5 tips for improving indoor air quality at home

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indoor air quality and biophilic design

Indoor air quality is a key component of the healthy building / healthy design movement and forms a central part in all the big certification programs such as WELL, Fitwel and the International Living Future Institute.

It is also a component of biophilic design as it is returns the indoor built environment to a more natural state, similar to the type of air we were breathing for millions of years while evolving on the planet, i.e. fresh, clean and pollution-free.

This in turn opens the door to several bio-hacks designed to improve overall health, sleep and mental acuity.

top 5 tips for maintaining healthy indoor air at home:

1.take your shoes off!

Remove outdoor shoes at the entrance religiously, switching to dedicated indoor only shoes such as slippers, sandals or simply go barefoot, depending on the climate. This is non negotiable and half the world’s population think nothing of doing it so adopt the habit or you’ll face an uphill struggle from the start. Your shoes drag in toxins and all manner of dirt from the streets outside, just look at the soles of a well-worn pair of white trains to remind yourself of what is out there. Leave them at the door. Invest in a shoe rack and place it by your entrance. Set your feet free and breathe deep.

2. air purifying fans

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Invest in an air purifying fan such as the Dyson Pure. Not only does it have the trademark Dyson aesthetic, meaning it will happily sit in the corner of your bedroom or living area without being a visual eyesore, it also comes with an impressive smartphone app that allows you to set on/off timers, view air quality data in real time and generally get the most out of the hardware. All you’d need do is set the fan to turn on automatically around 5pm each evening and then switch it to night mode when you go to sleep. This would ensure you have clean indoor air in your bedroom for +/-8 hours while sleeping. If you then set up something similar in your office, where you likely spend another +/-8 hours every day, you’re winning.

3. air purifying plants

air purifying plants

Go big on air purifying indoor plants, yes they have been over-hyped since Instagram gave us plant-stylists but there is plenty of substance to work with here so stick with it. NASA famously did a seminal study on the top air-purifying plants (see below) but the key is not just the species, but the quantity too. Research has shown that between 6-8 such plants are needed per person per room to have any meaningful impact. In any case, plants look and perform best when carefully clustered in groups, like mini forests or jungles, so this is a win-win. Pick up a selection of different height Palms, Ficus, Chinese Evergreens, Garden Ivy, Boston Ferns and a Pothos or two and you’ll be ready to breath clean once you’ve spread them around your home.

4. eco-friendly cleaning

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Adopt an eco-friendly cleaning protocol in the house; rather than lining up endless plastic bottles of chemical-heavy products, step back a minute to consider the alternatives. Recent years have seen a proliferation of environmentally-friendly cleaning products with names like Ecover, GreenWorks and so on. They are not hard to find even in mainstream supermarkets as consumer consciousness slowly edges in this direction. Buy in bulk and decant into a smaller, re-usable bottle to reduce plastic waste. Consider the most basic of options such as using diluted white wine vinegar as a kitchen or window cleaner. Source eco sponges made from sustainable materials as you’ll likely burn through one a fortnight, once it discolours, it is time for a new one.

5. use natural ventilation

Use natural ventilation wisely. If you live on a quiet street, in a small town near a park, forest or sea, you will likely have enviably good air quality, one would hope. Open the windows and let the fresh air in whenever you can, especially in the early mornings. This is a natural instinct in many of us anyway, especially in certain cultures where open windows are a way of life.

The issue clearly is when the outside air is of conspicuously poor quality in a dense urban environment; in such instances the best solution may be to open windows at the rear of the home away from the street, or to open them at times of day when there is less traffic outside.

By consciously taking stock of the air quality outside in other words, one can take steps to protect and improve the quality of the air inside your home as well.

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - part 1

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - gingko biloba

what are natural nootropics, a.k.a. ‘smart drugs’?

In short, cognition enhancers originally intended to help improve cognitive function in aging individuals and/or those with age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Also, crucially, used by bio-hackers, entrepreneurs and other early-adopters looking for natural ways to boost physical and mental performance in everyday life. And this is the part we are focused on in this article…

you’re still healthy though, so are nootropics for you? 

