Episode 60- Boiphilic Design at home

Jessica McNaughton: Hi. This is Jessica with Build Green, Live green. Cara Green’s podcast on building materials and sustainability and how you can bring those into  your work and to your home. Today, we are talking about biophilic design in the  home, and we have another in-house guest, Kristine Hart who handles sales of care  green products in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. 

Kristine Hart: Alabama. 

Jessica McNaughton: Alabama. I always get it confused. The AL and the LA state  shouldn't be right next to each other. Very confusing. So, welcome Kristine.  

Kristine Hart: Hi, Jessica.  

Jessica McNaughton: Hi Kristine, with a ‘K’ for everyone curious out there and a  ‘Hart’ with no ‘E’. 

Kristine Hart: That’s right.  

Jessica McNaughton: Kristine with a heart, ‘Hart’ with no ‘E’. So, Kristine. We've  talked about biophilic design in the past at Cara Green. Obviously, when you're a  sustainable building product company, we talk a lot about green building and people  think trees and wood and things like that. But we haven't really talked about biophilic  design in this latest context where everyone got shifted to work-from-home and the  office became the workspace and we really kind of had to rethink how to make that a  usable, livable space. And you have a house full of kids as well so, you understand,  what it's like to try and get them focused and efficient and so on. So, can you talk a  little bit about biophilic design and what it was when you first started at Cara Green  and what it's become now that we've lived through this, this year of the pandemic and  we've had all these kids and bodies and husbands and ex-husbands, all in or hopefully  not in the same space. How has it been for you?  

Kristine Hart: It's been evolving, right? I think that kind of sums up the year and it  sums up our spaces. So, converting to being on the road and going out to see my  clients and shifting very quickly to a home-office environment and a virtual school  program at home was a big deal. And so, I initially started off using my couch for the  home office. It was the most comfortable spot in the house, and I had a great view of  the backyard. And then my back started hurting and I realized I couldn't really focus  and manage the house and manage my work sitting there open to all of the elements in  the home. And so, I moved into a space. Fortunately, we already have home office  space. It was more of a room that was just used periodically and not really lived in.  And so, I've moved into the office and I have adapted it and converted it to suit my  needs. Before it looked pretty, it looked nice.

It was lovely. It just was not functional. So, for instance, we have a very traditional  floor plan. You walk into the front door and to the right is the office, to the left is the  dining room, straight ahead is the living room. So, my desk was facing towards the  two front windows which would seem to be an ideal position to sit in. I can see  everything going on outside. I've got natural daylight coming in. The plants are  thriving. It seems great. But there was a wall that was obstructing my view of the rest  of the house. Right? And so, I had to really position and change that spatial  orientation so I could feel more grounded and have a better view of what my  surroundings were and still take advantage of my natural daylight to the left of me  now, which casts these great shadows on the wall. And it's opened up the space so I  can see into the living room or the dining room and see the plants and the mirror and  the light beam that’s going across the floor.  

Jessica McNaughton: Yes. 

Jessica McNaughton: So, to sort of back that up a little bit, we didn't really kind of  set the stage for what biophilic design is, but for our listeners who may have heard  prior podcasts, it really is about either bringing nature into your space or changing the  spatial orientation of things so that you are in your most comfortable position or  creating natural analogs or things around you that evoke nature without being so  direct about being natural. So, maybe a natural woodgrain versus an actual tree in your home. So, what you're talking about Kristine is the nature of the space. So, your  positioning feeling safe so that kind of refuge, but also prospect, which is being able  to see out in front of you. So, refuge and prospect are two ways that we can orient  ourselves in a space that make us feel the most comfortable, and then having that  daylighting and then views of nature are also ways to take advantage of biophilic  design in the home. 

Kristine Hart: Absolutely. So, biophilia basically means; it’s the hypothesis that we  humans have that natural tendency and desire to connect with nature. And I think all  of us have experienced that throughout this past year, especially since we are in our  homes and now, we can't necessarily, or we have not been able to experience as much  of nature or even just going for a walk in the city, perhaps that’s where [inaudible  06:06] You haven’t necessarily been able to implement that outside of your home so  you're bringing it inside because we all want to feel connected to it. And so biophilic  design is just implementing that nature of this space through your plants, through your  textiles, through water, or just nature in your space.

