In our previous article about biophilic design, we raised the alarm bells about a major behavioral shift in society from remote work as a result of the COVID19 pandemic.
Office design has dramatically changed in the last decade introducing open concept workstations, collaboration hubs, restrooms for meditation, and the broader acceptance of natural elements with large open view spaces. New companies like Respira Air Systems are helping. The purpose? To improve worker productivity, mental health, and creativity.
However, our call to action was more urgent because we think many homes are not set up for natural environments and are more likely to resemble cluttered, enclosed spaces which could be creating longer-term mental health issues for society.
Table of Contents
- Solving a Key Problem in Biophilic Design
- Respira Air: Changing Biophilic Design
- Respira Air: Long-Term Goals
- Conducting Research to Validate Product and Market
- Respira Air: Company Funding
- Co-Founder Bios
- Respira Air: Product Availability
Solving a Key Problem in Biophilic Design
In recent years, the demand for living walls exploded. The problem is that the complexity to install, access or maintain proper plant care became a major turn-off for many consumers.
After a bit of investigative work (thanks to Google and my professional network), I discovered a new company that is solving this problem. Respira, based in Guelph, Ontario in Canada has developed new products that are accessible, easy, and based on sound research, promote biophilia and wellness for households.
The invasion of technology and an always-on society has impacted people on so many levels. With depression on the rise across all age groups, a decline in physical activity, and mental down-time, people are crying out for products that can help calm their nerves and relax their thoughts. Mindfulness is on the rise because of the constant bombardment from notifications and information which our brains cannot process at these volumes. The result is depression, burn-out, poor productivity, focus, and creativity.
Companies like Respira Air Systems want to create healthier environments that improve lives and help people connect with nature. Backed by experience from work in a small design firm called New Earth Solutions, the company discovered key challenges with living walls in terms of installation, maintenance, and plant care. At New Earth Solutions, a team of architects, engineers, and designers collaborated to solve these challenges as their mission was to help improve home life with a connection to nature.
Respira Air: Changing Biophilic Design
The team behind Respira Air Systems worked on the design for two years and extensive research was conducted at Canadian universities to build this product.
Respira Air Systems is a purpose-driven company backed by research and authentic claims. The partners state that they hang their hats on thorough design and have an intense obsession with delivering maximum value to our customers. Respira focuses on customer segments and companies that are forward-thinking about how to both improve the health of people, the built environment as well as the planet.
The Respira biophilic product is an air-purifying garden that is a self-managed hydroponic smart garden that optimizes the ability of plants to remove indoor pollutants from a home through biofiltration.
What is Biofiltration
The process involves polluted air being filtered through organic materials and micro-organisms. The good microbes within plant roots break the pollutants down into nutrients which the plants need. In the process, the air is purified and self-managed does not require any active maintenance on your part.
Its Origin Story
Both partners had taken Real Estate and Housing at the University of Guelph and wanted to pursue a business or career in this area. One thing led to another and the two found a new opportunity. Dylan had expressed his interest in finding a new challenge while Mitch’s thoughts were centered on real estate with a focus on sustainability.
Mitch and Dylan (partners, co-founders) had worked together on previous projects. Mitch was already selling living walls for a company and Dylan was managing a sales team in Alberta, selling smart-home technology door to door. Mitch was impressed by the success Dylan’s team was having so he flew out to Alberta to stay with the team.
The partners decided they would start a company and become a dealer of multiple but different sustainability-focused products.
Admittedly, the partners felt they were spinning their wheels and at times, found it overwhelming. They did not have any identity or brand to sell green roofs, living walls, LEDs, or solar-based products.
Needing a Niche
They needed a niche to stand out.
Mitch and Dylan had built some strong relationships within the living wall industry and because of this, they felt the best opportunity was to work within. This was the trigger point and they decided to design and manufacture their own living wall product.
After a deep market analysis to determine market participants, market capacity, and other factors, they saw the market was ripe for opportunity and growth.
Philosophy and Vision
The founding partners feel there are many reasons why their company is needed today. Consider the fact that ninety percent of your life is spent indoors and this trend is not changing; especially if you consider pandemics, new remote-working arrangements, or new technologies that seem to have us connected with others more often but through a digitally-built environment that is not natural.
The human race, it appears, is becoming an indoor species on Earth – which is tragic. In Space exploration, whether it’s on the Space Station, Mars, or the Moon, our need to be indoor is driven primarily by hostile environments that are not natural to us. Global warming and other major environmental events make it appear that the Earth has become a hostile environment but this has been largely driven by the modern advance of the human species.
