Biophilia – the future of eco design, health and well being?

As a designer passionate about the built environment and sustainability, incorporating a sense of nature has been a recurring theme to much of my design and media work. These ideas are neatly summed up under the concept of “Biophilic design”, and over the last 30 years there has been an outpouring of fascinating research and data demonstrating the benefits of incorporating its principles into many areas of the built environment.

Biophilia quite literally means “love of life” and is a term popularised by the American biologist Edward O Wilson, when he noted society’s drift away from nature. The term refers to humans innate attraction to nature and natural processes,  and concerns our residual genetic inheritance from the hundreds of thousands of years we spent surviving and thriving in nature, either as hunter gatherers or as an agrarian society. It’s only in the last 150 years, since the industrial revolution, as we have become more urbanised that we have unceasingly lost our connection to nature to the detriment of our health and well being.

On some level we all know the deeper benefits that we receive to our health and well being from being in or close to nature; be it a walk in the woods, looking out over rolling hills, sitting next to a roaring log fire or even just the company of pets.

Im currently working with visionary carpet manufacturer and sustainability pioneer, Interface to promote the many benefits that Biophilic design can have in the built environment – and we’re uncovering some exciting research which you can see at the new site

Biophilic design looks at how we can use the concepts behind our attraction to nature and natural processes to improve  the products and spaces that we live and work with everyday. As an emerging science and style It’s a subject that’s of increasing importance to a number of organisations including Interface, Amazon, Google and Apple.

Biophilic design offers opportunities to make all the spaces that we inhabit better. Spaces can become invigorating improving energy levels and concentration, calming allowing greater focus, or secure to allow restorative places for us to regroup our mental and physical energies in preparation for new tasks ahead. These are the emotional and physical needs that apply to many of the spaces we inhabit be it offices, schools, healthcare, facilities and even our homes.

As we have drifted towards an urbanised society, spending more time indoors, we have certainly lost our connection with nature – be it a lack of exposure to plants and trees, a reduction in dynamic natural lighting conditions that impact on our circadian rhythms, or even just our views out onto trees, water and open space.

By embracing urbanisation we have unwittingly decided that a connection with nature is not related to our health and well being; and this is reflected in our wider approach to environmental conservation. We have decided to our detriment that our cities and nature are two quite separate spaces that shouldn’t mix. One is clean lined and pristine, one is dirty and dangerous – but let’s be honest – which is which?

Of course we are an enormously adaptable species and can live cooped up in ever smaller spaces without connection to nature. But what is clear is that we are similarly seeing a rise in stress, which is a known cause to mental health and cardiovascular related illnesses, which the World Health Organisation has noted will be the two key contributors to illness by 2020

Studies in the US have demonstrated measurable benefits in a number of building types where biophilic principles have been applied:

Hospitals have been shown to improve rates of post operative recovery with less pain, 8.5 % shorter stays and 22% less medication. They allow for greater focus for staff and improve conditions for all including visitors. I love the playful and natural qualities designed into the Crown Sky garden at the Chicago Children’s Hospital.

Schools have demonstrated that children learn 20 to 25% faster when natural light is present, with improved rates of cognitive functioning and reduced impacts of ADHD. I love the way St Mary’s School In Oxfordshire by Jessop and Cook Architects allows natural light to flood in, views out onto nature and plenty of natural materials inside.

Offices can improve levels of productivity, and creativity whilst reducing absenteeism and presenteeism ( where employees are at work but not focused on tasks in front of them). When you consider that staff costs represent 90% of many business expenses then clearly ensuring their health and well being can create large improvements in profit for relatively small outlays. In fact companies such as Amazon and Google are even using biophilic principles to attract and retain the best staff.

There are four key principles which can be applied to the spaces we inhabit be it homes, offices, schools and healthcare spaces; allowing us to perform better.

Natural light – maximizing natural light is essential to our health and well being be it through windows, rooflights or glass doors- it helps govern our circadian rhythms.

Views out onto nature – be it a view onto a park, garden, a green roof space or terrace – views onto nature can improve focus and create a greater sense of calm.

Natural materials – studies have shown that natural materials, patterns, products and textures have a calming and restorative quality with a surprising number of positive side effects.

