Friday, February 13, 2009

Designing with Plants for Cleaner Air

by Lexine Schroeder
Botanika Interior Plantscapes
ASID Industry Partner

We all know plants are a beautiful enhancement to any interior space, but many people don’t realize just how much healthier an indoor environment becomes for human beings once plants are installed.

Poor ventilation and off-gassing from synthetic construction materials, furnishings, and paints all contribute to stagnant and even toxic air quality in today’s tightly sealed buildings. But according to studies funded by NASA, indoor plants will actively filter out toxic gasses like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde while simultaneously producing fresh oxygen and sustaining healthier levels of humidity. The studies also reveal that indoor plants eliminate many airborne microbes and mold spores, thereby reducing allergic reactions and symptoms of “sick building syndrome” among employees.

In his book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office (Penguin, 1996), scientist B.C. Wolverton recommends that at least one plant be placed within 6 to 8 cubic feet of where any person spends several hours each day (such as at a desk, watching television, or sleeping.) His research indicates that the best results are achieved by combining several different types of plants so the widest possible range of harmful elements can be absorbed and broken down.

Of the 50 plants studied by Wolverton, the following were found to be the most effective at purifying the air:
· Areca palm
· Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
· Lady palm (Rhapis) --
Pictured above left· Bamboo palm
· Rubber plant -- Pictured below
· Dracaena “Janet Craig”
· English ivy
· Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
· Ficus (alii and weeping fig varieties) -- Pictured above right
· Ferns (Boston and Kimberly Queen varieties)
· Umbrella tree (Shefflera)
· King of Hearts (Homalomena)
· Lily turf (Liriope)

Designers can improve indoor air quality for their clients simply by specifying the installation of more indoor plants, and by specifying planters made of non-toxic materials such as ceramic and metal.

Further improvements can be gained by designing lighting schemes that sustain plant life (full-spectrum lights producing 100 foot-candles or more), or by utilizing window treatments that allow plenty of natural light to reach plants. Air flow within homes and buildings can also be enhanced with ceiling fans to make sure indoor plants can access, absorb, and break down as many toxins as possible

For more information on how plants help indoor air quality, please visit: Green Plants for Green Buildings

To read the NASA indoor plant studies, please visit:
NASA Indoor Plant Studies