And then as I was speaking on nature of the space, that spatial orientation, and then,  of course, there are natural analogs. And you'll look around your home and you'll start  to realize, “Hey, I believe in implementing biophilic design in my home. Look at that  I've got a wooden carved mushroom sitting over there in my dining room.” You start  to notice these things and you realize maybe you do gravitate more towards that.  Maybe that does make you feel calmer and more relaxed.  

Jessica McNaughton: So, you just mentioned feeling calmer and more relaxed. And I  think that's an important point for the listeners here and. And first, I should point out  that we have a cheat sheet on the different ways you can incorporate biophilic design  into your space. So, that's available on our website. If you can't find it, just email us at  [email protected], and we'll send it to you. But it really is kind of some quick and  dirty ways to bring nature into your space. And as Kristine was mentioning, it has  been shown, documented, and studies. There is a ton of case studies on it now, but  basically, it lowers your stress level. 

Your affinity to be with nature is because nature calms you down. It reduces stress. It  causes hospital patients to use less medication. So, even just orienting your desk near  a window is a simple way to incorporate biophilic design. And, we can throw out  some other pretty simple ideas for those of you in the home. Maybe not all the time,  but more than, than you used to; What are some ways you can incorporate biophilic  design? And as we mentioned, plants are great, open windows natural light, the air  coming through a space is really good for biophilic design. Kristine, feel free to throw  out some other ideas. I'm kind of recapping the ones you already mentioned. Walk the  dog.  

Kristine Hart: Those are four easy and quick solutions. I feel biophilic design is not  intimidating. It’s not expensive. It's easy. And you can literally go on a walk and pick  up a pine cone that you like, or maybe it's a leaf, it's a beautiful fall leaf and you bring  

it home and you incorporate it into your design. Maybe you're making a wreath.  Maybe you're just putting it on your shelf or our window ledges. Because we have  removed all the windows and all of the wood blinds on our back windows so that we  have that daylight, we have that open-in view. Upon those ledges, we bring back little  treasures. Maybe it's a special seashell from the beach. Maybe it's a special rock or a  leaf. And we set them along the ledge. So, there are lots of easy options that you can  incorporate with your textiles. I guarantee you that you've got a favorite pillow. Why  is it your favorite one on the couch?  

And maybe because it's got texture, maybe because it's made out of out of hemp or  some natural fibers. It's easy to implement them in that way if you just looked around  your house and you started paying close attention, you would find these objects and if not, it's easy to get your hands on parts of nature and bring them in.

Jessica McNaughton: Right. So, with a lot of the products that we carry at Cara  Green, we talk about biophilic design because a lot of those products fit in there. So,  organoid surfaces, whether it's their natural coffee surfaces or Rose petals or Alpine  hay, lavender, and cornflour, they have this. They actually have the sensory aspect to  them. So, I keep those right next to my desk just because I can smell them and I love  that natural smell. And then Paper stone is another great one, which has a warmth to it  and texture. And Lap-o-tech has these textures.  

So, we've got these great materials, which is why we talk about biophilic design. But  why we talk about it to our listeners in bringing it into the home is because it's a really  stressful place right now. Not just for us and you, but also the kids. My kids get 20  minutes of PE, I think once a week. And what is that really? They're standing in front  of a computer with headphones on doing jumping jacks. Someone's going to get hurt.  So, to actually get them outside and reset, I have to do that continuously. Just go  outside and take a walk and it refreshes them, it really does it reboots them.  

Kristine Hart: [inaudible 11:10] 

Jessica McNaughton: So, the most direct, positive impact biophilic design has on my  life right now is when I send those kids out to get that reset and they come back in and  it worked and I see it in real life. 

Kristine Hart: Yes, you're absolutely right. We've all witnessed it and we’ve all maybe even experienced it ourselves. Kids come back from being outside. They are  refreshed. You can see the blood flowing in their cheeks better. You can just see life  in them. And in such difficult times and in non-difficult times, it's important to have  that aspect outside of your home as well as inside of your home.  

