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Be Water, My Friend.

Red and Blue Betta Fish in planted tank

As I sit writing this the sky outside has turned from bright blue and clear to a blanketed dark grey/purple.

 

Water (specifically rain) is something that is not uncommon to us here in the UK. In the last episode of my blog, we talked about light. In it I had a comparison of sunny and cloudy days.

 

We all know that clouds equal rain, but have you ever thought about how water in your environment affects you, your productivity and, ultimately, your profit margins?

 

Indoor Air Quality

 

Perceived Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a common and abundant complaint in offices and public spaces around the world. ‘Dry Air’ is often the descriptor that you would hear to describe a space that has a perceived ‘poor’ quality of air.

 

Although we have no sensory organ that is able to tell the level of humidity in a room, we do pick up on various cues that would lead us to the assumption that the air is ‘dry’ or of poor quality.

 

The relative humidity of 40-60% is perceived to be the most comfortable.

 

Lower humidity levels tend to lead to dusty spaces that feel colder, experience rapid temperature fluctuations, as well as physiologically presenting dry eyes, irritated respiratory tracts, frizzy hair, and dry skin.

 

On the other hand, the opposite end of the spectrum presents:

 

  • Breeding areas for germs and bacteria, mold and fungi
  • Damp and the various unpleasant smells related to moisture
  • Excess perspiration
  • Hyperthermia (overheating)
  • Amazingly, dehydration!

 

Correct humidity can help with voice improvement for those with vocal fatigue and can help ease allergy and irritation-related respiratory issues.

 

I believe that with the current viral affairs, the way in which we deal with air quality and filtration should be a priority for every business that has an office and staff.

 

HVAC systems and HEPA filtration are key elements of mechanical filtration and air treatment, but there are also some prettier, semi-active ways that we can tackle IAQ.

 

Improving IAQ

 

Aquariums, fountains, and water features all provide evaporative water sources that regulate both humidity and temperature. They provide the added benefits related to biophilia and are wonderful talking points for guests and customers.

 

Open water also provides a level of air filtration by trapping particulate matter in the water, preventing it from circulating into the air column. In other words, it sucks in the nasties before you can breathe them in!

 

Live plants and living walls (although not directly related to water) both require levels of moisture in order to thrive. Through photosynthesis, the plants absorb VOCs (volcanic organic compounds) and through respiration release oxygen and moisture. This mechanical regulation stabilises the space surrounding your plants and living walls.

 

Why do we love running water?

 

Water provides meditative, regenerative qualities through sight and sound. I’m sure you’ve enjoyed sitting on the beach or riverside and watched the world pass by peacefully as you watch the flow and listen to the burble (or thunderous roar of the sea) of the water.

 

But why is it so relaxing?

 

Watching and listening to water leads to a decrease in adrenaline and cortisol, which is directly related to stress, inflammation and decreases in productivity. 

 

A recent study by Videre Aquariums showed notable variations in both the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate before and after interacting with an aquarium for 10 minutes. 

The study concluded that ‘happy people are successful, profitable people’!

Sounds simple when you say it like that, doesn’t it?!

 

If you were able to gain a 15% boost in productivity, what would that look like as a monetary value? 

 

  • That is three quarters of your VAT bill paid 
  • It could pay for extra members of staff that you so desperately need
  • It could mean keeping the business from closing its doors altogether

 

Biophilic design and introducing nature and natural elements into a workspace really is a key foundation that shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

Interested in finding out where water can be incorporated into your business premises? Give me a call on +44 (0)7780 271 559. It’ll be great to chat.

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The Bright, The Dark & The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

 

The Bright, The Dark & The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

 

Life on our little blue marble relies on a couple of key elements to survive.

 

This miniseries of blogs and content will be focused on Light.

It is probably one of the easiest of the core pillars of Biophilic Design to get right (and oh so wrong).

I did not know how important my relationship with light was until I entered my 20’s. (Disclaimer: the next bit is not meant to sound like a game of top trumps – facts are facts)

For me up until that point day and night (Circadian Rhythm) pretty much fitted a perfect 12-hour cycle.

You see, South Africa is not as far away from the equator as the UK (don’t let the pesky maps trick you into believing otherwise) so the daylight difference between summer and winter is only 3 hours or so.

