Written By: AshLee Snyder | February 2019
Modern buildings are heavily insulated for energy efficiency which leads to a reduction in fresh air exchange rates. Left unabated, the off-gassing of interior finishes and furnishings can cause unacceptable levels of formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene which are leading causes of “sick building syndrome”. NASA has completed extensive research on this topic for practical application on the International Space Station and future lunar habitats. Their recommendations are simple: reduce or eliminate off-gassing building materials and furnishings before they are allowed to be installed, and mimic the natural air purification cycle with plants and their associated soil microorganisms. A combination of commonly available house plants and activated charcoal air-filters yielded very promising results. While the table below only summarizes five high performing plants, the study found noteworthy improvements in air quality within 24 hours for every plant species tested.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, B.C. Wolverton Ph.D.
In addition to the air quality benefits, incorporating plants is an effective and low maintenance method to enhance any space. Ferns, palms, tropicals, and flowering plants help create a prestigious ambiance. Tropical plants are subconsciously associated with success by some, while others are reminded of a relaxing trip to an exotic destination. Use unique species to draw interest and serve as a design focal point.
Plants can also be used to help delineate large, open areas such as shopping malls or hotel lobbies in to smaller, more intimate spaces. Tall ceilings can be brought down to a more manageable level and reduce the perceived overhead space with a foliage canopy. Leaves come in nearly every color which allows for endless color combinations. Clustering 3 shades together is an effective way to create alluring plant groups. Use repeating patterns along open corridors to keep the eye moving, and segment larger open areas with planters. At the end of the day interior spaces are where we work, live, and play, so make them as healthy and inviting as possible.