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GPGB Cocktail Party Fundraiser

And the award goes to…

A highlight of the recent GPGB Cocktail Party Fundraiser held during Plantscape Expo August 14 was recognizing some star quality Registered Trainers for the most presentations given during the year.

Mike Lewis, GPGB President, presented a plaque to three of its most productive GPGB Registered Trainers, celebrating their contribution to spreading the message of the benefits of indoor plants to the people responsible for building design and performance: Kathryn O’Donnell, Botanicus, New York; Joe Zazzera, Plant Solutions, Arizona; and, Jim Mumford Good Earth Plants & GreenScaped Buildings, California.

Who are Registered Trainers? These Bronze-level plus GPGB Supporters have taken special training at one of GPGB’s Train the Trainer Seminars.

As Zazzera explains, “GPGB’s Registered Trainer program has given me the tool I need to get in front of architects and specifiers. The fact that there is a CEU award for those participating in the program serves to enhance professionalism of the program, and gives me additional credibility as the ‘go-to’ guy for living walls and roofs in my area.”

GPGB maintains status as an approved education provider with the AIA, ASID, USGBC, BOMI and ASLA. In 2012-2013, GPGB developed and received approval for its two newest presentations, Living Walls and Green Roofs.

Mumford, one of the volunteers who helped create the new courses, is thrilled with the business his company is attracting.

“In the past, when I attempted to have a conversation with an architect or landscape architect about indoor plants, they were rarely interested. Now that we have CEU programs about living walls and green roofs they are very interested. And of course, during the conversation I always sprinkle in something about indoor plants. I find that pointing out that we are experienced in growing plants in containers relates to growing plants on roofs and walls – differently shaped and configured, but containerized plants nonetheless.”

GPGB’s most enthusiastic Registered Trainer is also one of its newest: Reaching over 60 building specifiers in a dozen presentations this year, O’Donnell explains how she got started:

“I became a Registered Trainer in January 2013. Botanicus sent out an email invitation to the architects, engineers, and landscape architects in Western New York. We scheduled 1 to 3 training seminars per week in Buffalo and Rochester, which allowed us to present new ideas and promote the use of plants in a fun, informative setting. The training seminars were very well received and new friends and colleagues were developed.”

An additional surprise occurred for O’Donnell when her name was announced as winner of the raffle drawing. She commented on the prize, donated by the National Interiorscape Network, which consisted of a $450 travel voucher and $550 for NIN business consulting.

“Botanicus has benefited in every way from our membership in NIN. From benchmarking to best practices, learning from the most professional and successful companies is great fun and profitable! Now I will get Dick Ott one on one to take the next step to success!”

Other sponsors who made GPGB’s Cocktail Party Fundraiser possible included Olive Hill Greenhouses, Architectural Supplements, Plants in Design, and Sunborne Nursery.

No previous speaking experience is necessary before becoming a Registered Trainer. If anyone is interested in taking advantage GPGB’s Registered Trainer Program to grow their business, please contact GPGB at admin@gpgb.org or visit the website at www.gpgb.org.

Become a GPGB Supporter!

RT Awards - Zazerra, ODonnell, Mumford
Top performing Registered Trainers, pictured left to right: Joe Zazzera, Kathryn O’Donnell, and Jim Mumford.

Building Evolution: How Biomimicry is Shaping the Nature of our Buildings

there is a new “nature” within a building

When you think of nature as it applies to building design, operation and maintenance, you probably think about the garden atrium in the building, the staged greenery throughout the lobbies or perhaps the views to common areas planted in greenery. However, there is a new “nature” within a building. It is a concept termed biomimicry, which literally means to mimic life.

In 1997 biologist and science writer Janine Benyus coined the term when she wrote the book Biomimicry—Innovation Inspired by Nature.  Biomimicry has since become a design discipline that investigates how the natural environment operates, and more specifically, how living organisms create and solve design challenges. Design solutions adapted through the use of biomimicry are intended to foster a more sustainable human experience and existence.  Major architectural design firms, in building and city design, are actively using this new discipline.

Through a process of reconnecting with nature and researching living organisms, the design teams, together with biologists, are looking at how natural systems operate and are “asking nature” as a means to inform their building design.  How do living organisms capture, store and process water, sunlight and waste? How does nature cool, shade and recycle nutrients? In addition to some of the more basic building functions, other designers are looking at 3D printing and nanotechnology as a means to advance building material design and construction. The observations of lessons in nature are having a profound impact and are challenging the way things have been done since the industrial revolution.

