Why buildings need greening on the inside too

The industry has been active in promoting the importance of the Green City for some years now.  At the heart of this is how people and plants interact.  Much of this work has focused on greening the broad city landscape, but in reality, most people spend much of their lives inside buildings, away from this landscape.

During the recent AIPH International Green City conference, held alongside the Flormart trade fair in Padova, Italy, on 19 September, we heard from Prof. Bert van Duijn from Fytagoras and Leiden University in the Netherlands. The focus of his presentation, sponsored by Royal FloraHolland, was ‘greening buildings on the inside’. It is exciting to see the new research going on in this area and the very real benefits, that can be proven, from having more plants inside.

The idea of plants improving life indoors is not new of course.  Back in the 1980’s NASA was researching how plants could clean the air indoors.  Their scientist, Bill Wolverton published his work on this which has been widely used and developed by the industry in marketing initiatives, such as ‘Air So Pure’.  But the work reported by Prof. Bert van Duijn takes our knowledge to new levels and begins to provide very powerful arguments that have the potential to influence government policies and corporate decisions.

Plants indoors will impact humidity, carbon dioxide, temperature, sound, harmful chemical compounds (volatiles), well-being, health, work performance, productivity and education.  Understanding how to use plants indoors can really make a difference.

It is a fact that most offices are too dry.  Relative humidity should be at 40% to be comfortable.  Research showed that, even in November, plants in an office environment could add 0.86 g water per kg air.  In the research this was enough to reach the desired RH levels and demonstrated that plants are reliable air humidifiers in winter and their contribution can be predicted and calculated.

Further work showed that the presence of multiple plants improved performance on creative tasks and improved concentration.  In the school environment scores improve with plants and health complaints in care homes for the elderly decrease. Plants even help to reduce aggression in prisons.  And, its not just potted plants; cut flowers too can help to deliver many of these positive services.

The research has been undertaken in real-life corporate offices, schools, hospitals and prisons and the results are clear.  The functional benefit of plants can now be demonstrated, costed and controlled.  As an industry we need to promote more the power of plants.  It is likely that some major corporations will soon start investing in this area for the social, productivity and health benefits it will bring.  AIPH will be there to ensure that the Green City reaches inside just as much as outside.

Bernard Oosterom

AIPH President

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