Safe spaces to retreat back into- we all need a space to sit and restore our energy, and focus after a period of activity. This could be a quiet space in an office or a favourite armchair next to a roaring log fire.

There are of course the immediate and tangible benefits to areas such as productivity and creativity, but it’s also about understanding that our psychological and physiological well being is intricately connected to that of the nature and environment that we have emerged from.

Once we understand this we can measure the many tangible benefits in many spaces, such as hospitals, schools and healthcare facilities, and start to put a financial value to them. Sadly it seems that only by placing a monetary value to nature linked to our health and well being can we really impress on our society the value of preserving nature and the environment on a wider scale.


If you’d like to find out more about Biophilic design please do get in contact through my website

Or check out:

From waste to space – the Brighton Waste House

I’ve talked before about how domestic products are just 1% efficient, it takes 40 tonnes of material to create 1 tonne of useful stuff, and of that 98% gets thrown away! Using household and business waste – from toothbrushes to cassette tapes (remember those?) – to do something amazing like build a house, is not only a mega transformation but is also truly sustainable.

Brighton Waste House

And that’s exactly what some ambitious students and faculty from Brighton University have done – using 20,000 toothbrushes from first-class flights, 10,000 DVD, VHS and floppy disks, a couple of tonnes of castoff denim and another couple of thousand old carpet tiles – all saved from incineration and landfill. You can actually see some of the old tapes and disks through little windows into the wall insulation, giving even the innards of the house more symbolism, or at least nostalgia, than typical bricks and mortar.

Interior of wall made from VHS cases

It’s the first permanent building in the UK to be made from 85% waste. It even includes a rammed earth wall – waste chalk and clay packed together – to make it warm and energy efficient.

Community-led building

More than a structure you can actually walk around , the 12-month project involved students and apprentices building the house together. It hosts art exhibitions and talks, and has brought-in companies and communities from around Brighton to contribute.

Vent-Axia donated a heat and ventilation system to contribute to the building’s ’s ‘A’ energy rating, and the local Freegle group helped with waste collection. Waste rubber from tyres helped waterproof the roof, recycled timber wood bolstered the structure, and surplus clay blocks were installed by bricklaying students.

The final house is the result of the hard work of the community and lots of generosity – so it uses lots of surplus materials, new technology like solar panels, and upcycled interior features.

A learning space for the future

Projects like this really get people thinking and excited. Being able to walk in and around it, and actually have a permanent building for events, art, and learning, gives the project lasting value. Plus, students and volunteers who helped build it have gone on to paid jobs in architecture and construction. The house is part of their story – and who knows what beautiful and sustainable things they might create in the future.

It’s a test bed to demonstrate the benefits of different materials, plus, it’s a centre-point for sustainable to discussion to happen around – and there aren’t enough of those. Especially in the very centre of our cities, as this is in Brighton.

Find out more about the Brighton waste house at their university website.

My travel carbon footprint – planes, trains, (electric) automobiles and of course bicycles

In my world the CO2 emissions of our homes is an every present and critical issue, with 28% of the UK emissions being created by them. If you want to know more about CO2 emissions then find out more here with the Energy Saving Trust.

Having spent time energy (and money!) reducing the CO2 footprint of my own home from 10.9 tonnes down to around 2.5 t  I’ve started to think about other areas of my life and how i can cut my emissions from areas such as my travel.  I’m interested to know  what difference it makes using different energy saving transport types such as trains, my bicycle, and even my electric Vauxhall Ampera car .

As a starter this  graphic has been created by @UniCanberra showing average carbon footprints of different types of transport, its a little unspecific but  it does give you an overall understanding of just how much CO2 is emitted by differing types of transport.

Transport carbon footprint


To look at my impact Ive used the brilliant and easy to use Carbon Footprint Calculator website to reveal  the impact is of my travel choices, and the results are surprising…….

Like many of you out there, i use a variety of forms of travel – I love to cycle, i walk if i cant cycle, catch the train up to London and around the UK, drive my electric car and take a few flights for work and holidays. So what is my Carbon emission  imapct…..

Getting to work

I get to my design studio with my beloved trusty Tokyo Bicycle . So I’m already off to a great start, with minimal  greenhouse gas emissions for my daily commute. That’s saving the planet around 0.29 tonnes of carbon each year compared to driving a medium sized car. Not to mention, cycling to work keeps you healthy and happy – unless its raining really hard!

