Most people think biophilic design relates specifically to interior design but, in fact, the term has a much more holistic meaning: the human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of nature. With that in mind, at Pegasus, we talk about biophilic design in its broadest sense of bringing the landscape (and its inhabitants) into a scheme.

Whether we’re drawing up the finer architectural details of a client’s proposed new later living scheme or inputting into a masterplan for a strategic urban extension, we actively look for ways that end users can better interact with nature.

So, to mark World Architecture Day, our architects and urban designers are sharing their insights into how to think the biophilic way and incorporate biophilic design into schemes large and small.

One: Design to Accommodate all Creatures Great & Small

At the most local level of intervention, bee bricks, bat boxes and bug hotels are becoming more commonplace and are often required through planning condition on new housing developments.

These interventions may individually be small but collectively can have a significant impact on encouraging populations of these native but at-risk species.

We like getting creative with where these little additions are placed on a scheme and, happily, work with many likeminded clients who want to embrace the opportunity. We are now going one step further designing details within schemes making them fully integrated parts of the design with eave details that allow for nesting birds and canopied areas for on the ground smaller animals.

Two: Embrace Nature Holistically

A new way of living is quietly growing in popularity and we have recently had the opportunity to explore this pioneering way of living for a client.

During the pandemic a lot of households started to develop garden offices at home to work within. These pods have become so popular with people enjoying a stronger connection to nature that ideas of new ways of living are starting to be explored.

Live-work pods are becoming a genuine option for people who choose to step away from, or can’t afford, the traditional way of living. These pods offer an off-grid way of life, with access to communal amenities, and are intended to offer a significantly more affordable lifestyle.

At the forefront of thinking the biophilic way, this exciting concept also seeks to educate its occupants within the design.

Three: Bringing Nature In

Scaling things up a little further, biophilic design is perhaps most commonly associated with the architectural design interventions that have the impact of bringing nature indoors and increasing interaction between people and nature.

Various architectural techniques can help to increase these interactions; from opening up easy access between indoor and outdoor spaces and looking at the building and its surroundings spaces holistically, to considering the materials used in a building and incorporating the elements such as water features. Bringing natural daylight into a space helps boost a building’s environmental credentials as well as boosting an occupant’s mental state.

We have worked with a mental health service provider to design a facility that prioritises health and wellbeing above all other considerations. Using green roofs, internal watercourses, and vast amounts of natural light has helped to provide a place of calm relaxation that can’t really be quantified.

Four: Take In Every Opportunity Across a Site

Stepping further back again in scale, we work on schemes which commit to taking a holistic biophilic approach across a site, beyond the finer architectural details of a building.

Whether it’s for an industrial scheme, a residential development or even a motorway service station, there is a huge array of landscape features that can be implemented on a site to encourage interaction with nature.

Green roofs, wildflower meadows and sustainable drainage channels all significantly enhance a site’s biodiversity credentials, while working with carefully chosen building materials to achieve a aligned consolidated scheme that makes the most of every opportunity to increase interactions with nature.

Five: Biophilic at the Big Picture

Finally, there are the masterplans for strategic housing sites and urban extensions. When working on projects of this scale, we take care to pull the lens back and look beyond a site’s boundaries.

Landscape-led masterplanning looks at existing public footpaths and rights of ways, pedestrian desire lines and people movement to existing services and facilities. Together with our environmental colleagues we identify the assets that nature has given us, such as where natural watercourses lie and what existing landscape features should be retained, so we can work with what we’ve got to the maximise the benefits for the wider population, not just those who will be living in the new development.

Our Future Places design guide focuses on not only how to minimise design elements that increase the carbon footprint of masterplans but also maximising design elements that decrease a masterplan’s carbon footprint.

Masterplans are a valuable tool for demonstrating both how local authority requirements are met and how quality open spaces are provided to benefit the wider population. We work hard to achieve measurable improvements in biodiversity (biodiversity net gain) and advise our clients on how to optimise the variety of habitat provision across our masterplans.

Interacting with Nature at Every Scale

When it comes to nature, our approach is to promote greater affinity with nature at every scale, whether that’s through opening up ‘borrowed views’ to the landscape and wildlife in the vicinity or including natural materials at key touch points across a site.

Nature contributes significantly to the quality of a place and to people’s quality of life, and it is a critical component of well-designed places. So, no matter how tightly drawn your site extent is there is huge scope for incorporating important biophilic design that will help to both boost the biodiversity credentials of a site, and boost health and wellbeing of its users.