natural processes, mainly seasonal and temporal changes characteristic of healthy ecosystems. People are aware by nature of the change in seasons and temperature. By connecting with the natural seasonal cycles, homebuilders can bring harmony to homeowners.

Timber Haus home designs connect organically with natural systems by building in mature neighbourhoods with fantastic natural surroundings.  We also include aged wood in our builds with a noticeable patina.

Natural Analogues

Natural Analogue Patterns focus on the organic, non-living and implied elements of nature in a space. These natural representations, the textures, ageing processes, natural geometries, materials, colours, shapes, sequences and patterns in the natural world provide an indirect sense of the great outdoors.

Timber Haus utilizes the gentle, ordered, or complex art of nature in our designs. Natural analogues can trigger our biophilic human link to nature to inspire a rich or perhaps subtle sense of well-being.

8) Biomorphic forms and patterns represent natural forms, often abstractly, relying on contour, patterns, and textures to connect with nature. These forms can appear in architectural or structural form or smaller, more decorative applications. Often Timber Haus uses this design element in feature walls, fireplaces, kitchen design, and exterior design.

natural patterns

9) Material connection to nature uses building materials, grains, textures, and elements in design that distinctly reflect the natural environment to create an overarching sense of the natural world. These material connections to nature feature prominently in Timber Haus’s homes.  Feature walls, flooring, fixtures, and exterior design are just a few places where you will find material connections to nature.

presence of plants

10) Complexity and order are some of the more abstract principles of biophilic design. It creates a visually nourishing environment based on symmetries, fractal geometries and spatial hierarchies that occur in nature. Examples in nature include tree branches or river tributaries. Timber Haus incorporates this principle into home design through textile patterns, interior finishes, window details and façade ornamentation.

organic materials

Nature of the Space Design Patterns

11) Prospect is the idea that centers on unobstructed views with varieties of in-depth and focal lengths, such as those found in atriums, balconies, and staircase landings. By creating a space that feels open, airy, yet controlled and purposeful, we feel a sense of calm at our cores.

There is opportunity and potential in the vast area before us, yet because it is planned and intentional, often ending in a visible area of refuge, it provides safety.

Timber Haus incorporates the theory of prospect into our home design by incorporating unobstructed views.

natural illumination

12) Refuge gives people a sense of protection from environmental conditions and activity. Ideally, a refuge area should protect us on three sides and leave the fourth open to view the surroundings. It is vital to have some refuge areas. Creating a sense of safety and calm allows us to disconnect from the outdoor environment, including weather conditions and the hectic pace of modern life.

Timber Haus creates refuge areas through reading nooks, window seats, bedrooms with large windows, and bathrooms that feel like a home spa.

core biophilic principles

13) Mystery refers to partially obscured views that stimulate our innate curiosity about what is covered, inviting us to move and explore the space further. The promise of more information achieved through partially obscured views or other sensory devices entices the individual to travel deeper into the environment.

Timber Haus incorporates mystery through innovative design elements and house structure.

ergonomic kitchen design

14) Risk/Peril is the balance of the sense of risk and the feeling of protection. Some spaces evoke the feeling of intrigue and greater stimulation when they provoke some difficult feelings—the perception of falling, getting wet, hurt or losing control intrigue people. A great example of risk/peril is an infinity pool.

Timber Haus incorporates risk/peril through glass floors, floating staircases, or full-height windows. All these features are entirely safe but can give the illusion of peril.

custom designer staircase

The Health Benefits of the 14 Biophilic Patterns

Nature in the Space
biophilic Analogues
Nature of the Space

Biophilic design patterns can make your home more enjoyable and give you enormous health benefits. Contact the team at Timber Haus for expert biophilic design today.