Oliver heath and his bike


On the other hand, I also need to take the train occasionally and calculate that last year i travelled around  6512 miles on trains  for work related trips. In carbon, that’s around 0.51 tonnes. Even so thats better than driving the distance.

Driving for work, family stuff and  leisure

For the past year or so I’ve been driving a range-extended hybrid, the Vauxhall Ampera, which i love.

You can read more about my electric car experiences here

My home with external insulation on the front.

It uses batteries to power the first 40 miles of its journey, before its petrol engine quietly kicks in. It’s been a great way for me to save fuel and energy, especially because I’mm able to charge it from the solar panels on the roof of my home.

Since April 2013 I’ve used 28.5 gallons of petrol, getting an incredible 170.5 mpg on average. That makes even a small city car seem like a gas guzzler!

I use the Ampera mostly in and around town on shorter journeys but also for longer journeys and weekends away with my family, creating  just over a fifth of a tonne of carbon per year using the car, this calculates as 0.29 tonnes: 4859 miles (in 13 months) in a vehicle doing 170mpg

Ampera display

An equivalent 35mpg car over that distance would create 1.84 tonnes of carbon every year, not to mention the cost of the petrol to fuel it. That’s saving more than 1.5 tonnes of CO2 every year .

If that’s not enough to convince you to switch over to electric cars then the news that Ecotricity are installing a fast-charge network across Britain surely will – taking the anx out of range anxiety!


Now to air my  carbon footprint guilt-  I make a couple of flights to Norway to work on TV projects  and also go on holiday abroad with my family  about once a year. That’s more flights than the average person – around half of people in the UK haven’t flown in the past year. And that really pushes my carbon footprint up, almost cancelling out the savings I make from driving a hybrid car, using solar panels and cycling to work.

1.27 tonnes:            3 x Economy class direct return flight from London to European destinations – That’s 60% of my transport carbon emissions!

It just goes to show how aviation needs to be a focal point for sustainable change, as  it’s just so much a part of modern life for many of us.


The total build up of my travel carbon footprint

Trains – 0.51 tonnes

Driving – 0.29 tonnes (13 months)

Air travel – 1.27 tonnes

Total 2.07 tonnes


The results show that whilst i am no where near perfect my regular cycling and driving my Vauxhall Ampera is saving the planet from almost 2 tonnes of carbon every year. That’s as much a whole other person!

I am of course delighted to be able to save so much carbon with my Ampera and my bike – not only are they environmentally friendly but they also make it enjoyable and fun to get around. But there’s still work to be done – I travel a lot to meet clients and work on projects abroad when i have too and that is a tough one to cut out of my life – I would dearly love for there to be a way to travel abroad without the impact and damage that air travel causes. And as soon as there is…. i’ll be on it!



Breathing spaces are better spaces – how nature is helping purify our living spaces

We ask a lot from the spaces that we inhabit; practicality, durability, energy , aesthetics, acoustics. But where health does that sit within our requirements? It goes without saying that our health is improved by regular fresh air changes through controlled ventilation. But before the times of MVHR (mechanical ventilation and heat recovery) systems there were other ways that the natural world helped us to make spaces psychologically and physiologically better.

In today’s quest to make better, healthier spaces we are seeing designers attention turned back to the natural world and realise the benefits that plants can offer not just in their purification abilities but also their sensory qualities – for instance as I sit surrounded by an array of amazing materials, on loan from SCIN materials resource library I love the delicate scent of rose petals that the sample swatch of Organoid Rose Petal veneer gives off from my desk. 

organoid copy

Architecture is offering numerous visible solutions to increasing bio diversity through the introduction of flora to roof-scapes, facades and urban landscaping. So too are we seeing a boom in the greening of  interior design solutions, bringing with it the benefits of introducing plants in unusual ways with numerous benefits. Take a look at these amazing Japanese string plants for example


It’s well known that plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen but they also improve internal environments by removing and absorbing toxins. Modern spaces contain a cocktail of hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde (found in MDFs, carpets, upholstery), VOC’s (in paints and plastics) benzene (in plastics, synthetic fibres, rubbers) and trichloroethylene (in paint removes, cleaning solutions, adhesives) – which individually can be harmful, but combined their impact is scarily unknown.

