Biophilic Design — with Oliver Heath Design
Image © Tom Shaw
In the fourth episode of the Biophilic Design Series, I chat with Oliver Heath.
Oliver is the Founder of Oliver Heath Design, which is a "research-led sustainable architecture and interior design practice focused on improving health and well being in the built environment. They specialize in creating more productive, happier and healthier spaces to live and work in, by improving the human connections to nature."
Have a Listen Above (~35 min) or Read the Transcript Below:
Intro: Hello, Joanna Lentini here. Welcome to the fourth episode of my Biophilic Design Series, where I chat with interior designers and architects about the importance and art of bringing the outdoors in. This is a passion project of mine, and I thank you for listening. Being an outdoor photographer, I know the power of nature to calm the mind and balance the soul.
Through my photography, I hope to recreate those feelings indoors. But there are many other ways that we can bring nature in. Through this series I'd like to share with you what I have learned about the evidence-based concept of Biophilic Design, along with the perspectives of those in the design industry.
Biophilic Design is all about designing nature into the built environment. The term Biophilia was first coined by Erik Fromm as "a passionate love of life and all that is alive." In the 1970s, it was expanded on by naturalist E.O. Wilson as the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate meaning it's hereditary and ultimately part of human nature.
While Biophilic Design complements Green Design, it's its own concept. Green Design focuses on improving the sustainability of a home. It looks at how a structure uses its resources, while Biophilic Design focuses on the well-being of its occupants through the inclusion of natural elements, some of which can actually improve the Green Design of a building.
We are already spending roughly 90% of our time indoors these days and are more stressed than ever. According to the World Health Organization, our stress has increased as we've become more urbanized, and it's considered to be a health epidemic responsible for a significant amount of costs. It's been well documented that we respond better to stress in a natural environment, hence the need for design that responds to our human needs.
By the middle of the century, we could see 66% of the developed world living in urban areas and more disconnected from nature than ever before. As someone who spends a lot of time in nature, I can tell you I feel the negative effects of having to be indoors pretty quickly from anxiety, depression and issues with focusing. I hope through this series we can both learn and implement a few things in our day to day lives and lives and become happier and healthier in the process.
I'm so excited to introduce you to my next guest, Oliver Heath...
Image © www.thejoyofplants.co.uk
Oliver is the founder of Oliver Heath Design Ltd., an architectural and interior design practice based in Brighton, England. His design studio focuses on delivering health and wellbeing in the built environment through evidence-based, human centered design. He works to stimulate the adoption of happier, healthier places to live and work through his projects as a designer, writer and TV presenter.
Since 1998, Oliver has presented on numerous television channels for shows such as the BBC's Changing Rooms and DIY SOS, he frequently acts as a media spokesperson for the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change, one of the globe's leading sustainability charities, WRAP, and the Energy Saving Trust.
Some of his design clients include champions of sustainable business practice, including Interface, Booking.com, Bloomberg, Dulux, Unilever, B&Q, Bio Regional and ING Real Estate. And he's designed products for the likes of John Lewis, Pilkington, Glass and Earthborn Paints. Oliver is a qualified Domestic Energy and Green Deal Assessor and is passionate about sustainable design.
If all of that wasn't impressive enough, Oliver's the author of three books, most recently Urban Eco Chic, which sold over thirty thousand copies in six languages, and he regularly writes for The Guardian, Grand Designs Magazine and House Beautiful. He's presented over three hundred Royal Institute of British Architects, CPD seminars and workshops on the subject of Biophilic Design to architects, designers and building stakeholders.
Oliver is a Biophilic Design ambassador with Interface Flooring and also partner in the new exhibition Planted, which promotes sustainable design, urban greening, and wellbeing with an aim to reconnect our cities with nature. His human-centered Biophilic Design approach seeks to reduce stress by strengthening the human connection with nature to improve health and wellbeing in the many spaces we live and work.
Ok, well, welcome. Oliver, it's so great of you to take a few moments to chat with me about bringing nature into our homes and workspaces through the principles of Biophilic Design. It's a topic that I've become really fascinated with over this last year, and I'm honored to have a chance to speak with you about it. To kick things off, would you mind sharing a bit about your personal journey into Biophilic Design, what it is that you do, and why designing nature into the built environment is so important to our physical and mental well-being?