Jessica McNaughton: One of the things I also did which I never thought I would  really do, but it had been so rainy here and I know it was similar where you are in  Georgia, but it was literally like two weeks of rain, which is not that common here. And I was just so missing the sunlight and I started looking into it and I ended up  

getting one of those sad lights. It's SAD. It doesn't make you sad. It's ‘Seasonal.  something depression.’ But mean, when I lived in Vermont and there was so little…  Teal who's our marketing girl lives there now, so she knows what I'm talking about. 

But Vermont was just so cold and there was no sunshine for so long. I can see people  getting more of that there. But I have this little sad light. It's just this orb that sits next  to my desk and it emulates that light and stimulates you the same way that natural  light would when the sun isn't out. So, that's an easy thing that you can do as well.  And when my kids are getting really antsy, I'd take my SAD light and I plug it in next  to them and I make them sit next to that. But that's an easy way to kind of replace the  sun when it's not out.

Kristine Hart: Absolutely. I heard about this when I lived in Wisconsin. I definitely  have to get some of those and replace some of these led lights that the kids have too, with those SAD lights because you really have this dark space with this neon writing  and it's, it can be concerning.  

Jessica McNaughton: And that's at a personal level and your own emotional  wellbeing for working from home. I find myself more efficient maybe, but I also find  that I can kind of get distracted with more task-oriented stuff than project-based stuff. But it is shown that incorporating these things does make you more productive.  

Kristine Hart: Oh, absolutely. Yes, 100%. I would agree. I have found myself to be  more dialed in on task-type projects or projects, but also, I've had to adjust the office  space to set up little mini photoshoots. And I wouldn't necessarily be able to do that if  I didn't have the space or have moved things around to create that space, but the  lighting that comes in as well helps in that productivity because I'm able to get a  better shot with that that natural lighting coming in. So yes, it definitely has a big  effect on your productivity. Some studies show office spaces where the employee was  sitting in a cubicle versus the employee that was sitting facing the window. The  employee that was facing the window generated more work, was more efficient, was  happier, didn't miss work as often as the employee in the cubicle. So, again tying in  that mental wellness and the productivity; the overall wholeness and wellness of  biophilia has maximum benefits for sure. 

Jessica McNaughton: So, I think in summary and to wrap it up for our listeners,  biophilic design in commercial spaces and the architectural world is, is becoming a lot  more common. The nice thing about it is it's not an ‘all-or-nothing’ thing. You can get  a couple of succulents on a window sill or an herb garden. There's a lot of different  ways that you can bring biophilic design into your home. And you're going to get  those same advantages that the architecture world knows are positive for owners. And  that could be productivity, well-being, emotional health, stress levels. All of those  things that at the end of the day are impacting human health. And we don't just want  human health in the commercial world, we want it in our homes.  

So, get a plant, turn your desk towards the window, open some shades, go out for a  walk when you can, send the kids out for a walk when you can. Take the dog out, get  a fish. If you do not have a green thumb and I am the poster child for killing plants, you can get photos of animals, aquatic life, just having those sounds in the  background. All of those things don't have to be a direct implementation of nature but  they can imply nature or evoke nature. Those two have that same calming effect.  

Kristine Hart: Yes, absolutely. You don't have a waterfall in your house. Yes, I don't  either, but I have Spotify on my computer and I can listen to natural sounds. I can  listen to the rain forest if I want just as a backdrop just to again, provide that soothing  element, for sure. 

Jessica McNaughton: Yes, absolutely. So, I appreciate you walking us through that  and I appreciate you taking those steps to talk about your own home, your own  family, and what you've done to incorporate biophilic design. And I'm excited to kind  of see all the work we do at Cara Green to try to bring these great products to people,  find their way into the home. So, it's not just about our construction folks and these  commercial spaces, but it's about the home now, too. And it's about individuals. So, I'm excited to kind of bring biophilic design full circle.  

Kristine Hart: Yes. Me too. Thanks, Jessica. 

Jessica McNaughton: Thanks, Kristine. This is Jessica with Build Green, Live Green.