It’s great for no drinking before sundown or up at dawn rules because you’ll normally have a beer in hand by 19:30 or be up at 05:30 at the earliest. Winter on the highveld is dry and cold so there are months of ‘short’ days with not a cloud to be seen.

Summer has its rainy days, but annually the sun shines powerfully for over 70% of the time

Compare that with London and there is a stark difference. The long summer days are nearly 9 hours longer than the shortest winter day. There is no wet/dry season so actual sunlight hours account for a mere 30% of our days…

It’s little wonder when I moved to the UK that my mood, productivity and motivation took a massive hit every October when the days began to draw in. Eventually, I learned that I was suffering from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) where my brain (well, my hypothalamus to be exact) is unable to operate properly because of poor access to sunlight. You can read more about S.A.D on the NHS website.

You may now be putting two and two together and realising that perhaps you suffer from the winter blues too.

 

An image of a brightly lit office, with lots of desk plants

 

The Bright

 

Access to sunlight is not always something that we can bring into the office; certain work environments even require strict levels of control over the levels (or type) of light that is permitted.

Physiologically we need sunlight to operate properly, and if you are able to gain access to some while you work it’ll only benefit you in the long run, but bright light can be used as a substitute. However, the brightness of the light source is not the only factor that needs consideration.

Imagine being outdoors: not a single space is uniformly lit, different areas and times have different brightness levels and temperatures (colours) of light.

Some light makes us feel uneasy or unsafe, other light is calming and comforting. These are all factors that you can artificially control easily with modern LED lighting and controllers. For example, I started using Phillips Hue smart lights, which we have dotted all around our home and workspaces.

 

A diagram of the Kelvin scale of light measurement

 

These colours or temperatures are measured in Kelvin (K) – red light is warm, blue light is cold. The idea is to tailor the light space in your office (or home) to suit what you want to achieve with the room.

General workspaces with cool/cold light (5000-6000K) exhibit higher levels of productivity and alertness.

Rest areas and breakout rooms need to be places where people feel safe, with a warmer light temperature (2000-4000K).

Conference and meeting rooms that need alertness and good levels of productivity have the added requirement of being welcoming: these spaces are best suited to our mid temperature light colours (4000-5000K).

You can easily make or break the success of a business with light alone.

 

The Dark

 

Everything must have balance! Darkness is a resource that we all need but don’t pay much attention to (except perhaps for photographers and those of you that run a cinema!), but actually if we don’t have enough darkness then we don’t perform when it is light.

For many of us, work eats into our early mornings and evenings. We are still trying to be hyper-productive during our dusk and dawn hours. Being saturated by bright cold light during these times plays a massive roll on the way that we go about our day and how we sleep.

 

Without correct sleep, well, we just don’t function properly. Missing one night’s sleep has more of a detrimental cognitive effect than a blood alcohol level of 0.1% (illegal to drive in the UK).

 

Imagine how stressed you would feel if you were shocked out of deep sleep by a wild leopard landing on your bed. Your day from then on would be a bit of a mess, right?

This is what our bodies think is happening when that alarm clock goes off and the bedroom light gets switched on. Then before our cortisol and adrenalin get a chance to drop, we jump into the morning commute, into our stressful work environments where we work into the evening, and then force ourselves to sleep at the flick of a light switch.

None of that day carries the natural hallmarks of a healthy circadian rhythm (remember I mentioned that earlier).

 

The End of the Tunnel

 

Luckily, in swoop those fancy smart lights that we can use to create an artificial sunrise/sunset that has warm dim light that gradually increases in intensity and colour until we reach our daylight levels.

As we reach the end of our day, the lights begin to dim and warm again giving us a gradual wind down into the restful evening and night.

Laura-Anne and I have this kind of setup that creates a steady circadian rhythm year round in our home and our offices. Those of you eagle-eyed enough may have noticed the lights in my office doing this during our morning online networking meetings.

 

These tactics can be used at home and in the office to give us a more natural flow to our days (and nights) and give us the optimum chance of being our best when we are working.