Applied biomimicry can be utilized in three ways or in a combination of these three ways:

    • Form– such as mimicking dragonfly wings to create lightweight structures
    • Processes-such as mimicking photosynthesis to capture solar energy
    • Systems-such as building wall systems that mimic the homeostasis in organisms which allows them to regulate their internal conditions such as temperature

It’s for the birds

Millions of birds are killed each year by flying into the reflective glass of office buildings and homes. The reflections of trees, landscape and the sky can make it appear as if the glass is not there. Green building has increased the need for additional glass for interior day lighting creation. The result is an increased frequency of bird deaths each year. The Arnold Glas Company, through the use of biomimicry, looked to spider webs and their ability to avoid destruction by bird flight. Spider webs include a reflective component in the UV range that deters birds from flying into their webs, yet they attract insects such as moths towards their reflective light. This UV component increases the spiders foraging success and avoids destruction at the same time. Arnold Glas has created a product called ORNILUX that integrates this UV reflective pattern into its glass. This has resulted in 76% fewer bird collisions in field-testing.

From pounding waves to formaldehyde-free indoor air

Construction-materials technology requires continual improvement focus in the built environment. Of particular concern is improvement of indoor air quality and volatile organic compound (VOC) reduction and removal. Although VOC’s are best never having made it into the indoor environment, they have been a major contributor to poor indoor air quality and sick building syndrome. Colombia Forest Products has looked to biomimicry in solving the issue of carcinogenic, formaldehyde-based glue in its plywood products. They asked, “How does nature adhere?”

The blue mussel mollusk creates a unique amino acid, which formulates a strong thread, connecting it to rocks in the ocean. By remaining attached to the rocks, mussels withstand the pounding waves of the surf. The mussel “glue” is created at ambient temperatures, under ambient pressures, and in a wet environment. Looking to nature, researchers were able to mimic the mussel recipe, creating a soy-based and formaldehyde-free adhesive now used in its products. PureBond® is a soy-based, formaldehyde-free technology used in the construction of hardwood, plywood products. This same amino acid process is now being looked at as a medical implant coating.

Cement from fumes

As the second most consumed substance in the world behind water, concrete is the most used building material. At a cost of $37 billion per year, about 10 billion tons are produced annually. The creation of portland cement emits 1 pound of CO2 for every ton of cement produced. Obviously, cement production comes at an environmental cost.

Brent Constantz is a bio mineralization expert from Stanford University; Constantz used biomimicry to observe the construction of the coral reefs and as an application technology for concrete production. CO2 gas and ocean water have a natural reaction, which creates calcification. This rapid mineralization uses CO2 as a raw material that creates the coral structures.

By using waste gas from a local power plant and dissolving it in water, Constantz and his company Calera are using CO2 as a feedstock for concrete production. In addition to sequestering carbon within the concrete they are producing, they are helping to reduce the carbon footprint from portland cement production.

It’s genius

The genius of nature is all around us, from the coral in the ocean to the ecosystem services provided by trees, algae and earthworms. Living organisms operate under a sustainable set of operating conditions, which have been evolving over the last 3.8 billion years. By looking to nature and mimicking designs that fall within these “life’s principles,” we have the opportunity to create from a knowledge bank of the best research lab ever—nature. Our knowledge about the built environment is changing rapidly. What better teacher do we have than organism models, which have learned to survive on this planet across billions of years?

Biomimicry vs Biophilia

While reducing the energy use of buildings is essential for a sustainable future, it is equally important to improve the conditions in which humans live, work, play, heal etc.. The benefits of natural daylight and ventilation have been proven to improve productivity and reduce sick days in office workers and people generally seem to be more aware that they deserve a healthy environment around them. This concept has been developed into a fully fledged design approach to architecture called biophilic design. However, this concept is generally misunderstood and commonly confused with biomimicry.

Photovoltaics Harness the Biological Power of Photosynthesis

the next generation of photovoltaics

If you think powering your gadgets with plants sounds like a strange idea, think again. Scientists at Cambridge University are working with designers to develop the next generation of photovoltaics that harness the biological power of plant photosynthesis. To give a visual idea of how these biophotovoltaics (BPVs) may look like, doctoral candidate Paolo Bombelli collaborated with designers Alex Driver and Carlos Peralta to produce these intriguing concept designs, ranging from a moss-powered lamp to a colony of ‘solar masts’. More

The Wild Center-Best Ever Collection of Biomimicry Examples

how nature builds something stronger

 Nature’s been inventing for a few billion years. In that time it has solved some daunting challenges, like how to make energy from sunlight or how to use waste so there isn’t any.

Recently humans have started to work at the same tiny scale as nature, and we are beginning to understand how nature builds something stronger than steel without mines and furnaces.