Image © Jan Inge Mevold Skogheim
Oliver Heath: I guess my journey into Biophilic Design started as a child, I grew up in Brighton, England, which is located right next to the sea, so I grew up splashing around in the sea and running around in the countryside, climbing trees. As I got older, my love of the sea grew. I became a scuba diver at the age of 14 and was diving on wrecks on the English Channel, which is very cold and murky and terrifying, and then became a wind surfing instructor when I was about 18.
And then I went on to study architecture, and in a way, looking back, many of the things that I loved doing kind of blended with that kind of fascination with the built environment. So rather than just going, you know, buildings are here to protect us from the natural world, it's actually well I love what goes on out there and how it makes me feel. And a lot of the built environment, why don't we soften some of those boundaries and start to allow some of that kind of wonderful effect of nature into our lives and see what happens. I studied architecture and then I kind of set up my own design practice when I was about twenty eight, twenty nine, because I started doing work on TV and decided to kind of make sustainable design kind of a key part of what I was doing.
So a lot of my work was what we call carbon centered, which is about how we reduce the impact of buildings on the natural environment. And then I sort of realized that actually it wasn't really motivating people. A lot of people weren't really engaged with the ideas of sustainable buildings. And so between 1998 and 2010, I was kind of constantly trying to preach this message about making sustainable buildings and homes and why it's important in the business case. But it was kind of falling on deaf ears.
And then I realized that actually when we take a more human-centered approach and look at how we can create buildings that support people's physical and mental well-being, we're really talking about the same sorts of things: how we create buildings that are warmer and healthier and less drafty, better air quality. And actually if we took this more human-centered aspect the reasoning behind it was that actually everybody wants to be happier and healthier and everyone is going, well, of course we want that, why wouldn't we want to be healthier? I don't want you to poison me with what you do. OK, well, you know, it seems to be a much more motivational approach.
So from that point on, I took this more human-centered approach and discovered the work of Stephen Kellert. He was one of the godfathers of Biophilic Design and became fascinated with this idea that nature plays a kind of fundamental role in our health and wellbeing and has a profound effect on us. And, you know, I realized that much of my own journey through the natural world and through the built environment was embedded within this.
Image © Jan Inge Mevold Skogheim
And I just found this subject area that completely makes sense. Why would I why would I design in any other way than by recognizing the value that nature holds to us and what it can bring to the built environment. But equally, how buildings can respect nature and biodiversity. And the results actually kind of amazing.
You know, I think what what's interesting is that whilst people are kind of quite polarised by different sort of styles of design, whether you mention classical design or neo-gothic or modernism and postmodernism or any of those kind of multitude of design styles, actually everybody has had a positive experience of nature at some point.
So if you use that nature connection as a fundamental basis, then you've got this really wide-ranging, sort of value, that everybody connects to nature and, you know, sort of a very sort of universal design ethos. And essentially Biophilic Design tries to draw a connection between one's own personal experiences of nature and tries to elicit a similar emotive response in the built environment.
So whereas a lot of buildings can be very stark and geometric and cold and unappealing, actually Biophilic Design tries to make people feel immediately relaxed and at home and to feel familiar in their surroundings and in a way suggests that actually nature can survive in the space, then perhaps so can you. Maybe more than just survive, it can thrive and flourish. And perhaps that's what every space should make us feel.
Joanna Lentini: Absolutely, I completely agree with that. I didn't realize you were a scuba diver. I'm not quite sure if you you caught that, but I am an underwater photographer.
Oliver Heath: I saw that, actually, I really haven't been scuba diving for some years because the water off Brighton is pretty cold. I mean, it's not quite frozen, but it's not very hospitable for diving. The visibility is about, you know, sometimes it's about half a meter like two feet, but it can occasionally get to about 10 or 12 feet at best. So it's not fantastic scuba diving, in my opinion, having dived in other places around the world.