Have you considered the way that you use light in your environment? What experiences do you have with the way light affects you? Would you like to find out more about how nature can boost workplace wellbeing? Please leave a comment – I’m very happy to help.

Next time, we will be talking about our second biophilic pillar: Water. If there is anything you’d like to know about this key element, get in touch and perhaps it’ll find its way into the next blog!

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Bio-what-now?

Bio-what-now?

 

I’m sure that many of you reading this will have encountered beautiful images of work and living spaces filled with plants and natural elements.
Perhaps you’ve thought about how much you would like to exist in such a space?
What if I told you that building the biophilic work or living space is akin to baking a cake or making a sandwich?
Over the next few weeks, we’ll delve into the biophilic kitchen and learn a bit about the ingredients we need to make the perfect biophilic cakes and sarnies for YOU.
This week, I thought that we could start with a bit of an overview of biophilia, followed by some jargon busting.

 

 

The Concept

 

 

In our modern built world, we have unfortunately lost our innate connection with our habitat. This disconnect has led to many an issue: poor health, reduced productivity, pollution, waste, and destruction.

The concept behind biophilic design is to bring nature and naturally inspired elements back into our living and working environments to create OUR optimum habitat. As humans, our lifestyles and technology have evolved faster than we can keep up. For example, we’re biologically engineered to be awake when it’s light, and asleep when it’s dark. But how many of us settle down as soon as the sun has set?

It would be unrealistic to expect humans to completely reset our way of life: we can’t go back to the dark ages. But we can put things in place to reconnect with the natural elements that we’re subconsciously desperately missing.

 

 

There’s a reason that social media is chock full of memes and #wednesdaywisdom posts that encourage us to look after ourselves.

 

Broadleaf Forest

The Point

 

 

Imagine receiving a small animal (maybe a frog, a lizard or a fish) as a pet. In order to keep them happy and alive, we need to provide them with a suitable home that is the right temperature and humidity; that has a supply of fresh water and nutritious food; that has the correct lighting; is free from pollution and toxins, and finally – safe from danger.

Our little animal friend needs all these things to not only survive, but to thrive. Anyone who is an animal lover will know just how attached and dedicated we can be to our furry, feathered, or scaly friends. I can tell you that our garden birds are the most spoiled little creatures – they have not one, but three feeding stations that offer a wide variety of different foods. Laura-Anne caters to these birds like they’re the prodigal son returning from exile. Why? Because it makes her happy.

 

 

But how often do we dedicate our time and resources to really looking after ourselves?

 

 

There’s a reason that self-care has become quite the buzz word. There’s a reason that social media is chock full of memes and #wednesdaywisdom posts that encourage us to look after ourselves.

When we really look at it, we are pretty much awful at taking care of ourselves. If we were pets, we’d be the poor class hamster that everyone forgot to feed over the summer.

The point of biophilic (nature inspired) design in work and living spaces is to help us to live the best life and produce the best work that we can, by creating the optimum habitat for us as just one of the species on our little marble of a home.

 

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

 

 

The Big Words

 

 

We all have our areas of speciality that carry jargon. There’s nothing worse than that conversation where you only understand every other word or phrase, so let’s see if we can bust 10 bits of jargon that you might hear or read about biophilic design.

 

 

1. Biophilia (Biophillic) – This comes from the Greek bios (life), and philia (an affectionate love). Biophillic design is therefore nature-loving/inspired design.

 

 

2. Biotope – From the Greek bios (life), and topos (place). An area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for a specific collection of plants and animals.

 

 

3. Aquascape – This is an aquarium (fish tank) normally planted with live aquatic plants – an underwater garden. Fish can and do live successfully in an aquascape, but they are not normally the focal feature. Some aquascapes are only hardscaped.

 

 

4. Hardscape – The skeleton / backbone of an aquascape, garden or nature inspired design. Hardscape would be the wood, branches, rock (normally non-living) features in a design.

 

 

5. Living Wall – A vertical garden, normally created indoors. These are live planted and not to be confused with a green wall.

 

 

6. Green Wall – A vertically designed nature scape that uses preserved or artificial plants, mimicking a living wall. Most moss walls that you see are preserved mosses and are ‘green walls’.