The natural world is filled with wondrous ideas. Take a look at the images in this collection to see some cool examples of an endless code of inspiring natural inventions that could help us solve our own complex challenges. More

Give a House Plant a Home!

O24U houseplants with a purpose

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRjC54FUZU[/youtube]

Fungus Gnats, Fruit Flies, Shore Flies…Oh My!

eliminate the environmental conditions that encourage breeding

By Mike Turany, Plant Solutions | March 13, 20012 | topics: Fungus Gnats, Environmental Conditions

What Gnat is That?

Fungus Gnats, Fruit Flies, Shore Flies, Moth Flies, and March Flies can appear in large numbers in and around buildings. Shore Flies and March Flies will enter buildings seasonally as flying adults, but cannot reproduce in the enclosed building environment.  Fungus Gnats, Fruit Flies, and Moth Flies, however, can enter buildings and develop indoors through all life stages. Their reoccurrence will perpetuate when the indoor environment is conducive to the development of these pests.  None of these common kinds of gnats bite or sting people or animals, but they are a nuisance and do prompt complaints.

As your interior plantscape company, the type of gnat that concerns us is the Fungus Gnat, which could continue to live in your plants and be an annoyance. While no one can completely prevent gnats from entering the building, there are simple prevention and control measures that can be taken to ensure that Fungus Gnats will not reproduce in your plantscape.

Whose Gnat is That?

These small flies and gnats thrive under moist conditions, especially where there is an abundance of decaying fruit, vegetation, mulch, algae and fungi. A rainy day, an addition to the landscaping, seasonal color changes, over-seeding of rye grass, or turf re-sodding always corresponds to an abundant population of gnats within a month. Moist and decomposing grass clippings, compost, organic fertilizers, mulches and organic top-dressings like decorative bark are favorite breeding spots; not to mention plumbing or irrigation system leaks, drainage issues, free-standing water or water retention ponds which also continue to provide an advantageous habitat for gnats and far worse pest problems. Gnats may also get brought into buildings while still in their larval stage in cut flower arrangements, fresh fruit and vegetables, and in the soil of blooming houseplants, and interior foliage.

What Can We Do?

Steps can be taken outside of buildings to control areas where organic material or moisture accumulates where there is potential for gnat breeding. And indoors measures can be taken to quickly remove food waste and regularly clean water drains with gooseneck plumbing in kitchens where such debris can accumulate and provide a breeding site for these gnats, especially Moth Flies.

Prevention:

Eliminate the environmental conditions that encourage breeding:

  • Dispose of all food/beverage waste and containers each evening before you leave the office.
  • Once a week, run hot water and bleach down all kitchen sink drains to remove soap scum and food debris in the drains.  Doing this each Friday afternoon will prevent gnat breeding over the weekend.
  • If standing water is observed outside in the landscaped areas, notify your building/facilities maintenance team to determine and eliminate the cause (a leaky sprinkler head, for example).
  • Resist the temptation to provide your plants with an extra sip of water, ice or any other beverage, especially the sugary ones.

Control:

Once Fungus Gnats have been identified, we will:

  • Monitor and trap them with yellow sticky traps placed in on the soil of the plant.
  • Permit the soil to go dryer between our watering to eliminate their preferred breeding environment.
  • Apply Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Powder to the surface of the soil
  • Apply Gnatrol, a biological control agent Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis (Bti) when watering, which is toxic only to gnat larvae
  • Replace the plant completely if no other measures prove effective in controlling the gnats.

Please keep in mind that there may be other plants in your, office which Plant Solutions are not contracted to care for, as these are ‘personal plants’ that have been brought in by other office staff.  Please encourage your coworkers who have such personal plants, to also take the preventive steps noted above to reduce and eliminate the opportunity for gnats to breed in their plants.

Why We Need Office Plants

plants contribute to an environment of comfort

Plants add beauty to our lives and temper the harsh aspects of our daily routine. In the office place, where stress often abounds, plants contribute to an environment of comfort, good health, and productivity.

Plants make the workplace more comfortable by providing oxygen and by slightly raising humidity levels. Plants also remove harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Common indoor workplace materials that emit chemicals into the air are: latex paints, foam insulation, varnishes, adhesives, pressed wood, veneer furniture, copy machines, printers, rug pads and carpeting.

Today’s workplace environment is often a jumble of cubicles, computers, and crowding. Many people struggle with symptoms of fatigue, headache, dry skin, eye irritation, and coughing. A Norwegian study conducted by Dr. Tove Fjeld explored whether plants make a difference when it comes to these health problems. In this study, a group of people in office cubicles (called group A) were provided with plants, while a second group of people in cubicles (called group B) were not. After three months, the groups were switched. Data was collected for another three months.