Image © Jan Inge Mevold Skogheim
Joanna Lentini: Yeah, but from what I understand, the coast is lined with wrecks, some pretty ancient. So, yeah, I'd love to get scuba diving with you one day. That would be fun.
As an outdoor photographer, I am always trying to to convey the importance of the natural world to both our mental and physical health and hopefully in the process inspire others to protect it. So the concept of Biophilic Design really struck a chord with me because we can't always be outside.
Biophilic Design allows us to bring the positive effects that we feel from the natural world into the home, and I think that that's really important, especially now. For somebody like me, I suffer from ADHD and I can tell immediately when I need to get outside, it's it's, you know I start to get cranky. And, you know, I've spent too much time in front of the computer editing images or writing or working on something. And it's just, you know, it's immediate, like, OK, time, it's time to get outside.
But in one of your talks with, you know, Schneider Electric, you mentioned how the choices that designers make have far reaching effects on our mental and physical health. You know, that historically, there's been this focus on visuals that express something about your status, your wealth, your power. Right? Rather than how a place actually makes you feel. And that that outward approach, as you said, has shifted to a more holistic way of approaching the design of our homes and workspaces.
So you know, as I look back throughout the years, at some level, I've been subconsciously incorporating parts of Biophilic Design into my home and workspace all along, and I'm sure many people already do so and don't realize it. Would you agree with that?
Oliver Heath: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I spent the last seven years traveling around the world teaching architects about design and in a way a lot of them go, well, these are things that we already know, that make buildings feel better and improve occupant experience.
We know that natural light and fresh air and the visual benefits of nature have all improved the experience for people. It's just that they didn't necessarily know the overarching term of Biophilic Design, what we call the patterns that underpin it, or even actually the research that makes it so compelling. And when you look at the research, it's amazing.
You know, by bringing elements of nature into the built environment, you can improve productivity, creativity, and engagement in the workplace. You can enhance the speed of learning in schools, improve attendance and test results. In hospitals you can improve the rates of recuperation by 10 percent. And actually recuperating in natural light can make people feel less pain and take less pain medication. Across the board in all sorts of different building typologies, the experience of buildings can be improved and the outcomes improved and actually the negative costs of buildings can be reduced. So in a way, it's just this most sort of incredible design ethos that is unlike anything else that we've had before.
Image © Oliver Heath
We keep thinking back about all those other design styles that we've got. Never before have we really had this evidence base, to demonstrate its real value and what we call the return on investment. Because when a client invests in what I do as a designer, they're spending money, going well, tell me what I should do and what benefit it's going to bring.
I think for a lot of people, and I think throughout our history, design has been used as this very extrinsic message.
What I mean by that is that people use design to express power and wealth and identity. Think about, you know, the grand classical order, the power associated with that, and the materiality, you know, the level of decoration and what that has meant between different levels of society.
And, for me, you know, it's always made me feel a little bit, uncomfortable.
When I discovered this idea about Biophilic Design that was much less about what you tell the world about yourself, and much more how it makes you feel. I thought, well, this makes so much sense. I feel much more comfortable with this idea, that the skills that I have can improve people's lives.
And so you know, we approach every project with that idea. What are the sorts of activities that are being undertaken and how do we want people to be feeling when they're doing that. And you mentioned some ADHD and the fact that, like many other people, you know, we all become tired and our cognitive focus starts to wane and we get distracted by noises and people and conversations and constant notifications from our phones and radio phone calls and all that kind of stuff.
Image © Oliver Heath
You know when our concentration starts to wane, we're not as productive. So the idea then is how do we get people to stand in front of their workspaces, to just sit and focus, to be mindful, to be concentrating, to recognize that as human beings we do get tired and when we get tired, our concentration, focus tends to dissipate so that we kind of retain that sense of focus.
And that's a lot of what we can bring as Biophilic designers to all sorts of different activities in buildings, whether it's just sitting and working or having conversations. How do we get people to get better or just recognize that as human beings they become tired and create faster ways to getting back to being at their best and quickly.
Joanna Lentini: For folks listening at home, I guess, who want to make more conscious steps towards bringing nature into the home, what are a few easily implemented, yet really profound ways to alter the feel of a space?
