SINGAPORE - A new American design award to honour the late Professor Stephen R. Kellert of Yale University who helped pioneer the theory of "biophilia", or humans' affinity with the natural world, has gone to a Singapore hospital.

The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) pipped three American contenders and one from Japan to the inaugural Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Award.

The International Living Future Institute, which hands out the award, said: "Khoo Teck Puat surpasses traditional hospitals and opens the door towards a new kind of building type for the healthcare industry, which considers how the built and natural environment can become part of the healing process."

It added that the KTPH "used nature as a healing process" through paying close attention to all the human senses. It noted that the place is also a natural habitat for butterflies, birds and fish.

It said: "The rainforest-like landscaping that weaves in and out of the hospital infuses the atmosphere with natural sights, sounds and scents."

Among notable features in the design are natural ventilation in patient rooms and the transformation of a storm water pond into a "lake feature".

This is not the first building design award for the hospital, which has about 20 others under its belt, including the President's Award for the Environment which it received earlier this year.

Its chief executive officer Chew Kwee Tiang said: "When we designed KTPH, we aspired to create a hospital in a garden and a garden in a hospital."

She said that while the surrounding flora and fauna act as a healing oasis for patients, they also serve as a shared space for the community.

The four close contenders for the award and received Honorable Mention are:

- The Phipps Centre for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh which "is a habitat for biodiversity, and a nursery for the landscape";

- The Etsy Headquarters in New York for "bringing nature inside and creating varied scale spaces that replicate nature's patterns";

- Cookfox Architects Studio in New York for its "direct and visual connections to nature and natural cycles"; and

- Yanmar Headquarters in Osaka whose "glass-enclosed beehive in the centre of the building is an innovative focal point, a bold staircase is a biomimetic journey and a water feature is a unique approach towards a meditative and restful space for staff and visitors alike".