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Oliver Heath, Oliver Heath Design

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Our tenth Surface Design Show Isolation Talk is with Oliver Heath, Director of Oliver Heath Design.

Oliver runs an award-winning architecture and interior design practice focused on improving health and wellbeing through Biophilic Design. Oliver spoke at this year's Surface Design Show on the health benefits of Biophilic Lighting.

As lockdown is beginning to come to an end in the UK, and life is slowly starting to return to normal, we have decided that this will be our final SDS Isolation Talk in the series. Thank you to all of our contributors and to you for reading - we hope you have enjoyed them. 

Hi Oliver

Thanks for letting us self-isolate with you, keeping in touch with our friends makes us all feel better.

Where is your isolation home right now?

Brighton, and occasionally my office to water all the plants (all 70 of them!)

I think we are now into the 9th week of lockdown - how are you coping with this new lifestyle?

I am settling into the rhythm now and the results of all my gardening is starting to pay off.

You must have developed a daily schedule by now? Do you think this will be the norm for the future?

Yes I have, it’s getting up early to exercise or go running, then settle into work, and find some time at the end of the day to hang out with my family. I don’t think this is the new normal but we may be somewhere in between this and the old normal– working from home more, reducing social time but making the most of it when we do.

What tends to be the highlight of your day?

I do like the meditative calm and quiet at the start of the day, a cuddle with my dog Zev who is always delighted to see me, tending to my garden in small bursts, and meals with the family.

The weather is currently rather lovely, is Brighton filling up with people coming to the seaside?

No people are being encouraged to stay away, which is good and a rare thing in early summer. But we have other ways of keeping distance whilst exercising – my favourite being to head out on the paddleboard to watch the city and activity on the promenade from afar.

What are you missing most? And what don’t you miss at all?

Hanging out with friends and family, and going camping. I’m not missing commuting up and down from London on a regular basis or being squeezed into tube carriages.

Are there some long neglected jobs that you intend to get around to doing during the lockdown?

I’m not the sort of person who likes to relax by lying in or taking it easy – so I’m always on the go fixing, mending or changing something. My weekends are as busy as ever!

It was great to have you presenting with Rebecca Weir of Light.iQ in Light Talks at Surface Design Show in February, did you enjoy the experience?

Yes I had a great time – Rebecca and I had a fascinating conversation about Biophilic Design past, present and future – it was a good lively discussion.

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Your session was a Masterclass on Biophilic Lighting. What initiatives were you able to highlight for our audience?

The importance of getting enough sunlight to create a balanced Circadian Rhythm (your body’s reaction to periods of light and dark across a 24 hour period, which affects your mood, behaviour and hormone release) and how to be mindful of technology use at night which can be a great disruptor to it, affecting your sleep, productivity, concentration focus and so many other health issues.

You are well known for your expertise in biophilic design, how did you you first get involved?

I have been passionate about sustainability in the built environment since the 1990’s, in how we do it and also why we might adopt it in our buildings, but people were sceptical due to the cost and extra work. But they were far less so when I discussed the human centred aspects of sustainability which focusses on health and wellbeing. Biophilic Design is the visual aesthetic of how we create healthy buildings and something that I believe architects and designers have an important role to play in delivering.

What is the future for biophilic design and how will it develop on into the future?

Its going to grow and be very very green – ha ha! But seriously we are going to see many new ways that technology will connect us to nature, and to help us feel calm, relaxed and recuperated. It's an exciting time.

How is the current situation likely to effect the move to more biophilic design?

Nature makes us all feel calmer, more relaxed and a little more human. In these days where so much seems out of our control, having a little more nature in our lives by utilising Biophilic Design principles will be one route that the built environment can start to become restorative, not just deplete our lives and the natural world. After all, as we are now realising our health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to the wellbeing of nature all around us.

It's been a great chat Oliver, thanks for being our tenth and final SDS Isolation Talk!