Friday, August 29, 2008

GREEN REVIVAL: Style and passion for the environment unite in new book that helps us combat green fatigue

Home decoration books aren’t usually emotional, but Oliver Heath’s passion for the environment makes Urban Eco Chic a thought-provoking book, one that subtly encourages all of us to reexamine the way we think of, shop for, and dispose of our home goods.

The book unveils Heath’s green home design style, called Urban Eco Chic, which “allows us to create energy-efficient homes that are beautifully designed and really stimulate and excite us by appealing to our emotional side.” To connect with our homes on an emotional level, Heath writes in the book, we should choose elements that balance vintage, nature, and technology:

Vintage: Treasured items and once-beloved collections that reflect our experiences, add a romantic quality, and create a sense of nostalgia.

Nature: The vibrant scent of freshly mown grass, the textual feel of tree bark, the flickering flames of a log fire - these all raise comforting emotional responses.

Technology is the key to how we can reduce our environmental impact and lower our carbon emissions. It is an exciting area, which is constantly developing.

Committed to reducing our eco-impact without compromising on style, Oliver Heath has applied this philosophy to this book as well. When published in September, the gorgeous, sustainably-produced book will be printed with vegetable-based inks on FSC-certified paper and coated with fully-recyclable laminate. Retailing for $29.95, this 176- page hardcover will feature more than 100 full color photographs and an eco resources section that lists green building supply companies, energy efficient retailers, green non-profits and more.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Don't want to use your A/C this summer? Urban Eco Chic author Oliver Heath offers up these no-sweat ideas to cool down your house.

  • Close your curtains: Cover windows during the day with thick curtains to stop the suns heat soaking into the interior materials.

  • Choose light-blocking blinds: Use black out blinds or silver backed blinds to reflect the suns rays back out from the window.

  • Encourage a breeze: Allow cross ventilation

  • Open skylights: If you have a skylight in the roof, open it to allow warm rising air out. This will be aided if you open a window or door lower down the building, allowing a chimney effect of warm air to be sucked out.

  • Light colors: Use whiter, lighter surfaces for interior furnishings that won’t attract and soak up the heat from the sun as it pours through windows.

  • Filter light: Venetian slatted blinds are a good way to filter light into a space without allowing in the suns rays – making them perfect for office spaces or those that are to be used in the daytime.

To keep your home cool this summer think outside the box - and outside your home.

  • Install slatted screens: The best way to cool down your house from the outside is to stop the suns rays entering the building in the first place, as they transform from light energy to heat as they pass through glass. So use Brise Soleil (slatted screens) overhanging the window to stop the majority of the suns midday strength, from entering.

  • Close your shutters: Stop the suns rays getting through the glass by using shutters fixed to the exterior of the building and keep them closed during the day.

  • Plant trees: Use deciduous trees planted out side your home to cut down on sunlight penetration in the summer (when leaves are present and blocking it) but allow the suns warmth through in the winter when the leave s fall off.
  • Grow vines: Do the same by using natural vegetation (such as climbing or trailing plants) grown over a pergola or similar structure, to cut down on summer sun but allow through warming winter rays.

  • Upgrade to tinted glass: Use technologically advanced solar glass such as high performance tinted glass (which can be blue, grey or green in color) low-e reflective strip glass or reflective coatings to bounce the suns away from entering the building.

Urban Eco Chic author and green designer Oliver Heath traces his commitment to the environment back to childhood.

Growing up in Brighton (on the South Coast of England) meant that I spent a lot of time as a child at the beach, even though the sea is pretty cold over here. Seeing rubbish and pollution wash up on the shore was always upsetting for me and so stuck in my memory. As I grew up I became a fanatical sailor and windsurfer, and whilst at university studying architecture I spent my glorious summer vacations working as a windsurfing instructor in Brighton. I taught my students how to respect the sea, the weather, how to look after themselves and learn how to make the most of it all by windsurfing.

These important lessons combined with my studies of the built environment (all 6 years of them!) to create a fascination with architecture and design that works with the forces of nature rather than against it - trying to shut nature out.

As my career took on a media angle I felt it important to discuss the issues in design that were important to contemporary living – and in my mind this was to focus on sustainable design. Now more and more we are seeing the issue of sustainable architecture being brought to the fore and I felt it was important to show how interiors could reflect this shift- to do their bit to reduce our environmental foot print, through well considered design and behavioral change, without compromising on style – naturally! Now the many stands of my work focus on designing aspirational sustainability- to create spaces that are first and foremost, beautiful, functional and inherently green.