Two years ago, in September 2013, we told you about Henning Voss’s emerging design consultancy, Vivid Living. Back then, the founder and managing director with years of Hong Kong development under his belt decided it was time to bring truly sustainable and healthy homes and offices (through design, materials and product) to the SAR. Though a work in progress in ’13, Vivid Living has come a long way towards providing those healthy spaces — or at least arming consumers with the information they need to do it themselves.
With upwards of half a dozen redeveloped flats completed to healthier standards, Vivid Living is expanding its consultancy and renovation work with a growing web presence that allows casual readers curious as to how they might improve their spaces’ conditions (we spend nearly 90 percent of our time indoors) to browse white papers and the blog for practical ideas. Despite going online more significantly, Vivid Living’s consultancy services haven’t taken a backseat. Voss notes its focus has shifted a bit from renovations. “Over the last couple of months we are moving more and more into property development. Together with Provest Holdings we are in the process of developing a healthy office building in Sai Ying Pun,” explain Voss. This is the first time that Vivid Living’s medical evidence-based concept will be applied to an entire building in Hong Kong. The development will feature professional air and water purification, sustainable and green building materials, circadian lighting and ergonomic and biophilic design.”
One of the tools Voss is using to get the word out is a newsletter (subscribe on the website) covering topics as prosaic as getting better sleep to green building. For sleeping Voss includes product suggestions for maximising silence and maintaining a vital cool temperature — like the Hush smart earplugs and the luxury ChiliPad for cooling the mattress. There are posts about finding space in the home, no matter the size or budget, for a gym (ever considered a boxing bag or a standing desk?) and more common concerns about air and water quality are addressed too.
But as with all things Internet, there’s a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering online. Anyone who’s read the dreadful Food Babe knows this. “You are right, nowadays it’s easier than ever to start a blog and get published,” Voss concedes. Right or wrong it’s hard to be heard above the noise. Operating in a niche market helps, but ultimately it comes down to value: providing accurate, peer-reviewed information that’s relevant to Hong Kong readers. Regarding the proliferation of the web’s bad or misleading science Voss simply states, “The only way to counter this is to build trust over time. When we published Clean Drinking Water in Hong Kong we didn’t claim to know it all but worked with independent experts.” Vivid Living had the white paper vetted by independent engineers at government-certified testing labs.
Suggestions and alternatives are particularly crucial in Hong Kong, where thousands of existing buildings remain occupied and not everything is scheduled for redevelopment. Voss is quick to note that plenty can be done without renovation and on a budget. “It is definitely possible to turn older, less efficient homes or offices into healthy living spaces. Sometimes a few simple tweaks result in a much healthier indoor living environment,” he stresses. For a client with chronic headaches, allergies and sleep disorders Voss opted to focus on the troublesome bedroom by switching to VOC-free paints, solid wood furniture, organic linens and a few other easy fixes — including non-toxic cleaning products. The result has been better sleep and less allergy agony. In offices Voss focuses on specifics like indoor air quality, water purification, circadian lighting, ergonomic furniture and including natural elements (biophilic design). Most of these solutions won’t break the bank for a small business. In a healthy space, “Studies show that absenteeism rates go down, people get less sick, the work force becomes more efficient and happier,” argues Voss. “Employers have to rethink and treat healthy workplace design as an investment, not a cost.”