Oliver Heath: Well, I think it's important to understand the kind of key principles behind Biophilic Design, and then it kind of becomes a little bit more obvious.
So there are three core aspects to Biophilic Design.
The first is what we call direct connections to nature. So this is what happens when we bring real plants, trees, natural light, views onto plants and greenery—we think about the different senses that we can employ, and also the subtle changes that we see throughout the year.
And then we have what we call the indirect connections to nature. And this is how we mimic or evoke a feeling of nature in a space using natural materials, colors, textures, patterns and even technology. And that plays a role.
And the third one is about recognizing that as human beings, it's important that we have spaces that are exciting, stimulating and energizing because we want to be invigorated by some spaces. But equally, we also need to have spaces that are calming, relaxing and restorative to get us back to being at our best, to recuperate.
Image © Oliver Heath
So within these ideas, there are different ways of looking at it. We have what's called the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, which was developed by Terrapin Bright Green in the United States. And the 14 patterns are in a way a neuroscientific approach, that sort of senses when you spend time in nature, it makes you feel good. It helps you to reduce stress, to aid recuperation, makes you feel more positive, open, and optimistic. That's how we bring those elements of nature into the built environment.
So, you know, you could start to think about maximizing your views out. So positioning desks next to windows maximizes natural light. It offers the great potential for views looking at, yeah, when you have lots of natural light, of course, it makes the space more exciting and more dynamic across the day as the earth kind of moves around the sun and also, of course, natural light is good for plants. Plants need natural light.
So bringing plants into spaces are really good. Plants are these most amazing things, they can they can remove toxins from our spaces, things like volatile organic compounds, formaldehydes, PM10's and 2.5's, which are particulates in the air from from cars. and combustion. They can modify temperature and modify humidity, plus they are these lovely leafy green things with what we call Biophilic fractal patterns, and they add a sort of natural pattern and texture and richness, that's not necessarily some socially, culturally or financially orientated, it's just a sort of very familiar, comforting level of pattern that introduces a kind of life into the space. So, you know, why it's important for plants is really important.
And then some of the other things that you can do when we look at what we call the indirect connections to nature. You know, we know that color plays a really important role in our choices. And we use an idea called Ecological Valance Theory when we choose colors.
And there are lots of theories about color out there. And some of them tend to get a little bit sort of spiritual. Whilst being a nature lover, I'm not necessarily into spirituality, but this makes sense to me. So ecological valance theory suggests that we react very well to colors that we've previously had positive experiences of. We've all had different experiences of color in all sorts of ways—cultural, social, geographic, whatever. But actually the one thing that unites nearly all of us is that we've all had positive experiences of nature. So what the ecological valance theory suggests is that if we use colors that we had positive experiences of in nature, it can elicit a similar emotional response inside our homes.
Image © Interface Inc.
So the suggestion is that the cool, sort of calm shades of blue remind us of pools of water, a very calming and very relaxing. Whereas fresh greens are more energizing and creative, they remind us of the fresh shoots of spring. Warm yellows remind us of the summer sunshine, and ripe summer crops—they are very welcoming and sociable colors. Whereas shots of orange and maybe red are more stimulating and energizing. I'm not suggesting that you will paint a whole space bright red, so its really energizing—that would just be overwhelming and very unlike any way that we find colour in nature.
Think about it in nature and the proportions that we find it in. And you imagine little shots of red in berries or fruit or apples and trees and how stimulating that might be in our desire to go and experience picking them. Or the warmth of yellow and how fantastic that feels first thing in the morning, or even you know, the kind of lush green fields, so think about the proportion and scale and then find ways to bring it in, depending on how you want people to feel in a space.
So you might use sort of shades of blue in a space where you want to relax, maybe a bedroom or a lounge space. Yellows might be better for social space, like a dining room or a kitchen, where shots of red and orange might be good in a workspace.
And then what else can you do? Some fantastic research around the use of timber. So amazingly, using timber and buildings actually has the ability to reduce heart rates and blood pressure levels. So there have been numerous studies from around the world in Scandinavian countries, Austria and also I think Australia that have demonstrated again and again that the use of timber buildings actually improves occupant experience.
