Research shows office plants benefit air quality inside and external plantscapes and living walls can help air quality in our cities. The evidence includes improved respiratory health, increased productivity, reduced air pollution and more.
The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments
Marlon Nieuwenhuis Cardiff University. Craig Knight University of Exeter. Tom Postmes University of Groningen, S. Alexander Haslam University of Queensland.
Principles of lean office management increasingly call for space to be stripped of extraneous decorations so that it can flexibly accommodate changing numbers of people and different office functions within the same area. Yet this practice is at odds with evidence that office workers quality of life can be enriched by office landscaping that involves the use of plants that have no formal work-related function. To examine the impact of these competing approaches, 3 field experiments were conducted in large commercial offices in The Netherlands and the U.K. These examined the impact of lean and green offices on subjective perceptions of air quality, concentration, and workplace satisfaction as well as objective measures of productivity. Two studies were longitudinal, examining the effects of interventions over subsequent weeks and months. In all 3 experiments enhanced outcomes were observed when offices were enriched by plants. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
New reports show air quality challenges for Auckland and Christchurch
The World Health Organisation (WHO) report from May 2014 showed tiny particles in our air, small enough to be inhaled into the deepest parts of our lungs, at 23 micrograms per cu m in Christchurch and 15 micrograms per cu m in Auckland. The WHO annual guideline limit is 20 micrograms per cu m.
This follows a study last year by the University of Canterbury showing commuters in Auckland and Christchurch are exposed to levels of air pollution similar to those found in other large cities around the world.
The WHO study was reported in the same week as a local study by NIWA and scientists from the University of Auckland and AUT, showing nitrogen dioxide levels nudging WHO maximums designed to prevent respiratory and heart disease.
Studies such as that by Thomas Pugh, Ph.D, reported in Environmental Science & Technology, have shown careful placement of plants between city centre buildings can reduce street-level concentrations of nitrogen dioxide by as much as 40% and particulates by up to 60%.
Similarly, office plants can reduce indoor air pollution, a problem the Environmental Protection Agency cites as a top 5 environmental threat in the US. Over twenty years of research shows office plants help to create healthier workplaces and increase staff productivity.
Plants reduce urban air pollution 8x more than expected
The September 2012 episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series concludes that trees, grass and other greenery growing in the concrete-and-glass canyons of cities can reduce levels of two of the most worrisome air pollutants by eight times more than previously believed.
In the new episode, Pugh and colleagues explain that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and microscopic particulate matter — both of which can be harmful to human health — exceed safe levels on the streets of many cities. Past research suggested that trees and other green plants can improve urban air quality by removing those pollutants from the air. However, the reduction seemed to be small, typically less than 5 percent.
The study sought a better understanding of the effects of green plants in the sometimes stagnant air of city streets bounded by buildings, which the authors term “urban street canyons.” It concluded that careful placement of grass, climbing ivy and other plants in urban canyons can reduce street-level concentrations of nitrogen dioxide by up to 40 percent and particulate matter by 60 percent. That is much more than previous studies indicated.
Can plants make a workplace healthy?
Judith Heerwagen, PhD, of the US General Services Administration writes: “Do plants matter? The cumulative body of evidence…on the people-nature relationship provides an unequivocal answer: contact with vegetation, in a variety of circumstances, is highly beneficial to human health and well being. Emerging evidence also suggests that in office settings, exposure to plants and views of vegetation reduces stress, restores attentional capacity, and improves performance on a variety of cognitive tasks.” Controlled tests have also repeatedly shown plants are effective at removing formaldehyde, zylene and benzene from the air. The chemicals are commonly found in building materials and furnishings.
When 60 office workers were monitored in a controlled study over two years, the results showed that:
- Neuropsychological symptoms were reduced by 23% when plants were present. Fatigue reduced the most – by 30%
- Mucous membrane symptoms were reduced by 24% overall when plants were present. Cough decreased by 37% and dry throat by 25%
- Dry or flushed skin was reduced by 23% with plants in the workspace
The researchers suggest improved air quality and the psychological value of being in a more pleasing environment, with office plants, were driving the results.
Dr Heerwagen’s review of twenty years of research into psychology and public health shows “The benefits of plants are not limited to physical health, but also include psychological well being”. Read the full article.
Plants increase the feeling of well being
A study carried out by the American scientists Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims from the Departments of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture of the Washington State University proves that looking at trees has a positive effect on people. Read the full article
Plants in the place of work increase productivity
People intuitively feel that the contact with plants and nature have a calming effect on them. Many are also of the opinion that productivity and satisfaction of workers increases, if the place of work is plantscaped. Read the full article
The Ruldolph Steiner School – Learning under Palms
UK schools and government bodies for education may like to consider how one independent school in Germany is using plants to improve the atmosphere for learning, reducing stress and noise levels and improving health of pupils and staff. Read the full article
Overdosed on doom and gloom?
Plants and flowers could be the answer.
Recent surveys suggest there may be a much more positive outlook in the workplace than we imagine as well as an opportunity to make a difference to motivation levels relatively cost effectively. Read the full article
Plants improve the health of office workers
A recent study found that potted plants could improve the health of office workers. The study was performed by the researchers from the Agricultural University of Norway. Its result serves as yet more evidence that plants in the work place are good for the office environment, and the health of the workers too. Read the full article
10 Benefits of Plant Hire
- Research shows that healthy workplaces increases motivation and reduces stress, making employees mentally sharper, happier and more productive.
- Plants lift morale and demonstrate that a company cares about the health of its employees, who are in turn, likely to have reduced sick days or absenteeism.
- Plants make visitors feel more comfortable and welcome. Our retailers believe they increase retail spend because relaxed shoppers are more likely to browse and buy.
- Plants protect you and your staff against sick building syndrome.
- Plants release water vapour into the air, counteracting the drying effects of heating and air conditioning and bringing humidity closer to the ideal 30-60% range that prevents colds and flu.
- Plants improve office acoustics by both the absorption and deflection of sound.
- Plants provide friendly barriers in healthy workplaces, allowing the separation of large areas into smaller ones, useful in hiding ugly parts of your office, and can be used in a subtle way to guide people around your building.
- A well designed indoor plant design communicates and reinforces your company’s brand values.
- Plants are inexpensive and low maintenance and give the impression your company is environmentally aware.
- Installing a plantscape is a fast and cost effective way to give your space a totally new look and feel.