Learn to Create People-Friendly Landscapes

Learn to evaluate a how a landscape impacts upon the physical and mental well-being of people who exist in that landscape; and determine how the landscape can be made more biophilic or people-friendly.

  • Discover and learn about the relationship between outdoor environments and human well-being.
  • Learn about considerations of design concepts and the components of the landscape.
  • Understand how to integrate biophilic practices into existing landscapes.

People's health can be affected by many different factors. Providing natural and environmentally sympathetic surroundings is one route to promoting the well-being of individuals.

Biophilic design incorporates our need to be with nature by using natural elements and systems in the design of the built environment. The underlying principle is that the inclusion of nature in both man made landscapes and buildings has a significant impact on our health and well being. Biophilic design is more than simply using plants everywhere because it engages natural systems and processes.

In order to create good biophilic designs in the landscape, it is helpful to appreciate how people are affected by different environments since many of the findings can be transferred to the built landscape.

Learn how to apply biophilic design concepts to the following:

  • Gardens
  • Parks
  • Industrial Landscapes
  • Commercial Landscapes
  • City and Urban Streets
  • Any other outdoor environments

This is an important course for not only landscapers, but also professionals with a concern for health or the environment, from architects and planners to health service providers, engineers and builders.

This course compliments anyone working with:

  • Landscape design or construction
  • Horticultural therapy
  • Green walls and roofs
  • Parks management
  • Street tree management
  • Environmental management
  • Health, Construction, and a whole lot more


Course Duration: 100 hours

Start Date: Start at any time - study at a pace that suits you, and with full tutor support for the duration of your studies.

Lessons: The course comprises 10 lessons as detailed below.

Lesson 1. Relationship between Outdoor Environments and Human Well-being

  • What is Biophilia?
  • Understanding Biophobia
  • Health Problems of Biophilic Design - Urban Heat Island Effect, Psychological and Physiological Street, Breakdown of Ecosystems, Environmental
  • Degradation.
  • Health Benefits of Biophilic Design - Theories of Stress Recovery, The Value of Green Space.
  • Terminology Explained.

Lesson 2. Design Considerations

  • Introduction - Evolution of Design Considerations.
  • Learning from Past Mistakes - Not Designing for Use, Failure to Involve the Local Community, Isolation from Nature, Poor Accessibility.
  • Good Biolphilic Design - Connection with Nature, Sense of Place, Long-Term Sustainability, Sensory Stimulation, Benefical User Experience.
  • Practical Considerations - Multidisciplinary Approach, Town Planning, Consideration of Outcomes.
  • Looking at the Future - Further Research, Amendments to National Standards.

Lesson 3. Patterns and Principles in Urban Design

  •  Introduction.
  • Design Principles.
  • Design Patterns.
  • Case Study - A Blueprint for Biophilic Design.

Lesson 4. Components of the Landscape

  • Introduction - Biophilic Components.
  • Hard Landscape Components - Surfaces, Stone and Brick, Timber, Metal.
  • Soft Landscape Components - Turf, Plants.
  • The Relationship Between Health and Design Components - Direct Experience of Nature, Indirect Experience of Nature, Experience of Space and Place.
  • Some Natural Components in More Detail - Trees, Vegetation, Animals, Water.

Lesson 5. Providing Services to People

  • Introduction.
  • Five Principles of Healthy Places.
  • Water Harvesting, Retention, and Re-use - Stormwater, Rainwater, Urban Runoff, Integrated Urban Water Management.

Lesson 6. Affecting the Individual

  • Introduction.
  • Biophilia in Different Environments - Environmental Stress, General Adaptation Syndrome, Physiological Effects of Stress, Biophilia in the Workplace.
  • Conclusions for Biophilic Design.

Lesson 7. Affecting Environmental and Climate Conditions

  • Introduction.
  • Water Contaminants - Public Health (Water Chemical Problems, Microbiological Problems), Water Quality for Aquaria and Ponds, Legionnaires Disease in Soil and Potting Media.
  • Using Plants to Extract Contamination - Growing Plants in Contaminated Soil.
    Biological Filters for Water Pollution and Waste Water.
  • Air Quality.
  • Roof and Wall Gardens to Improve Air Quality and Aesthetics.
  • Plant Selection - Climatic, Structural, Aesthetic.
  • Construction of Vertical and Roof Gardens.
  • Plants Suited to Roof and Vertical Gardens.

Lesson 8. Assessing and Analyzing Existing Landscapes

  • Introduction.
  • Assessing the Landscape.
  • Measuring Pollutants.
  • Creating Buffer Zones for Pollution.
  • Designing a New Home Garden using Biophilic Design Principles.

Lesson 9. Integrating Biophilic Design into Existing Landscape

  • Introduction.
  • Retrofitting Greenwalls and Roofs.
  • Redevelopment of Public Institutions.
  • Water Chemistry of Runoff.
  • Reducing the Use of Pest Control Chemicals in the Garden.

Lesson 10. Working in/ Improving Urban Development

  • Introduction.
  • Challenges for Design - inc. Permaculture, Hydroponics, etc.
  • Working in Urban Development.
  • Case Studies.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Discuss the relationship between physiological and psychological health and outdoor environments.
  • Determine the important biophilic factors which should be considered when designing or renovating an outdoor space.
  • Explain different principles and patterns which have been identified as underpinning biophilic landscape design.
  • Describe how different elements of an urban landscape can contribute in a positive way to human well-being.
  • Describe how a range of landscaping techniques and methodologies can be utilised to benefit human well-being by encouraging use of public spaces.
  • Evaluate the relationship between the health of individuals and different environments, and how biophilic design can be of benefit to well-being.
  • Evaluate landscapes and determine actions that can be taken to improve the environmental conditions of people in those places.
  • Understand how to assess and analyse existing landscapes.
  • Redesign a landscape to meet biophilic requirements for a renovation of an existing landscape
  • Create a design to show how an urban (town or city) location may be improved to meet biophilic criteria.

Research tells us is that environmental stimuli are only potential stressors. They don't actually cause anyone to experience stress, until that person perceives them to be stressful.  So, when planning a biophilic landscape, you should consider that it is not necessary to remove all potential stressors but to allow for means of coping with them. If you are designing a roof top garden in the middle of a city, you can't get rid of all the noise from traffic below but you may be able to dampen the noise with screening of dense shrubs or mask the noise with a pleasant alternative like trickling water from a fountain.  

Another environmental factor is accidents. Accidents are often included in what are termed 'contingency stressors' because although they take place in the environment they are not normal aspects of it. Trauma caused by accidents can contribute to an individual's stress response. Whilst it is not possible to predict accidents, it is possible to think about ways to alter the outdoor environment to minimise risk.  

What Can't Biophilic Design Do?

The environment does affect health and well-being. Of course, there are other contributors to health and well-being which adjustments to the environment are not going to change. For instance, social factors can also elevate stress and illness. Chief amongst these are location, socioeconomic status, availability of local health services, education, and so forth. Also, a person's health is influenced by their life choices.  This includes what people ingest - medication, illicit drugs, caffeine, alcohol, and diet. It also includes their exercise levels, amount of sleep, age and gender. The individual's coping mechanisms and social support networks are also implicated. For example, someone who drinks alcohol, takes drugs, smokes cigarettes, or overeats to combat frustration or stress is making a poor life choice. 

A beneficial environment is therefore just one aspect of how our health can be influenced. In most cases, health problems are likely to be caused by the cumulative effects of different contributors. But, an environment which promotes positive feelings and helps us to reconnect with nature can go some way to reducing the impact of other negative influences on our well-being.

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