Presence of Water

THe eXPeRIenCe

A space with a good Presence of Water condition feels compelling and captivating. Fluidity, sound, lighting, proximity and accessibility each contribute to whether a space is stimulating, calming, or both


Presence of Water is a
condition that enhances
the experience of a place
through the seeing, hearing
or touching of water.

The Presence of Water pattern has evolved from research on visual preference for and positive emotional responses to environments containing water elements; reduced stress, increased feelings of tranquility, and lower heart rate and blood pressure from exposure to water features; improved concentration and memory restoration induced by complex, naturally fluctuating visual stimuli; and enhanced perception and psychological and physiological responsiveness when multiple senses are stimulated simultaneously

Research on response to activities conducted in green spaces has shown that the presence of water prompts greater improvements in both self-esteem and mood than activities conducted in green environments without the presence of water (Barton & Pretty, 2010). Auditory access and perceived or potential tactile access to water also reportedly reduces stress


The objective of the Presence of Water pattern is to capitalize on the multi- sensory attributes of water to enhance the experience of a place in a manner that is soothing, prompts contemplation, enhances mood, and provides restoration from cognitive fatigue.
Repeated experiences of water do not significantly diminish our level of interest over time , so one small water feature may be adequate. Taking advantage of the sounds created by small-scale running water, and our capacity to touch it, will amplify the desired health response with a multi- sense experience. vistas to large bodies of water or physical access to natural or designed water bodies can also have the health response so long as they are perceived as ‘clean’ or unpolluted. Images of nature that include aquatic elements are more likely to help reduce blood pressure and heart rate than similar imagery without aquatic elements.

Design considerations for optimizing the impacts of a presence of water :

  • Prioritize a multi-sensory water experience to achieve the most beneficial outcome.
  • Prioritize naturally fluctuating water movement over predictable movement or stagnancy.
  • High volume, high turbulence water features could create discomfort, impact humidity levels or decrease acoustic quality, so proximity may influence appropriateness.
  • Water features can be water and energy intensive and as such should be used sparingly, particularly in climates with little access to water. Shading the water, using high albedo surfaces, and minimizing the exposed water surface area will minimize water loss through evaporation, and possibly contribute to the biophilic experience.
seamless water sheets
running across the floor, reflecting weather
and lighting conditions

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