To place this trend in perspective, it is the ability of nootropics to improve the prognosis (expected development of a disease) in patients that led to the hypothesis that they could also improve levels of attention/cognition in those who do not have a cognitive disease., or have not yet been diagnosed with one.

how do nootropics affect productivity?

Anyone who is out to change the culture in some way by making a contribution, be it small or large, to the world around them has got to be interested in productivity, especially those working in highly strategic, mentally engaging professions, be it start-ups, tech, legal, medicine or finance.

Making an impact on the world is not going to happen all by itself, especially as a solo entrepreneur. Instead it will almost invariably require blood, sweat, tears, moments of existential self-doubt and a break-up or two. There will likely be caffeine too, lots of caffeine…

the smart drug solution

Enter smart drugs, stage left. Nootropics claim to offer a cognitive edge; even a 5% boost in productivity and concentration can make a big difference over the course of a work day, especially when the number of work hours are limited by another job, relationships, fitness commitments and so on.

a list of common nootropics

Here is a list of nootropics that we will investigate in a series of forthcoming articles to address their affects as part of a functional health and mental performance program based on natural ingredients only:

  1. L-theanine 

  2. Bacopa Monnieri

  3. Ashwagandha

  4. Choline

  5. Gingko Biloba

  6. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

  7. Rhodiola Rosea

In the meantime, if you are looking for a one-stop shop to get into them, rather than trying to build your own bespoke ‘stack’ of smart supplements, check out Earthly Biotics for an innovative, all-in-one solution we have had our eye on for a few months now.

sitting vs standing: an active design perspective

active design & ‘the sitting problem’

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A ‘nature knows best’ health philosophy gives a clear set of guidelines when addressing lifestyle issues such as whether sitting is truly the new smoking, as the media have dubbed it.

Here we combine evolution-based thinking with active design principles to explore the topic of 21st century sedentary living.

how did we get here?

In the last half-century, the nature of work has fundamentally shifted. No longer are the majority of people toiling in fields, or doing manual labour in factories, the new normal is to be in an office all day, at a desk, in front of a screen, with or without a natural light source nearby.

From a meta history perspective, this is a long way from an evolutionary correct norm that our bodies were built for. ‘Active design’ is a way to incorporate activity prompts and hacks into the built environment as a way to combat the risk of endless hours of sitting.

less physical activity at work

Physical activity, once so intimately connected with our daily lives going all the way back to hunter gatherer times, is no longer a fundamental part of work for many of us, let alone home life.

One recent study shows that this equates to a reduction in calorie consumption of around 100 calories / day in the US and can therefore be linked to a ‘significant portion’ of the increase in mean body mass across the US population in the past 50 years. In other words, the US population is getting more obese because it spends less time moving.

Physical inactivity in the home

The dominance of televisions and computers during free time in the home is another contributing factor to the total amount of time the average person spends sitting down, not expending any energy each day.

Overall this equates to a massive problem of physical inactivity in both junior and adult populations in the western world and that, put simply, is bad news for obesity levels, diabetes and heart disease.

lower back pain in office workers

Prolonger periods of sitting have a direct impact on hip mobility while also being a major cause of lower back pain. Even sitting for shorter stretches of time is an improvement, which is where ‘active design’ tactics that encourage small movement snacks during the day can provide a solution.

lifestyle exercise at work

Lifestyle exercise encourages office workers to integrate short periods of low to moderate activity into their day, the idea being to cumulatively piece together a meaningful amount of movement through a combination of trips to the water cooler, up and down stairs, for a walk around the block, and so on over the course of the day. Think of the often quoted “10,000 steps” concept.

humanscale quickstand standing desk healthy office design


sit-stand desks in healthy offices

Products such as the Human Scale desk converter shown above help encourage a combination of sitting and standing at work, giving the desk owner the option to adjust desk height at will throughout the day.

