How a biophilic design strategy equips a house for general wellbeing

As the world population continues to urbanize, humans seek to improve on our well-being and expedite healing.

Interior design begins with human experience. Given how quickly an experience of nature can elicit a restorative response, design that reconnects us with nature – biophilic design – is a conscious effort to link the built environment to the natural world, through various sensory experiences including sight, sound, touch, and smell. Today it has become essential for providing people opportunities to live and work in healthy places and spaces with less stress, improve cognitive function and enhances creativity.

Biophilia is the humankind’s innate biological connection with nature. It explains why crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows and heights instill fascination and fear; and why strolling through a park have restorative, healing effects. Often, sustainable approaches complement a biophilic design strategy due to the growing wellness movement and a greater desire to live and work in healthier interiors.

Biophillic interventions in a house

A four-bedroom home in midtown Toronto designed by Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, Garden Circle House is a response to the client’s desire for a sustainable home inspired by nature, connected to the outdoors and awash in daylight.

In the 3,200 square feet property, the Dubbeldam team drew upon biophilic design strategies incorporating many key principles for building visual and non-visual connections with the outdoors.

The house is imbued with wellness features, including a palette of natural materials, lush landscaping, and water features that offer both visual and auditory effects to enhance a sense of calmness. It also uses spatial strategies to maximize natural light and to visually connect to the outdoors through ample fenestration and elevated vantage points.

Connecting the house to surrounding nature landscape

Upon entry into the house, a direct view to the backyard lap pool and landscaping is visible through a tall, narrow window on-axis. Looking back toward the front entry, a double-height space dramatically showcases the home’s dynamic spatial qualities, enhanced by the light that pours in from the tall windows and the abstracted shadows cast by the triangular light fixtures overhead. Views are primarily oriented to the rear yard, with access through wall-to-wall sliding doors in the kitchen. A hot tub built into the hard-wearing Cumaru outdoor decking and firepit on the small patio transforms the backyard into a relaxing oasis for three out of four seasons.

Use of natural materials for a multi-sensorial experience and eco-friendly measures to complement

A focal point of the interior is the central staircase crafted of solid mahogany and featuring open risers and a curved balustrade that emulates natural organic forms, inviting the hand to run along its sculptural contours. Light filters through an operable skylight, providing natural illumination and ventilation in the center of the home, while simultaneously offering a view of the sky.

Inspired by the client’s love for Prairie Style architecture, the exterior of the house incorporates horizontal planes and overhangs, and an earthy, natural material palette of brick, wood, and stone. Buff and grey-toned brick convey a sense of solidity while Western red cedar boards and mahogany-framed windows complement the warmth of wood. Green roofs are integrated into each of the overlapping roof planes on the front and back of the house, while their soffits are detailed with Brazilian massaranduba. Integral to the front of the house is the pear tree that was retained on-site; located in front of the large dining-room window, its foliage casts an animated play of shadow and light year-round, while the scent of blossoms in spring and ripe fruit in autumn wafts through the open window.

Complementing the home’s biophilic design strategy is the prioritization of sustainability approaches and systems such as radiant in-floor heating, efficient high-velocity cooling, thermally superior wall assemblies, operable windows and skylights for natural ventilation and daylighting, LED light fixtures, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and durable, hard-wearing and low-VOC materials.

Photography by Scott Norsworthy

Eco-friendly features at a glance

  1. Radiant in-floor heating,
  2. Efficient high-velocity cooling,
  3. Thermally superior wall assemblies,
  4. Operable windows and skylights for natural ventilation and daylighting,
  5. LED light fixtures,
  6. Low-flow plumbing fixtures, and
  7. Durable, hard-wearing and low-VOC materials.

Ways to introduce biophillia in interior design






1. Natural materials 
2. Lush landscaping
3. Water features

Operable skylight above stairwell
Natural illumination and ventilation
The central staircase in solid mahogany is organic in form
Sensory to touch
Brick, wood and stone
Earthy tones offers a visually pleasing environment and sense of solidity in the house
A lap pool and hot tub in the backyard
Offers the presence and calming sound of water
Double height space
Visually connect to the outdoors through ample fenestration and elevated vantage points

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