Learning Lab

Implementing Biophilia into Urban Design – Outcomes from Achieving the Right Microclimate

Implementing Biophilia into Urban Design – Outcomes from Achieving the Right Microclimate

Host Info

Contact a Specialist

Duncan Phillips
Senior Consultant | Principal
+1.519.823.1311 x2409
Go to Duncan Phillips's page


March 06, 2019
1:00 PM, Riyadh Time (GMT+3)
60 min


For generations, cities have been designed in ways that alienate inhabitants from nature. While the occasional park offers some respite, the influence of these spaces is only perceived locally.  With the densification of cities, building vertically is an obvious and sustainable choice – yet this will continue the trend of reducing views of sky, trees, water and green spaces. A growing trend is for architects and engineers to create new ecosystems within urban high-rise environments, incorporating the concepts of biophilia – the inherent human instinct to connect to nature and the natural world. Biophilic design, by extension, weaves natural materials, natural light, vegetation, nature views and other experiences of the natural world into the built environment.

Integrating biophilic principals into urban design planning comes with a new set of challenges.  Understanding the local climate, and then capitalizing on the opportunities, is key to a successful implementation.  High winds and snow loads can damage trees; sun reflecting off buildings and water surfaces can cause glare; air quality can be both enhanced and degraded by landscaping and noise mitigation; and evaporation off shallow water bodies can increase local relative humidity.

This presentation will discuss opportunities in climate responsive masterplanning and the incorporation of biophilic design practices.  With a quick summary of the benefits of biophilia and how urban designs can be scored for performance, the presentation will use case studies to show different urban design configurations, discuss the biophilic outcomes and show how resiliency, low energy strategies and other sustainable principals are weaved throughout the design. 

Learning Objectives: 

  • Describe the difference between a visual and non-visual design connection with nature.
  • Identify health benefits that biophilic design principals offer.
  • List urban design outcomes that can be influences with biophilic design practices.
  • To understand the different options by which one describes and quantifies wind and thermal comfort – the different indices, the variables within them, the benefits and drawbacks of each – focusing on the thermal aspects of outdoor comfort.

Affiliated Associations

  • AIA