Plants and toxins

Luckily a number of plants have toxin removing properties that can benefit interior spaces and health Peace Lilys, Mother In Laws Tongue, Boston Ferns, English Ivy, and the Areca Palm to name a few, and all examples of plants that can remove toxins from our internal environments. But how best to introduce them to our built spaces?

Mother inlaws tongue

One favourite are the ingenious Wooly pocket systems, affordable, simple to fix and made from reclaimed materials. The woolly pocket is a modular system that allows you to add as much or as little as you need, creating small burst of interior greenery or whole walls.

Wooly pocket

But for a smaller tech based approach I love the Andrea Air purifier, which it claims is the first air filter capable of absorbing toxins such as formaldehyde using the natural absorptive and metabolic properties of living plants. Its a futuristic tech meets bio thing but they look great.

ANDREA-Air Purifier

If you’re lacking in wall or floor space why not suspend healthy plants from the ceiling? The innovative Boskke sky planter offers a surreal opportunity to hang your green leaves upside down, apparently plants love it.


If plants simply aren’t an option but you are aware that you do have toxins in your environment or  leaching through walls (from surface coatings such as lead paints) why not consider lining walls with Bluchers Saratech Permasorb  – it’s a flexible sheet material filled with thousands of tiny spherical absorbing balls. Each ball sucks and locks  in toxins – so being the first wall covering that actually purifies environments.





BBC DIY SOS – Sunderland – How Biophilia can make a house a sustainable healthy home

My last BBC DIY SOS shoot was as ever a much deserved project where we completely rebuilt and refurbished the home of the Finlay family in Sunderland. It’s home to John, June and daughter Heather, who’s family life was brought into chaos when June fell ill with Clippers disease just as she came about her retirement. Its debilitating effect meant that she couldn’t get upstairs or even wash, so depressingly ended up living in a corner of the kitchen.  Before her illness June had a passion for all things to do with nature and gardening  but her disability meant she couldn’t pursue or get out on her own at all.

Luckily DIY SOS leapt into action to bring some of the benefits of being close to nature back into her life, through my design concept of Biophilia.

Biophilic design comprises of four  key aspects :

– Maximising natural light – through glass doors, windows and skylights.

– Improving views out onto nature – be it plants, trees, shrubs, and vistas and encouraging fauna.

– Creating safe spaces to retreat into – think cosy lounges and alcoves.

– Using a palette of natural textures, materials, patterns and images of nature as a reminder of nature.

From the outset I was keen to bring all of the Biophilic design principles into use and make the most of the rear garden, improving natural light, textures patterns and even natural sounds such as trickling water.

Garden Perspective

My sketch for the view from the re-modled kitchen and dinning table

Lounge perspectiveMy sketch of the view from June’s seating area in the lounge – looking through to the garden.

The end effect was one of improving the psychological and physiological health of the home through improving the connection with nature………. but getting there in just 10 days with a team of builders and a TV production team is a busy and very chaotic  process! Here’s an image from mid-way through the shoot showing just how chaotic and crazy it got- imagine trying to get anything done with this many people in the house!

New Castle BioPhilia finished pics 015

So how did the design work out? Views out. Light in.

In the June’s  bedroom, natural light floods in from windows, glass doors and skylights, providing psychological and physiological benefits by reconnecting with the suns daily rhythms and circadian rhythms. Floral patterned wallpaper was used – flowers are an evolutionary indicator of fruit and nutrition – and a unique grassy effect carpet designed by Interface flooring add to the input of natural images and textures.

New Castle BioPhilia finished pics 125

The views out of June’s bedroom are onto the beautiful wooden courtyard, and this unique  green wall which i welded up -allowing sunlight to filter through the leaves and into her room. Having views onto nature is a central concept of biophilia, and these green plants are full of life. Outside in the courtyard, a water feature adds the calming natural sound of trickling water to the sensory experience and encourages bird-life into the garden.

New Castle red 8

Natural colours and textures to see and feel

In the kitchen I went for a palette of natural materials, white surfaces to reflect light and a vibrant energetic digitally printed glass  splash back- very striking!  On the opposite wall there is a low work surface that is wheelchair accessible with a Wooly Pocket green wall planting system , overflowing with life and utilising the skylight overhead.

