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restaurant inside forestis featuring many booths, a glass panel wall and outdoor tables

Sustainable Design Trend: Biophilic Hotel Designs

Biophilia comes from the human desire to connect with the natural world around us. The term originates from a combination of the ancient Greek words ‘bio’ (life), and ‘philia’ (love), making its literal definition ‘love for life’. Edward Wilson popularised the term in 1984, defining it as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” As such, biophilic interior designs foster a connection to the living world by incorporating natural elements. These include wooden materials and furnishings, living walls, plants, natural lighting, and indoor water bodies. Biophilic designs are a more sustainable interior design style thanks to their use of natural and recycled elements.

In more recent years, accelerated by the pandemic and lockdowns, the biophilic design trend has been steadily growing as the number of travellers seeking to connect with the natural world rises. According to the World Bank, 4.4 billion people (approximately 56% of the world population) now reside in cities. This number is only set to rise, as by 2050, an estimated 7 in 10 people will live in urban spaces. Studies have shown that city dwellers have an increased desire to reconnect with nature due to the detachment from natural surroundings replaced by artificial environments. They can fulfil this through travel.

Being in nature provides various health benefits including stress reduction and higher attention spans. Hotels can replicate this through biophilic design. This can lead to improved air quality, increased wellbeing, and longer dwell times in lobbies (by up to 36%!). Biophilic hotel design also fosters more unique and memorable guest experiences.

How is biophilic design emerging in hotel interior designs?

As biophilic design begins to feature more prominently in hotel interiors, there are a variety of essential elements designers are choosing to incorporate into these spaces. Read on to learn how hotels are implementing biophilic design.

Natural lighting

A key element of biophilic design is prioritising natural lighting over artificial lighting. Hotels are incorporating floor-to-ceiling windows and open-plan designs that invite the light in, allowing guests to enjoy the outside views. In addition to connecting guests to the outdoor environment, natural lighting mimics our circadian rhythm. This helps guests keep on track with their natural 24-hour cycle. This promotes a healthy sleep cycle. It is also a more sustainable option, as these spaces will require less electricity for artificial lighting.

Shinta Mani Wild is a unique destination combining a radical fusion of world-class design, all-inclusive hospitality and conservation in Cambodia. Located deep in the rainforest, the hotel consists of 15 unique waterside tents, nestled in treetops and perched above boulders and rolling rapids. These tents include both guest suites and public areas such as the spa and restaurants. There is one tent for every 66 acres of forest, making guests well and truly immersed in their surroundings. This is furthered by the tent’s open-plan designs, which let in plenty of natural lighting and views.

Natural materials

Another prominent feature of biophilic design is the increased use of natural, organic materials. Sometimes, these are locally sourced and may be recycled, making them more sustainable. This overall reduces the environmental impact of a hotel’s interior design. Organic materials featured in biophilic designs include reinforced wood, wool, cotton, ceramics, clay, and mycelium, a novel material produced from mushrooms.

A once-forgotten building uncovered in the European Alps, South Tyrolean architect Armin Sader and the FORESTIS interior team have developed FORESTIS into an idyllic haven. Together, they have reinterpreted FORESTIS’ traditional architecture and created a natural atmosphere throughout the hideaway using regional materials. Much of the building’s interior elements, including wooden coffered ceilings, have remained unaltered. The walls and ceilings in FORESTIS’ penthouse suites are made of untreated spruce wood. The fabrics used for cushions, couches, armchairs, chairs, and carpets come from a weaving mill in Trentino. These natural materials give the suites and penthouses a character that reflects the tranquillity and durability of nature.

Biomorphic patterns

The term biomorphic is derived from the Greek words bioic (life, living) and morfí (form). It refers to the design of nature-inspired shapes and forms. In interior design, this can refer to patterns or textures that bear resemblance to those found in the living world. Spaces that use biomorphic forms and patterns are more visually captivating and comfortable to guests, reducing stress levels and sparking inspiration through intrigue. Biomorphic patterns can be introduced in the form of rugs, wallpaper, fabrics, and more.

Biomorphic patterns feature heavily within the design of Treehouse Hotel London. Emanating the feel of staying among the treetops, the interiors of this biophilic hotel take heavy inspiration from nature. Each guest room recreates this experience through wood-patterned walls, ceilings and flooring. Furnishings also heavily feature leafy patterns and colours. Throughout the public areas of the hotel, wood and leaf patterns are found in abundance through wallcoverings, flooring and furniture.

Plants and vegetation

Biophilic design is all about bringing the outside in. One way in which designers can achieve this is by incorporating plants and vegetation into hotel interiors. Plants often feature heavily in biophilic designs and can become a central piece within a space as a living wall. Living walls boast a variety of benefits, including encouraged biodiversity and improved air quality thanks to air-purifying plants, in addition to various social and health benefits. Some hotels are also growing produce on-site for use in food preparation. This provides fresher ingredients while reducing environmental impacts associated with food transportation.

Pan Pacific Orchard in Singapore is an inner-city green escape that weaves plants throughout its architecture to connect and co-exist with nature from within an urban sprawl. It is re-generative, liveable, and responsible for the common good of its occupants, the city, and the environment. Its unique architecture weaves in plants, facilitating four open-air terraces and bountiful vertical gardens, each with an individual theme inspired by a different terrain. These consist of a forest terrace, a beach terrace, a garden terrace, and a cloud terrace. Plants take the front seat in this hotel’s innovative design.

Natural colours

A key interior design element, colour palettes can invoke a sense of connectivity to nature. They can also be a subtle way to reflect the destination’s personality. Shades of blue and grey make nods to the sky. Warm and welcoming earthy tones include terracotta, tan, and taupe. Shades of green, sage and brown are deeply connected to plants and will pair well with indoor foliage. Contrasting these is lavender, a cheerful colour that brightens designs and evokes positive emotions from guests. Nature-inspired colour palettes tend to be more neutral in tone, and, while connecting guests to the living world and drawing inspiration from the outdoors, play a large part in establishing a guest’s emotional connection with a space, creating a sense of peace and calm.

When creating colour palettes for a space, designers must also consider the function of the interior and its desired tone. In his article ‘Designing with Colour in Hospitality’, Oliver Heath lists the many natural inspirations designers could utilise to create bespoke palettes throughout a hotel. For example, Heath suggests that designers could create a welcoming lobby using yellow and white sunshine colours that emanate warmth. For areas guests retreat to for decompression and unwinding such as a bar or lounge, he suggests creating a more soothing and sophisticated atmosphere using deeper, richer shades such as purples and blues. Drawing memories of summer dusk and warm evenings, these create a relaxing mood for guests.

Want more of this?

Eager to learn more about sustainable design and spark climate change? Sustainable Design Summit provides a year-round global platform dedicated to making sustainable choices easier for interior designers working in the hospitality travel interiors sectors. Find out about the next event here.

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