Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Designing with Plants for Cleaner Air

by Lexine Schroeder, ASID Eco Committee Member
Botanika Interior Plantscapes
ASID Industry Partner

Editor's Note: This is a re-posting of our very first blog submission, written by our outgoing blog editor.  Lexine was Eco blog editor from February 2009 -- September 2011, and has handed the torch to Eco Committee member Amy Ramirez of ReSource Floors, ASID Industry Partner.  Please contact Amy to share your sustainable design expertise at ecoasidsd@gmail.com

Rhapis palm
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.
Ficus "weeping fig"

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)
• Bamboo palm
• Rubber plant
• Dracaena “Janet Craig”
• English ivy
• Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
• Ficus (alii and weeping fig varieties)
• Ferns (Boston and Kimberly Queen varieties)
• Umbrella tree (Shefflera)
• King of Hearts (Homalomena)
• Lily turf (Liriope)

Rubber plant
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

Lexine Schroeder is owner and lead plantscape designer at Botanika Interior Plantscapes, a boutique indoor plant service based in San Diego serving residential and commercial buildings.  Her goal is to bring the beauty of nature indoors, enlivening spaces while cleaning the air and providing a sense of well-being to her clients.  Call her for a free initial consultation at 619-729-5715, or visit http://www.botanikaplants.com/.