New Castle red 2

New Castle red 4

Below, this old second hand pine table was scorched with a blow torch and then wire brushed to bring out the texture of the natural wood grain. I believe that we take in the natural world through all the senses, and the texture of this table contributes to the touch and feel of the home.

New Castle BioPhilia finished pics 049

The study – a safe space

This digitally printed forest wall  had a fantastic effect when framed by the clean lines of the doorway, plus the  skylight allows light to flood in in a natural way.  The room is bright and lively without technological noise or distraction.

New Castle BioPhilia finished pics 031

It was a thrilling chaotic 10 days working with builders, craftsman and suppliers from the local area, even being “amusingly” arrested by the local police for scorching the dining table on public pavement space… funny for the rest of the guys I’m sure?!!  In the end I’m immensely proud of the finished home and the thought of these Biophilia themes of natural light, views, texture and touch enhancing June’s health and well being and improving the quality of life for the whole family.

ps i forgave the guys for having me arrested (in the end!)

New Castle BioPhilia finished pics 137

My Norwegian Design Adventure – Small homes can be better homes

You may not know it, but i have something of a secret TV career going on in Norway. Well i say secret Norway’s TV2 are making sure all Norwegians know.

My last project was set in this beautiful house dating from the 19th Century, located just outside Bergen. Whilst it seems grand from the exterior the main spaces that the family lived in were surprisingly small, and in desperate need of a design update.

The house in Norway

The interior was tired and faded, but aesthetics aside the space had never been properly laid out so its greatest crime was of disorganisation, wastefullness and inefficiency. But what an opportunity! Like many of the spaces we choose to inhabit it carried out a number of interconecting functions, serving as a kitchen workspace, dining area, tv chill out space and dog sleeping area (although dogs arent very fussy)

The living area before we began

I chose to treat this room concept as a “spacecraft” inspired by nautical designs – as the family are passionate sailors so this i felt would be a design language they would appreciate. The design employs all the space saving designs i could squeeze in; efficient furniture, lifting items off the ground, cantilevering pieces, under lighting , multi-functional furniture, flexible lighting and built in furniture. Below are a couple of my design sketches for the space which accompanied the  technical drawing package.


Perspcetive 1

and another perspective looking back towards the stairs

Perspective 2

And below the finished results. What do you think of the hanging table….. its rocks! (by the way)

Lifting items off the floor creates a very real sense of additional space. this cantilevered counter top creates a sense of magic and allows stools to be concealed beneath when not in use.



The TV seating area with built in seating and underlit plant holders, allowing light to flow onto reading material from behind the sitter. Zoning spaces with furniture, colour and light is a means to squeeze in spaces that contain specific functions and give them a feeling of “place”.





My wonderful up-cycled sea chest, which when opened reveals a TV and DVD player concealed within!

Multifunctional furniture is a great way to double up activity within spaces. A wood burning stove creates a great sense of focus to the seating/ lounge area of the room.

TFH project 2 finished 018

Lifting items off the floor like this kitchen cabinet adds a feeling of lightness, and under lighting them again creates a sense of space. Great to squeeze in a little work space into this compact kitchen too!

jan norway 005

And a scheme wouldn’t have my name on it if i didn’t do a little upcycling – i just love these Upcycled “Norge” glass jars that make wonderful pendant lights over the cantilevered counter-top.


Its been great fun working in Norway – a country that really appreciates craftmanship, attention to detail and design. The hanging table by the way kicked up a whole stack of comments on the TV2 website – it seems that some people love it, others are unsure – luckily the family rest firmly in the group that love it ….. so i have a feeling of pride in a job well done.



Light Reflective Paint – Better, Brighter, -But How?

I recently attended a conference with Akzo Nobel, the company that owns and manufactures Dulux paints. I learnt about their extensive sustainability strategy, known as Planet Possible, and it got me thinking about the way in which I use paints and how it affects not just the look and feel of a space but also on its energy use:


Colour has more than an aesthetic impact: it can be a practical means to increase the natural light falling in through windows, reducing the amount of electricity that building occupants use as a result – a material that impacts on occupant behavioural use.


Natural light is good for you too – it helps the body make vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’, which helps you fight off viruses and could save you trip to the doctor.


So how can we use paint and colour to save energy and feel healthier?