Most people will find the afternoons tiring after a full morning on their feet, so a mobility ball under the desk can help, as can the option to move elsewhere in the office to change position for a while. It is all about mixing things up according to the type of work taking place.

A Cochrane review of existing research showed that the main benefit of investing in one of these desks, or an extension for an existing desk, is to reduce the total amount of time an office worker spends sitting down during their work day as well as to reduce the number of sitting bouts over 30 minutes in duration.

Our own anecdotal evidence of using them for the past six years or so is that they make a massive difference for lower back pain sufferers, quite literally removing the issue from the equation for as long as one can stay off the chair. Mix that with a program of core strength and mobility exercises and it is a winning formula. We’ve tried it, changed our habits and will never go back!

signage prompts in office design

Simple signage prompts are a seemingly obvious yet remarkably effective way of encouraging office workers to stay active, use the stairs and say no to the elevator, assuming a reasonable number of floors are required..!

If you would like to know more about how we can help you design a healthier, more active office, contact us via email on design @biofilico.com

healthy interior design at the innovation centre co-working

healthy interior design at the innovation centre co-working

For the past decade, there has been much progress made in the field of planet-focused buildings, one ‘P’ from the so-called Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet and Profit.

green architecture and interiors

Buildings and interiors that respect the planet, doing no harm to the environment and in some cases even giving back, are also described with terminology such as green buildings or sustainable interiors, for example.

Certification systems such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED have given architects and interior designers a clear structure and format to follow, as well as increasingly prestigious ratings that add tangible value for building owners and their occupants.

healthy offices

Only more recently however has the emphasis turned from Plant to People in terms of our built environment. Current thinking posits that buildings and interiors should not only be green but also healthy, actively contributing to the mental and physical wellness of its users, be they residents, office workers, patients or students, for example.

tivat co-working

When we designed the Innovation Centre co-working office in Porto Montenegro, Tivat, Montenegro on the Adriatic Coast, we applied a number of these healthy and biophilic design principles to the interiors as a way to ensure the space promotes productivity, concentration and positive mood. Any entrepreneur knows how important such things are, especially when working alone, to a deadline when every second counts.

healthy, biophilic interiors 

Specific examples include a plethora of air-purifying plants, a large-format photo mural of the nearby Bay to create a calm breakout space, maximized natural light by strategic positioning of work desks, the addition of bicycle storage racks to encourage active travel to and from the office, an outdoor workspace for those all-important fresh-air breaks, ergonomic desk chairs to ensure maximum comfort while seating and finally a number of standing desks to relive the lower back and boost circulation during the work day.

www.ic.portomontenegro.com 
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organic design: connecting nature & interior design in biophilia

organic design biophilia architecture interiors

eco-friendly design

Sustainable and eco-friendly buildings are a concept that has been introduced into mainstream design over the past 20 years but the historical movement of its predecessor, organic design, started long before.

With organic architecture and organic design stretching back as far as the 30’s there is a rich history of architects and designers deploying this philosophy in a poignant way, long before talk of biophilia and biophilic design. Indeed the creations birthed from this branch of design went on to heavily influence the trajectory of the design sector as a whole.

frank lloyd wright: the biophilia pioneer

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator that not only coined the term organic architecture but also believed in and abided by the concept. After a full career that involved designing over 1,000 structures—532 of which were completed—he published "The New Architecture: Principles”, an essay that laid out nine principles of architecture reflecting his philosophy of organic architecture and design. 

what is organic architecture & organic design?

Organic architecture is best described as harmonizing the man-made world with nature. Or more abstractly put, "form follows function”, a statement coined by Wright’s mentor and fellow architect, Louis Sullivan. 

