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Image Credit: The Pool Place

As our cities continue to grow upwards and outwards, it’s more important than ever to
remember our roots. Here, Jacinta Walsh explores how biophilic design is breathing
life back into modern infrastructure, and how your outdoor area can embrace its
principles for a result that benefits both your inner and outer world.

Image Credit: The Pool Place

From the city to the suburbs, the spread of high-density living is increasing at an alarming rate, and with predictions estimating Australia’s population to double over the next 40 years, there’s no sign of it slowing down. As old houses are torn down to accommodate modern townhouses and apartment blocks, more homeowners are forced to sacrifice their backyards for much needed square footage.

When moving from the burbs to an inner-city dwelling earlier this year, it quickly became apparent to me just how hard it is to come by a property that possesses any form of an outdoor area, let alone a backyard. From balconies to patios, the back lawn is becoming somewhat of a luxury, and if we continue in this fashion, our cities could soon be void of nature completely. While some see this as an inevitability that comes at the cost of progress, others pose that this is not the case, but rather a failure on our part to preserve the environment in which we live.

Leading architects are now turning to biophilic design as a means to a new beginning. By implementing biophilic principles into the way we design our built environment, we have the opportunity to adjust our trajectory and effect beneficial change for future generations.


A deviation from green architecture, biophilic design encourages us to actively reconnect with nature, rather than simply trying to reduce our impact upon it. The practice uses innovative design principles to enhance the places in which we live, work and learn to promote a better engagement with the natural environment.

As humans we have an innate desire to connect to the world around us. As we continue to design our suburbs and cities in ways that both

damage the environment and seclude us from it, it’s no wonder why populations the world over are growing dissatisfied with modern infrastructure. Studies have shown that extended amounts of time spent in windowless, dark offices and apartment buildings can result in a form of sensory deprivation, which can lead to psychological and physiological harm.

Biophilic design encourages
us to actively reconnect
with nature, rather than
simply trying to reduce our
impact upon it.

Exposure to the natural world is an essential part of our wellbeing. So, if you’re feeling disconnected, here are several ways to introduce biophilic design you’re your outdoor space.


If you’re low on outdoor space, a great way to implement biophilic design into your home is to install a green wall. Also known as a vertical garden, green walls are perfect for tight spaces such as balconies or outdoor patios. Their ability to purify the air and regulate humidity make them a great addition to any built environment.

To create your own green wall, begin by either constructing or sourcing a frame in your desired shape and size. Using a staple gun, attach a plastic sheet to the frame to prevent leaks, as well as a piece of fabric with good water-retention properties, such as felt. The next step involves installing an irrigation system. Now, this might be as simple as poking a few holes into an old hose, but for something more professional, you can purchase a timed system. Regardless of your budget, there are plenty of ways to keep your plants in good health.

After filling your frame with soil, you’ll need something to keep your plants in place before gravity gets the better of them. This might be some chicken wire, plastic bottles or, if your plants are small enough, the fabric itself. Alternatively, long planter boxes and stackable planters can be hidden by foliage to achieve a lush look that’s easy to maintain and install.

For a green wall full of foliage, cascading plants, such as various types of ferns, ivy, dichondra and wattle will do a great job of filling out the space. For flowering options, try a selection of petunias, sweet alyssum, begonias and geraniums.

If you’re after something that’s even easier to maintain, opt for a succulent garden. Succulents are a great choice because they are resilient,

and come in a variety of colours and textures. They also mature slowly, which means that they won’t outgrow the precious space you have. Prior to hanging your succulent wall, leave it out in the sun for four to ten weeks to take root, before hanging it in a well-lit area. To keep your succulents happy, water them once a week.

Regardless of what style you choose to go with, your green wall will act as a living piece of art. Don’t be afraid to get creative by using things like old guttering, wooden pallets or trellises to create a rustic look.


Ever found yourself feeling comforted as you watch the rain? Well, there’s a reason behind it. Flowing water creates negative ionisation, which has shown to improve mood and boost productivity. Incorporating moving water into your outdoor space is an easy way to include an essential element of biophilic design. The meditative sound and peaceful movement of running water is often enough to put your mind at ease. If your backyard isn’t big enough for a pool, a water feature can be the next best thing.

Image Credit: The Pool Place

Including a water feature in your outdoor space is particularly beneficial if you work from home, as it provides constant stimulation and a connection to the outside world – a relief that we often crave in a secluded workplace. If your outdoor space is the place where you retreat to at the end of a long day, you can reap the sensory benefits of a trickling stream as you chill out in your own little zen zone.

It’s important to preserve as many green spaces as we can to promote a symbiotic relationship between our built and natural environments. With simple applications of biophilic design, we can all work towards a greener future that’s beneficial for everyone, and everything!