All colour and so paint reflects light- the more light it reflects, the less we need to use artificial electric light to compensate. Picking lighter colours in key areas of the buildings we occupy will reflect more natural light will save energy.

But how do we know which colours to pick?


Dulux colour fan

There’s a handy notation next to most colours provided by Dulux which tells you how much light gets reflected. The notation consists of three parts: hue, light reflectance value, and chroma.


  • Hue tells you which colour you’re getting as you would see it in a rainbow – pink has a red hue, pure yellow is a hue, and so on.

colour wheel

  • Light Reflectance Value or LRV that indicates the brightness, and specifically, how much light bounces off the paint. The higher the number, the brighter the colour. 00 is very low, and 99 is the highest and the brightest.

  • Chroma is the intensity of the colour – a bit like saturation. A low number will be a neutral grey, and a high number – up to 999- will be vivid colour.

It’s the second part that we’re interested in – brightness. We want more light to bounce off the paint. So pick colours with a high LRV number – they’ll reflect more light around your room. The colour notation below shows 08 – very low on the scale and therefore a dark colour.


Dulux’s Light & Space range of paints add brightness to a room by reflecting up to 40% more light than normal paint, using Lumitec technology. It means you can turn the lights off a bit later – around 20 minutes according to Dulux – and you can make the most of natural light during the day.

Think about it – if the average home uses 35 lights, and turned on each of them 20 minutes less per day, that would be the equivalent of a single light bulb used continuously  over 177 days – pretty amazing huh? It really adds up, and in this way we can see the electrical savings light reflectance can really have on domestic energy use.

Light & Space has special light-reflecting particles in the paint to make this effect, so that for the same hue,  paint is more vivid. Your room will be brighter- and give you more of the natural light which, as we are starting to see already this year, leaves you feeling healthier and happier on the inside too, with a potential marked decrease in your energy bills.

Earth Hour


Those readers with a keen eye will notice that I wrote this before Earth Hour, which happened on Saturday. But Earth Hour is such a great idea of bringing together people all over the planet, that I wanted to publish this even though it’s late – so that those of you who missed it, or took part but want to continue to be involved, can find out more and help spread the word about this global energy saving event.



This week, a brilliant event is taking place across the globe, to raise awareness of climate change, energy use, and the environment. Saving energy is important for all of us whether it’s at home, at work, or contributing to projects to make the world a better place. The event is Earth Hour – and it takes this coming Saturday at 8.30pm.


On Saturday evening, March 29th, at 8.30pm, wherever you are, Earth Hour asks you to  turn the lights off for one hour.


Of course, that’s not all – the hour is a symbol of a commitment you intend to make for the future.


This year, Earth Hour and WWF are launching a crowdfunding platform called Earth Hour Blue. It allows you to pledge your commitment to making a difference beyond the hour and into the future. You can make a contribution to a project that will have a long lasting positive impact on the environment.


Energy saving, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing – what’s not to like? You can have a look at some of the projects being funded here.


Joining Earth Hour is so easy – that’s what makes it such a great idea. All you have to do is cut your electricity usage for an hour in the evening on March 29th. You can also sign-up on their website to share your experience and be part of it online.


Earth Hour is a great time to spend with your family, talking or playing games under candlelight. And if you’re looking for a way to come together with all the other people who are getting involved, that’s easy too. There are local events happening up and down the country (and all over the world!) which you can join in.


In Brighton for instance, there is a walk along the seafront where people will be carrying lanterns and playing music. It looks like it’s going to magical as the lights go off. To find an event near you, have a look at the map on their website here.


Whatever you do, you’ll be a part of a worldwide event. Here are some highlights from last year’s Earth Hour as countries across the globe turned off the lights just after sunset:


Here comes Climate Week from the 3rd -9th March

Having recently trained as a Domestic Energy Assessor and Green Deal advisor, I’ve come to appreciate the importance and vast opportunities available of saving energy in the home, and as a design professional it’s important that energy use is part of my offering when I’m giving more general design advice to home owners. (You can read more about my training adventures here!)

It can make such a difference to your home’s comfort levels-  so it’s not just about the environment, it’s about personal benefits too. As I found out, there are so many ways to save energy and add to your wellbeing. That’s why I’m on board with Climate Week, because knowing about what utilities you do what you use (such as gas, water, and electricity) and what you can do to reduce it, is the first step to making improvements.