But in one study in schools showed that the use of timber in classrooms actually have the ability to reduce student heart rates by seven thousand six hundred beats per day. So the amazing thing is, is our choice of materials and colours can actually have a physiological effect on us and make us feel more calm, more relaxed and as a result, put us in a better state of body and mind to deliver on the intended task.
So actually lots of things we can do, as well as the simple idea that we need spaces that are energizing and exciting. So, you know, if you're going to work, what is it that's going to help you to feel energized and focused? Maybe a view, position your desk next to a window with a view looking out. And if you're going to relax, how do you best relax? Well, maybe have a chair with something that you can look at.
Maybe think about some gentle movement, ripples on a pool of water, the leaves moving on a tree, or gently moving grasses, are what we call nonrhythmic sensory stimuli. And that's just a very gentle, subtle movement that we see in nature that's very non-threatening, very calming. It's a little bit like watching fish in a fish time. It just kind of gently relaxes and restores us.
So think about how you can have longer views out, that rest the eye muscles, that give you what we call a soft fascination in nature. You know, that very gentle movement that we see is quite difficult, actually, to recreate in manmade devices. But actually we see all the time in nature and its very calming and relaxing.
Joanna Lentini: When we talk about Biophilic Design, we talk about all of the senses. Can you talk a bit about taste and how that is a part of it. Does this speak to eating well, organically? Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Oliver Heath: Yeah. One of the one of the kind of patterns of design is is about the senses. And we believe that the role of the senses have is sort of fundamental to our relationship to buildings, because, of course, for hundreds of thousands of years, we relied on all our senses to survive, thrive, and flourish.
We relied on a sense of sight to spot prey or predators. We relied on our hearing to equally hear predators or to hear the sound of water. We relied on a sense of touch for orientation or movement, and now we tend to live much more sort of sterile environments that forget all of that, and put the sense of sight and the visual sense at the forefront of how we value design.
But actually all those other senses have an enormous ability to impact and improve occupant experience. So we try to think of all the ways that we can engage people in the senses to to improve that experience.
So one of the simple things that we do under normal circumstances in the office here is the way we talk about the power of soup. And it's a really simple thing. A couple years ago we bought a soup machine, and what would normally happen when people were here, this is kind of mid-morning, we'd talk about, you know, what soup we're going to make today and we'd all make a choice and someone would nip out to the shop around the corner and buy some fresh vegetables chop up the vegetables, throw them in the soup machine, and a half an hour later we would have sort of, you know, a fresh pot of hot soup.
Image © Oliver Heath
And then we'd all start work at one o'clock, sit around the table, cut some bread and just have half an hour of eating fresh, hot, wholesome soup. And it would be a chance to stop to gather around something that was a meaningful, mindful moment to eat fresh food, to check in with each other, and to talk, and meet.
And so in a way, Biophilic Design doesn't necessarily just need to be about a sort of neuro-scientific approach and what does it do to us individually. It could be also about the sort of socio psychological approach of how you can use elements to bring people together. So in this case, the use of food is sort of a therapeutic opportunity just simply to stop work. And that sort of ceasing in work is a recuperative moment, plus then you're feeding yourself. So you've got sort of physiologically, you know, restoring your body's energy levels or nutritional levels.
And I think importantly for us, it was also a chance to just stop and think about all the things that existed outside of work and maybe, you know, what are you watching on TV? What are you reading? Did you see this thing in the news?
We've got people of all different ages in my company, so it's also a lovely chance to stop and hear other people's views and perspectives. And it's a great leveller, just sitting down at a table and eating and using that as a sort of therapeutic center for it. So there is that.
And then, you know, increasingly we're sort of becoming more interested in the microbiome and the role that plays in our physical, and mental wellbeing, and how eating not just sort of probiotics, which are sort of sort of feed the microbiome, but also the sort of prebiotics as well, and the role that plays in good physical and mental wellbeing. And these these are areas that it's just started to come more widely discussed.