Modern architecture has created significant innovation and efficiency in office space design to help improve our health, creativity, and productivity in these built environments.
Disconnecting from nature is unhealthy and everyone knows this. When we travel, we spend all of our time outdoors, not indoors, while on vacation. And yet for many of us, we have not even considered how little we’ve done in our own homes to connect with nature.
We need to simultaneously improve the sustainability of how we live along with the health of our environments. This can be done by looking at how nature works.
RESPIRA AIR WILL ALWAYS MEET AT THE INTERSECTION "How does nature intend for this to work, and how can we incorporate the resources available to us now to provide people with the best solutions possible?"
Respira Air: Long-Term Goals
RESPIRA AIR The company’s main goal is to improve the health of our built environment. The company's first product will focus on improving our connection to nature with improved air quality.
Moving forward, the complany plans to focus on agriculture as well.
The founding partners have the vision to create an ecosystem of products that people can use to build or retrofit their homes with the intended goal of improved health since the majority of our time is spent inside homes or buildings. Every product will be tied to nature in some way. Both commercial and residential buildings will have access to Respira offerings.
The final part of their vision rests on development. With the products the company will offer, Respira plans to begin the development of healthy communities and cities that are rooted in nature, equipped with advanced technology, and focused on sustainably providing a healthy lifestyle for its residents.
Conducting Research to Validate Product and Market
Mitch and Dylan leveraged the science of biofiltration which removes and destroys toxins from the air within a building. This research was initially conducted by Dr. Allan Darlington at the University of Guelph.
The partners have also initiated a research study at Ryerson University in Toronto to test Respira’s removal efficiencies. The ability for plants to clean air is something many people assume naturally but how the plant cleans the air is what is the most shocking to the same people.
“Typically, when you buy a house plant, you pot it and in this instance that would remove 98% of its ability to do the job it was intended to do. By planting our system hydroponically, we expose the roots to a constant stream of water that creates what is known as biofilm on the root structure. This interaction forms a highly active biological ecosystem full of beneficial microbes that then capture and permanently destroy airborne pollutants.”-- DYLAN ROBERTSON
The other benefits to the Respira Air system include humidification of the space. There is research that has been conducted showing that when humidity levels are above 30% and below 60% there is a significant decrease in virus transfer.
Respira Air: Company Funding
The company has been in operation for two years and since day one, Mitch and Dylan have been selling commercial living walls to bootstrap the entire project. They have approached investors to gain access to capital after the first year but ultimately felt none of them was the perfect fit for their business.
Dylan Robertson, Respira Air Co-Founder
Dylan attended the University Of Guelph where he studied Real Estate Housing and Development. Through University he developed a passion for architecture and design while excelling at Sales Psychology.
In 2016-2018, Dylan worked with Fluent Home where he began selling smart home technology, eventually moving into a managerial role leading and recruiting his own team of 12-24 sales representatives. Over this 3 year period, he developed as a leader along with breaking multiple industry records.
In October of 2018, he combined his passion for urban development with his sales profession and co-founded New Earth Solutions. The company remains focused on providing a holistic approach to agriculture and real estate using green infrastructure and living architecture within the built environment. The company’s mission is to improve the health of our cities through a closer connection to food and green design.
Mitchell Cowburn, Respira Air Co-Founder
Mitch graduated from the Real Estate program at Guelph University with a keen eye for sustainability. Mitch went out west to work the same door-to-door job as Dylan and was a top 5 rookie in his first year. Upon finishing his first year, Mitch went on to pursue his passion for renewable energy and jumped into the solar industry. After spending time there, he went on to discover a new technology through the Nedlaw Group in September of 2017 called Living Wall Biofiltration.
After 2 years with Nedlaw Group and many attempts to bring youthful innovation and energy to the aging company and technology, Mitch left to create his own living wall company. This is where the vision for New Earth commenced.
Respira Air: Product Availability
At the time of this writing, the company was in a pre-launch mode in early November 2020. Respira Air plans to sell 500-1000 units in the pre-sale period which ended on January 5th, 2021.
They committed to minimum manufacturing run so that they could provide early access to their community before they opened the product to the broader market. Please visit Respira today!
- About the Author
- Latest Articles
John Thompson, Writer and Commentator, EvolutDesign.com
Soldier, writer, researcher, consultant, and bon vivant, John Thompson is the author of numerous columns, op-eds, reports, briefs, short stories and books as the “Felicity Files” and “Spirit Over Steel: A Chronology of the Second World War” (version III). Often found hunched over his computer, or in his garden, and now often found doing both. His diverse talent has led him to work in industries and projects such as energy, security and home construction and renovation.