Woolly Around the World: England

Woolly Around the World: England

Mar 18, 2015

This week’s Woolly Around the World post comes from England and our friends at Heath Design. Here is our Q & A with the owner of Heath Design, Oliver Heath.

1. What is the driving hypothesis behind biophilic design?

That humans have an innate attraction to nature and natural processes, as a residual genetic heritage from the hundreds of thousand of years spent as agrarian dwellers. It means that we react positively  to many of the elements that were once essential to help us survive and thrive in nature, such as natural light, views onto abundant natural elements (such as plants and trees) natural materials and save recuperative spaces.
2. What biophilic design guidelines can be applied to both interior and exterior environments?
There are four key principles which although simplified can be incorporated into many of the spaces that we live and work in. Maximizing our exposure to natural light is essential for regulating our body’s circadian rhythms – keeping our mental, physical and behavioural behaviour in regular working order. Views onto nature – ideally from an elevated position, incorporating views onto trees, grass, plants, bodies of gentle water improves cognitive functioning and the mental restoration. But this could also include the use of natural plants in interior spaces or patios and balconies. The use of natural materials or those that mimic them. Materials such as stone, timber, leather, sheepskins, and even digital images of non threatening forms of nature. Safe restorative spaces- we all need spaces to recover our mental and physical energy after an intense period of concentration, this could be during the day or at night once we get home. This sets us up to get back to carrying out complex and challenging tasks with a greater level of focus and engagement.
3. Can you share 1-2 examples of spaces you have designed that incorporate these strategies?
Much of my work is in the domestic sector and I have carried out projects where there have been deeply impactful medical conditions that have affected family life. Biophilic design elements have connected the inhabitants back to nature and in doing so have improved personal health and wellbeing plus the family social conditions. I am also working on implementing these ideas within office spaces where research has demonstrated improvements to productivity of 8% and reported well being of 13%. There is a great body of research just carried out called the Biophillic design in the workplace report which you can download from the www.humanspaces.com website.
4. When did you first become interested in applying biophilic design principles into your work – what was your first a-ha moment?

I have always felt that we need to incorporate natural materials and elements into the spaces we live and work in, and wrote about extensively this in my last book Urban Eco Chic.
My deeper involvement with Biophilic design has come about through my work with Interface the sustainable flooring company who are passionate about Human Centred design and the impact that natural analogues of nature such as their Human Nature and Urban retreat ranges can have on the improvement of the spaces that we work in. The new website Human Spaces which is a compendium of Biophillic design ideas plus health and well being in the built environment.
5. How do you use plants as a design element – do you create vertical walls, place plants on tabletops, create interior garden/community spaces?
Plants are an essential element of my design projects, adding not only an additional level of aesthetics to spaces but also improving the air quality whilst improving the psychological quality of the space. I like to use plants at a variety of vertical levels so that they can be appreciated when sitting or standing or even lying down!
6. We love to inspire first time gardeners to have fun with plants. Any simple suggestions on how to begin finding our inner biophilia?
Just get out there and experiment, you’ll reap the rewards. What I’m finding is that there is decades of research backing up the ideas, we now need to put them into practice with completed projects, the benefits are clear to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Also take a look at the www.humanspaces.com website – there are some amazing people blogging about completed projects and cutting edge research on the subject of Biophilic design.

photos by Oliver Heath

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