Joanna Lentini: That's interesting. Thanks for for clarifying that. I've always wondered about that. And I've never really kind of been able to figure that out. So I just assumed that it had something to do with the connection and you know the health benefits of eating wholesome, organic food.
Oliver Heath: Yeah. I mean, there's more and more evidence that discusses the sort of relationship between the brain-gut axis and the role that your microbiome plays in your decision making and mental wellbeing.
Joanna Lentini: So over the last year and a half you've developed a new course on Biophilic Design—and it's not just for designers. I'm really curious about it. For anyone that's interested, could you maybe share a bit about your reason for developing it, as well as some of the concepts that you touch on? And what somebody could expect to get out of it...
Oliver Heath: Yeah. So we've recently launched what's called Biophilic Design in The Home, which is an online course. There are three levels to it. This is sort of one hour introduction to it, and there is a twenty-four hour long course, which is really quite intensive. And then there's another one where you have an interactive two hour session directly with me.
So there are three levels.
And basically over the last seven years, a lot of the work and the research that we've uncovered, it's all been about Biophilic Design in commercial settings, spaces where you can measure the benefits of introducing nature into spaces—to productivity and creativity. So there's all this research because in these areas you can literally measure things like wellbeing or absenteeism, but it's much more difficult to measure some of that stuff in the home.
Image © www.thejoyofplants.co.uk
So we felt that there was a real opportunity to take some of the research and knowledge that we've uncovered in commercial settings and start to apply that in the domestic setting. We started working on this about 18 months ago, and then by chance, the Covid pandemic came along and suddenly everybody was locked in at home. And we recognized that people were stuck at home and had not really understood that their own wellbeing in the built environment wasn't just the responsibility of their employers, but also their own personal responsibility.
So people were asking us, well, what can we do? How can we bring these ideas into the home to improve our lives when we're locked down and not going out so much? So the course is a really extensive sort of dive into Biophilic Design and essentially tell us what are the problems out there and why should we be thinking about the issues of stress and urbanization and the impact that technology have or what we call urban jetlag. It also sort of starts to look at the kind of history in the background of Biophilic Design.
Not just where do the ideas come from in terms of Stephen Kellert and all the developments around the early years of Biophilic Design, but also the kind of prehistoric quality, and how in a way Biophilic Design is essentially through genetic inheritance that we have and how we relate that to the built environment.
So we're looking at the whole picture of Biophilic Design and then we kind of help people understand what what we call the core principles, as I've mentioned earlier, and then the 14 patterns. So not just to sort of say these are the fourteen patterns, but it's also how do we apply these ideas into the home.
And it's not as if, you know where we're going to say, you know, this is every single way of translating it. But, we try to make it as creative as possible, and we say, look, here's a framework that you can use. It's not an aesthetic prescription. And so we encourage people to try and develop their own way of interpreting this framework.
So we use things like Pinterest boards and creative tests to engage people with the idea. So it's not just sort of listen to our ideas, it's also engage with us and put it into practice. So there's lots of little sort of tests and ways of engaging with it in different ways. And then at the end there are other tests about how you might apply it to a live project.
Joanna Lentini: Love it! It's perfect timing for the course.
Oliver Heath: Well, unfortunately, it is. It's been a very weird time and now we look back and go actually, that there is a lot of value in this. And recognizing the fact that for many people, the four walls that they surround themselves are having a, you know, a very deep impact on their physical, mental well-being.
And so a lot of the course does try and engage people and how do they develop the existing architecture they find themselves in to bring elements of nature in. And the easy, quick wins and some of the more complicated things. So there's lots of different levels and budget ways of bringing these ideas in. And so we've tried to make the course applicable, not just if you rent your own home, but also if you own it or you are doing up your home.
Joanna Lentini: Interesting. Over the last year, year and a half, I have become really interested in rewilding our landscapes from our backyards to more rural settings. And so I guess, do you touch at all, does Biophilic Design touch at all, on the spaces just outside of our homes?
Oliver Heath: Absolutely. I mean, we try and think holistically about the whole space and your personal access to that. So it's not just your home. It is also about the way your home faces onto the street, but also any area that your home occupies, like space to the side or obviously your garden and how you can use that to enhance a sense of relaxation and recuperation and how we relate to that sense of rewilding and biodiversity.