A structure built using the principles of organic architecture can be said to display the following characteristics:

  • Closely resembles nature, blending in and utilizing its natural surroundings

  • Creates things from the inside out, mirroring how much of nature functions

  • Uses materials and shapes found in the natural world 

The derivative term, organic design, extends the philosophy of organic architecture to smaller projects like furniture, accessories, and art. 

biophilic building case study: wright’s fallingwater (1935)

A home that truly embodies the theory and spirit of organic design is Fallingwater. Built by Frank Lloyd Wright above the running water in Pennsylvania, this family home makes great use of naturally sourced material, such as cut stone and beige concrete.

biophilic design case study: alvar aalto viipuri library (1933)

organic design biophilia architecture alvar aalto library

Use of natural materials, skylights, and irregular forms can all be seen in the construction of the Viipuri Library, all stylistically typical of the architect Alvar Aalto. It is this organic design approach used in Aalto’s architecture, furniture, textiles, glassware, sculptures and paintings that are attributed to his success as a highly recognized, modern architect and designer in the 1930’s. Notice too how this wave-like form repeats itself in the glorious Aalto-designed vase that proudly sits on our showroom table.

organic design biophilia vase alvar aalto biofilico

Specifically designed for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, the organic chair was revolutionary. Up until this point, comfortable chairs were constructed with expensive springs and heavy bolsters of upholstery padding. The lightweight, molded plywood seat was a game changer.

organic design eames chair biofilico

After the competition the developers, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, discovered that the technology to mass-produce molded plywood chairs didn’t exist, so not many were produced. However, this did pave the way for a chair that Charles would go on to create with his wife, Ray Eames. An iconic chair known as the Eames Lounge Chair. 

Email for more information on how Biofilico can help you create a biophilic, organic interior space with natural health benefits.

aromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

Aromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

Aromatherapy is a common medicinal technique that deploys aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, either inhaled or applied to the skin through massage, to positively influence our mood, mindset, pain sensitivity and sleep. 

Sadly, it has become all too easy to label something, be it a diffuser, soap or shower gel, as ‘relaxing’, ‘energizing’ or ‘refreshing’; such adjectives are so loosely thrown around nowadays that they have become near vacuous terms. 

biophilic bio-hacking

The inquisitive bio-hacker intent on living a more Biophilic lifestyle that brings them closer to nature  can and should demand more from the products he or she purchases, and aromatherapy still has a role to play in that process.

Ancient Chinese, Indian, Roman and Greek populations all appear to have made ready use of essential oils, both in religious or ritual practices and more practical applications such as cosmetics and perfumes. 

More recently, scientific studies have provided considerable evidence to back up aromatherapy’s claims to aid with reducing anxiety, improving sleep and enhancing cognitive performance; here we will address each in turn.

essential oils and anxiety reduction

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One study focused on women undergoing an image-guided breast biopsy, exploring the use of aromatherapy scents compared to a placebo in a randomized, controlled study.

Anxiety was self-reported before and after the biopsy by 87 women using the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory Scale. A statistically significant reduction in anxiety was shown through the use of lavender-sandalwood aromatherapy compared with the placebo group. 

aromatherapy for improved sleep

A meta-analysis of 12 studies using a random-effects model revealed that the use of aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality in 95% of cases with inhalation proving more effective as an application than massage therapy.

The study concluded that readily available aromatherapy treatments do indeed appear to be effective and promote sleep. More research may need to be done to develop specific guidelines for how to use aromatherapy to achieve the desired effect.

a natural solution to enhanced mental performance 

a natural solution to enhanced mental performance 

A sample of 42 administrative university workers performed a computer task in a university classroom while assigned into an aromatherapy group and a control group. Oil diffusers were is use during the session, one with petitgrain essential oil (orange tree leaf extract) and one with almost oil as the control.

Before and after the intervention, participants completed anxiety and mood state questionnaires (the Stait-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Profile of Mood States). Heart-rate variability (HRV) was also measured before, during (20-25 min), and after the intervention to analyze autonomic nervous system regulation. 

The aromatherapy group performed the task 2.28 min faster than the control group suggesting that inhaling petitgrain essential oil specifically and aromatherapy more generally can help to improve cognitive performance in the workplace by reducing stress levels and increasing attentiveness and alertness. 

if you would like to know how I could advise on creating a wellness space, recharge room or simply a more biophilic way of living, simply reach out via my contact page.