The study concluded as follows: When people from group A and B had plants in their cubicles, symptoms of fatigue and headache fell by 30% and 20% respectively. Hoarseness and dry throat fell by around 30% and coughing by around 40% for both groups. Skin irritation fell by about 25% for both groups. All over, symptoms decreased by 25% when plants were present.

Plants also increase productivity in the workplace. In a study by Washington State University, researchers found that people with plants in their work environment were 12% more productive and had lower blood pressure than those without plants.

Recent studies even suggest that plants increase workplace happiness and employee satisfaction. Associate Professor Tina Cade of Texas State University told LiveScience, “We pretty much found out that if you had windows and plants, or even if you just had plants in your office, you were more satisfied with your job.”

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Why We Need Plants in Hospitals

gardens in hospitals offer more than just a beautiful environment

By Plant Solutions | December, 2011 | topics: Plants in Hospitals, Studies

Plants and gardens in hospitals offer more than just a beautiful environment for patients and employees. Numerous research studies show that plants can have significant healthcare and therapeutic benefits:

  • 2008 – Kansas. Ninety patients recovering from abdominal surgery were assigned to recovery rooms with or without plants and flowers. Patients who recovered in rooms with plants reported less pain, anxiety, and fatigue. They also had lower blood pressure and heart rates and took fewer painkillers.
  • 1995 – California. Clare Cooper Marcus and Marni Barnus used observation, survey, and interview methods to evaluate four hospital gardens. They concluded that the most important benefit of hospital gardens is that they remove stress. This stress-reducing benefit is available to nearly all users of the garden—employees, patients, and families.
  • 1994 – Uppsala, Sweden. Roger Ulrich studied patients recovering from gall bladder surgery. Patients were given either a hospital bed with a window view of trees or they were given a view of a brick wall. Patients with tree views had fewer post-surgical complications, shorter hospital stays, and less need for pain medication.
  • 1990, 1992 – Japan. Nakamura and Fujii conducted two studies where they measured brain-wave activity in people looking at actual plants or human-made objects. Both studies concluded that greenery elicited relaxation, while human-made objects, like concrete, elicited stress.
  • 1991. Roger Ulrich conducted a controlled experiment where 120 stressed people were assigned to watch one of six different videotapes. Each videotape showed either vegetation or no vegetation at all. Physiological measures (blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and skin conductance) showed that the people who watched the vegetation videos recovered from stress in about three minutes. Their recovery was faster and more effective than that of those who watched the other videos.

These studies show that by viewing garden or nature scenes, one can reduce stress in just a few short minutes. Viewing nature for longer periods of time can shorten hospital stays and reduce the intake of pain medication.  

Why You Should Hire a Green Earth – Green Plants Certified Business

shows that you care about the environment

You may own a home or a business, or you may manage an office, a mall, or a hotel. No matter the circumstances, when it comes to hiring an indoor landscaping company, you want to hire a company that is Green Earth–Green Plants certified. Green certified businesses make earth-friendly practices an integral part of their daily operations.

To earn certification, businesses go through a thorough assessment to determine if they are operating in an eco-friendly way. They earn points for every environment-friendly practice they already have in use, and then they receive advice on the practices they need to put in place. Eventually these businesses make their operations “green” enough to earn sufficient points for certification.

This Green Earth–Green Plants certification program was developed by LEED accredited professional Kathy Fediw. The program is based on an assessment similar to the LEED program for green buildings and is founded on solid research results and published industry standards. It is administered by Johnson Fediw Associates, a non-partisan third party consulting firm specializing in the interior plantscape industry.

Assessment for green certification includes:

  1. Facilities: indoor and outdoor: Is the business using energy-efficient lighting and heating, reducing indoor VOC’s, using water-saving practices, establishing wildlife habitats, and so on?
  2. Transportation: Is the business using hybrid and alternative vehicles and public transportation, establishing routing efficiency, and so on?
  3. Horticulture practices: Is the business limiting pesticide usage, using sound watering practices, and so on?
  4. Recycling and reuse: Is the business reducing landfill waste by recycling plastics, glass, and so on, and is the business composting plant debris?
  5. Social responsibility: Is the business giving back to the industry and the community?
  6. Staff training and education: Is the business educating staff members on eco-friendly practices?

When you hire a green certified business, it shows that you care about the environment. Caring for our environment saves money, improves our health, and improves the quality of the air around us. Over time, caring for our environment reduces the amount of wastes and toxins we put into the landfills and oceans and saves animal habitats. Looking to the future, we can pass on a livable, sustainable environment to our
future generations.

It all starts with the decisions we make today.