Climate Week is Britain’s biggest climate change campaign, inspiring a new wave of action to create a sustainable future. Culminating in a week of activities on 3-9 March 2014, it showcases practical solutions from every sector of society that help people live and work more sustainably.

Each year, half a million people attend over 3,000 events in Britain’s biggest environmental occasion. Events are run by schools, businesses, charities, councils and many others. Participation is completely free.

There’s lots of material on their website about how to run an event. You could run a climate week swap for instance, and give your old possessions a new lease of life by exchanging them. Or perhaps repair those things that have been lying around that you’d like to see brought back to life: have a look at my blogpost on repair groups, skill swaps and DIY.

Whatever you do, Climate Week can help you to save a little money, reduce your carbon, and live a better life now and into the future.

You can run any kind of activity and this week we can expect workshops, competitions, exhibitions, launches, bike rides, film screenings, open days and debates.

Remember to register your event at – it takes just two minutes.

Another activity you can take part in is the Climate Week Challenge competition. Over 200,000 people in schools and workplaces take part each year. Last year children of all ages tried their hand out at designing the ultimate eco-home, and had some pretty inspiring ideas!

For more information go to

What will you be doing for Climate Week? Tweet me @oliver_heath and let’s spread the word!


Wandular – helping us to live sustainably through the art of better design

I recently attended an inspirational lecture by Jonathan Chapman, Professor of Sustainable Design at Brighton University, one of the key points he makes is that people buy into meaning, not matter. Here’s the full lecture for you to watch on Youtube.

Here are some scary numbers:

Scary……. but why?

As Professor Chapman states 40 tonnnes of materials are used to create just 1 tonne of domestic products. 98% of these products are thrown out of our homes after just 6 months, meaning production is just 1% efficient, leading to 0 future for materials.


So if you want to make design more sustainable, products should mean something to the end user for longer. They shouldn’t just be designed to become obsolete. But just how do we do that?


The question designers should be asking is ‘Why can’t a gadget be an heirloom?’

Well Sony is looking into the business model of a new product called the Wandular as an alternative to fragile devices that break in a year – the type we’re used to. It’s half way between concept and object – a philosophy envisioned in a technology product.


The Wandular – a personal computing device designed to actually get better with age. It would use cloud-based software improvements and plug-in hardware, so you could add new technologies as they emerged, such as sensors or projectors. It also features long lasting materials such as wood, leather and titanium so it can both be repaired and forge an emotional attachment with the user – emotional durability, or as some like to say, ageing gracefully.


And there is a convincing business model to accompany the concept focusing on moving from selling one off products to ongoing service provision – a familiar change that we’re seeing among many technology companies today. A longer-lasting product at a more competitive price, serviced over a lifetime with improvements and software upgrades generates loyalty and longer term profit.


Built to last

The concept of Wandular can be interpreted into the design of home ware too. Students at the University of Brighton came up with shoes which reveal a hidden pattern as they wear out, and a mug which reveals a pattern as the tea stain gets deeper into the ceramic. Good furniture and clothes develop a ‘worn’ quality and with it, an attachment to the individual too, so savvy designers are highlighting it in novel ways.


But what about creating Wandular on a larger scale? Can buildings improve with age? Can we design our spaces for emotional durability, efficiency and modularity? Or simply acknowledge the power of interior design to convert an old space into a beautiful new space – while using insulation and energy saving measures to make it efficient and comfortable too.

A number of manufacturers have realized the benefits of this service based model. Ercol, the furniture manufacturers, have been making timber furniture since the 1920’s, designed to be easily reupholstered using their own service.

Think about the products or items that you really love at home – the ones you have a strong emotional attachment to, and how they bring a great level of happiness to your life. For me it might be my Charnwood wood burning stove, the sweet chestnut cladding on the front of my home, that improves with age or a leather armchair that softens and deepens in richness and colour.

Leather Armchair1

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All are the type of objects or materials that people forge attachments with and consider worth repairing. They are objects that bring us happiness. Perhaps it’s time to have the opportunity for repair, upgrading and improvement actually designed into the products and spaces that we occupy as a forethought rather than an afterthought – the world around us would become a better, happier and healthier place in all sorts of ways.