Because, of course, the more that we can encourage fauna and flora into our gardens, then it's not just good for us because we've got something to look at and to engage with. But also, of course, it's good for the natural world because we're giving them habitats and support. So we really try and get people to think about this sort of very delicate interconnection and recognize that actually human health and well-being is directly connected to the health and well-being of the wider environment.
And in a way, it's a stepping stone. It's a catalyst.
If you can care for a plant on your desk, or the nature in your garden, whether that's the plants or the birds and the insects and the bees, then you're more likely to care for a local park. And if you care for a local park, then you might care for a local beach or a local national park or maybe perhaps even the wider natural environment.
So in a way, that's that's the idea. Just starts with the smallest of interactions with nature. Care for this, and there's a good chance you're going to start to care for our wider natural environment—the environment that, of course, our health and well-being and our future so, so closely relies upon.
Joanna Lentini: So beautifully said. You know, everything that you talk about, it's just it really hits home with me and I appreciate it. I know we're running out of time, but I really wanted to ask you before we wrap things up, are there any particular elements or experiences from the natural world (I know you kind of touched on in the beginning, you know, growing up, spending a lot of time outdoors) but are there any any specific experiences or elements that really inspire your work and that you're drawn to over and over again in your designs?
Image © Oliver Heath
Oliver Heath: It's a good question. I mean, you know, as I mentioned at the beginning, a lot of my early life was spent enjoying being outside and climbing trees and digging holes and looking at worms and things like that, something that I try to continue in my life, not necessarily looking worms, but making the most of my time outside.
So, you know, I really love to go camping. So just being outside and having that opportunity for a really deep nature immersion where you are kind of surrounded by nature 24 hours a day.
And we often talk about this idea of a nature diet triangle. It's a really simple idea that follows the sort of diet triangle. At the top of the diet triangle pyramid in a way are the sort of very rich foods that maybe have a very high carbon intensity. And what we suggest is that we think about a nature diet triangle, in as much as, at the top of the pyramid, are those deep nature immersions we might just have on an occasional basis. So maybe you go camping once or twice a year, maybe you go on holiday, and you spend more time outside.
But beneath that are also, you know, the monthly interactions, that time when you go, OK, well, I'm just going to get out and go hiking and I'm going to spend a day going hiking once a month. But then equally, what do you do on a weekly basis? You know, the weekends do you get out and you go to the park?
I've got dogs. So, you know, I tend to go running down on the beach and it's just this most fantastic, if occasionally little bit painful, kind of moment where I spend time running on the beach, with my dog, and he can go swimming.
And then equally on a daily basis, how much nature interaction do you get? So we try to get people to think about you know on that daily basis, how do you interact with nature? What constitutes a healthy portion and how often do you need to interact with it? So don't think about it on a kind of yearly basis in a way that allows you to scale it up and realize that it's not just about taking the occasional holiday, but also how you interact with it on a daily basis and the interaction with plants and in nature.
Maybe it's just birdsong or appreciating a sunrise first thing in the morning or tending to plants or other elements of nature, just feeling rainfall on your skin. All those little moments are just opportunities to engage with the natural world, to relax, to recuperate, to in a way have a mindful moment that puts you right here, right now.
Not worrying about an email, social media failings, or any of those sort of stresses and strains that we all feel. But nature brings us that opportunity just to engage with ourselves and the world around us for a moment. And we've got to kind of make sure that we have that throughout all our weeks, our days, and weeks, months and years.
Joanna Lentini: Thank you so much, Oliver. I want to really just thank you for chatting with me today. It's it's been so incredibly good to connect! For anybody that is interested in learning more about your work or how to connect with you, could you share your details?
Oliver Heath: Yeah, we've got a website, which is OliverHeath.com. On there, you can find out more about Biophilic Design. We've got lots of resources that you can download for free about Biophilic Design, our online course is also available from that site.
Joanna Lentini: Sounds great. Thank you so much! Really appreciate it.
Oliver Heath: It's been a total pleasure.
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