We were delighted to meet eco design expert, designer and TV presenter Oliver Heath for coffee and a soulful chat recently in his hometown of Brighton. Here Oliver gives us an insight into how nature plays an important role in the spaces we work and live in and gives us tips on how we can extend our Po-Zu pleasure beyond the space of our shoes.
Oliver with our founder Sven, both standing comfortably in Wrap
Thinking of our shoes as the ideal ecosystem for our feet because they are breathable, supportive and toxic free, what’s the most holistic ecosystem you have been involved with in the design world?
My own home! When thinking about the way I'd like my family to live I worked hard to create a sustainable environment that reduces its use of basic resources whilst creating a happy health and nurturing environment to live in.
The house is super insulated; has solar PV and solar water heading panels, energy efficient lighting and low flow water systems. It also has a heat recovery system which keeps a constant supply of pre warmed fresh air supplied to every room. We also replaced small patio doors with sliding glass doors to increase the visual connection to our garden.
Do you see any parallels between architecture and shoe design?
Yes both have specific functional and aesthetic requirements that they have to fulfill. Whilst many houses don't have to move, shoes need this additional level of functionality and consideration in their fabrication and material choice.
Every product has an ‘architecture’, just not necessarily an architect to design it.
At Po-Zu we use bio-based materials such as coconut, natural latex and cork. Have you used or come across any of these in your work and if so how and where?
My work as a sustainable designer has led me to consider and use many bio based materials, which offer the opportunity to be sourced from renewable suppliers and can also help to avoid toxic substances in certain spaces which tend to pollute our interior environments.
So we now have coconut shell wall tiles; latex is used in the fabrication of natural mattresses and cork is a fantastic sustainable material used in all sorts of areas from flooring to wall coverings, furniture and interior products. Cork is up there with my favourite materials!
Po-Zu has taken a lot of inspiration from Japan –our name means ‘Pause’ in Japanese, our first styles were based on the Japanese house slipper and our logo stems from an old Japanese crest. Are there any countries or cultures that have inspired your design? If so, which ones and how?
I do have a love for the peacefulness and tranquility of Japanese architecture but on the whole my design approach is based with site specific design requirements; the location, clients needs, light, orientation and of course the budget.
Based on the coconut husk's natural shock-absorber property, our biomimicry Foot Mattress has been our biggest product design breakthrough. What is the biggest breakthrough you’ve come across in eco design or sustainable architecture?
In the last two years I've become fascinated with Biophilic design; using humans innate attraction to nature to create a greater sense of health and well being. Principles include increasing natural light, views onto nature, the use of natural materials and also the creation of recuperative spaces.
It has been subject to incredible research that reveals that spaces with Biophilic elements such as offices can be 8% more productive. Hospitals can allow patients to recover 8.5% faster with 22% less medication and schools where children can learn 20-25% faster with 5-14% better test results.
I'm won over!
I blog regularly at http://humanspaces.com/ so take a look if you'd like to find out more.
What’s the advantage of Biophilic design over sustainable design?
Biophilic design is the new frontier in sustainable design and is an essential component to creating happier, healthier, more productive spaces. When we understand that our own health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to that of nature we put a greater value to its inclusion and conservation.
In the Po-Zu studio, we have a huge window that looks out on to a garden and beyond that woodland. How do you think the space we live and work in affects us and what changes can we make to ensure a deeper sense of wellbeing?
Having views onto nature from offices has been proven to increase mental functioning and memory recall tests by 10-25%. Including nature is an essential element when considering the health and wellbeing of spaces. It is something that the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft are investing in heavily when designing their future workspace environments.
I'd recommend making the most of windows- move your desks closer to them. Get some plants. Use natural materials. And make sure you create recuperative spaces into your home and workspaces.
We found it very interesting to hear that you work at a standing desk; don’t you find it tough being on your feet all day and what measures do you take to maintain your lightness of being?
I've been working at a standing desk for around 6 months now, as I was suffering from back problems that were exacerbated by sitting down all day at the office.
Whilst I do now stand for much of the day I make sure I wear comfortable shoes in the office such as my Po-Zu boots but also sit down and walk around when I can. It's all about having a variety of options and not just sitting on your bum all day!