 

 

7. Epiphyte – A plant (normally tropical) that that grows (non-parasitically) on another plant or surface – not in the ground. Orchids, air plants and ferns are great examples of epiphytes.

 

 

8. Xerophyte – Plants (and animals) that can survive in extreme environments (usually deserts) with high temperatures and low water. Cacti are a great example of xerophytes.

 

 

9. Circadian Rhythm – A natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.

 

 

10. Vivarium – derived from the Latin vivere, meaning ‘to live’. Therefore, technically absolutely any enclosure for an animal or plant, designed to provide a stable environment, is a vivarium. To specify more accurately there are some names that you might hear from time to time:

 

 

11. Aquarium – 100% aquatic (A fish tank)

 

 

12. Riparium – This is 90% water and simulated the edge of a pond, riverbank, shoreline or coastline. Normally low level with a small section of dry land. Crabs or turtles are often kept in a riparium.

 

 

13. Paludarium – Part water, part land (60% land) – This is normally a taller setup that has a water section at the bottom and a large land section. Often frogs or semi-aquatic animals are housed normally in a paludarium.

 

 

14. Terrarium – This is a land-based habitat, sometimes small bodies of water (waterfall, pond) are included in a terrarium but this is to supplement the design more than being a critical feature. Plants and terrestrial features are the name of the game here. Insects, land-based reptiles and arboreal creatures are kept in these. A terrarium can be tropical or arid in design.

 

 

15. Formicarium – This is a fancy name for an ant farm.

 

 

16. Mossarium – a terrarium specifically for mosses.

 

Now that we have a few new words for our dictionaries, I can’t wait to start exploring my 5 key elements of biophilic design with you!

 

Have you got any biophilic / nature jargon that you don’t understand? How do you use the natural world to enhance your health and wellbeing? Do you want to make changes to improve your workplace and living space? Please leave a comment – I’m very happy to help.

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Tiny Jungle: the birth of a business

Broadleaf Forest

Tiny Jungle: the birth of a business

 

So how does a business like Tiny Jungle get going? Why do I do this?

Well, it’s been a bumpy road so far with many ups and downs, twists and turns. But it all began with a crash…

 

Burnout

For many years I worked my butt off in the logistics department of a multi-national company. Finding time to hold a meeting without disruption? Innovating? Being able to have lunch in peace? Ha, what a joke! The stress of it left me feeling burnt out with no energy left for life.

On top of that, even my hobbies – the things I enjoy and wanted to spend time doing – caused me further strain. I’ve always loved nature, conservation and simplicity, but human progression, complex systems, innovation and technology are great too.

Yet how could Cave Sean, whose ancestors evolved slowly and simply outdoors, survive in today’s fast-paced world? How could he thrive in the chaos that is modern life? I needed time to work these things out.

Fortunately, I had a total mental collapse…

Chillout

Signed off from work, on medication, with doctors and loved ones doing everything they could to help me come back from the abyss. What was I going to do?

Weeks passed, then months. And finally, with time to chill out, I began to emerge. I had time for life again and started being productive in my new ‘no work, just recover’ world. I was able to focus on my passion for the natural world rather than just work, work, work. And with time to think I could address my conflicting interests. The cogs began to whirr…

How can we please our inner cave person and embrace the modern world? Will the two somehow cancel each other out to become calm like waves colliding from opposite directions? And is it worth the effort of trying to make it happen?

The answers, I believe, are yes, yes and yes.

New beginnings

To keep improving and prospering I needed to shape my own world – not let others dictate it for me. My passion for the natural world and engaging in my hobbies with a new perspective became part of my recovery. This was the starting point for something completely different, including my future employment.

So Tiny Jungle began.

While my burnout experience wasn’t pleasant, I’m glad it happened because I got the chance to reconnect with nature and simplicity. This helped me survive, thrive and grow. So why wouldn’t it help you too?

With Tiny Jungle I can help you (and your employees) embrace the power of nature to become healthier, happier and more productive at work. When you’re flourishing and growing, your business will thrive naturally too.

 

Have you experienced nature’s healing power? How do you use the natural world to enhance your health and wellbeing? Do you want to make changes to improve your workplace wellbeing? Please leave a comment – I’m very happy to help.