“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” ~ Tom Peters
The need to get clean air into a modern office environment is no longer a matter of debate. After an extensive study undertaken by Dr B. C. Wolverton of NASA, he stated that the ability of indoor plants to improve the air that we breathe is now a scientific fact. What has become more evident as a result of this and other professional studies is that an unhealthy office environment is counterproductive.
The NASA report, which confirms the ability of plants to successfully filter volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s, such as benzene and ammonia from the air – is fully supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency who state that indoor air pollution is among the top five threats to human life. The EPA found toxin levels to be anywhere between 10 and 1000 times more concentrated in climate controlled or sealed buildings than that experienced outdoors.
Professor Margaret Buchette of Sydney’s University of Technology, recommends an office design which includes one large plant per work setting (300mm pot size) or two smaller, 200mm diameter pots. The soil and microorganisms in the pot itself play just as an important role as the leaves – for example, in the case of the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata – Bostoniensis), the Wolverton report indicated that some 60% of airborne formaldehyde was filtered by the microbes in the soil.
A study undertaken by the University of Norway at the Statoil offices in Oslo, confirmed that the presence of indoor plants reduce levels of discomfort. Significant improvements in the levels of common office related symptoms were found when indoor plants were present:
- 32% reduction in fatigue
- 45% reduction in headaches
- 22% reduction in dry or sore throats
- 38% reduction in coughs
- 11% reduction in dry facial skin
In addition to playing an essential role in removing toxins from the air, indoor plants will dramatically improve the aesthetic appeal of a modern office and have a positive effect of the overall psychological well being of workers. When one considers the report tabled by the World Health Organisation in 2002, where they state that VOC’s could be responsible for over 1,6m deaths each year, the inclusion of plants has now become a prerequisite when planning a healthy and thereby more efficient office environment.