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NASA Research on Living Plants Indoors

indoor plants remove potentially harmful gases and pollutants from the air

Common houseplants are more than just common. They beautify our homes and offices, and they also release oxygen and assist in cleaning our indoor environment. NASA research shows that indoor plants remove potentially harmful gases and pollutants from the air.

In 1973, NASA scientists identified 107 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air inside a Skylab space station. The VOC chemicals, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, are all known irritants and potential carcinogens. When these chemicals are trapped and unable to circulate, they cause people to become ill with symptoms such as scratchy throat and burning red eyes. This is called “sick building syndrome.”

Under the direction of B.C. “Bill” Wolverton, NASA tested a solution to VOCs by creating a BioHome, a tightly sealed building constructed with synthetic materials. Upon entering the BioHome, one experienced “sick building syndrome” until a substantial variety of houseplants were added. Another analysis of the air quality was conducted, and most VOCs were gone. Individual symptoms of “sick building syndrome” were also gone.

In the mid-1980s, Wolverton and his NASA researchers conducted studies where they placed potted foliage plants in sealed Plexiglas chambers. Studies showed that the plants were particularly effective at reducing common VOCs, including formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is commonly found in carpet backing, grocery bags, paper towels, particle board, plywood, foam insulation, paneling, and other substances.

Wolverton served in his field for over 30 years and retired as a senior research scientist at NASA. After retirement, he continued his work on air quality.

At the turn of the century, NASA and the Associate Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) reported on a 2-year indoor plant study where indoor plants were once again proven to be a valuable weapon against indoor air pollution.

Eleven popular indoor plants were placed separately in sealed, Plexiglas chambers. Chemicals were injected into the chambers. Golden pothos, philodendron, and spider plant were most effecting in removing formaldehyde molecules. Flowering plants such as chrysanthemums and gerbera daisy did best at removing benzene from the atmosphere.

Wolverton said the study further proves that indoor plants provide air purification, and he said more research needs to be done in the future.

“Plants take substances out of the air through the tiny openings in their leaves,” said Wolverton. “But research in our laboratories has determined that plant leaves, roots and soil bacteria are all important in removing trace levels of toxic vapors.”

Wolverton is the author of How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home and Office and Growing Clean Water: Nature’s Solution to Water Pollution.

URBAN AGRICULTURE

turning vacant city lots into farms

The urban agricultural movement in this nation is progressing rapidly. Cities from New York to Seattle are combating economic struggles by turning vacant city lots into farms and feeding their impoverished neighborhoods with locally grown foods.

Urban agriculture is the practice of growing plants and raising animals within or around cities. Urban residents usually provide the labor necessary to cultivate, process, and distribute food, and urban residents are often the consumers of this food.  Organic waste can be used as compost, and organic wastewater can be used for irrigation.

According to the New York Times, demand for locally grown produce is at an all-time high. Farmers markets are becoming more popular as traditional markets continue to sell inorganic produce and genetically modified foods.

Here are some examples of the urban agricultural movement at work:

A Farm at New York’s Battery

A one-acre farm grows at the Battery, and it’s designed in the shape of a turkey. A real wild turkey even lives there—her name is Zelda. The bird-shaped garden is defined by a fence made from bamboo poles originally used in a roof garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The garden shakes whenever the subway runs underneath. The vegetables grown include broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport

Fresh organic produce is grown in this “aeroponic” garden nestled in the rotunda building between terminals. The garden uses a solution of water and minerals instead of soil. The seeds start in containers made of “a natural volcanic ash material” and are moved to tall towers once grown. The garden produces 44 organic vegetables and herbs, and it uses and recycles water.

Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Program

This boot-camp urban garden program prepares inmates for jobs in the growing green-collar industry. Behind razor wire, Cook County inmates manage a three-quarter-acre vegetable farm that produces tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and kale. Inmates receive instruction and certification in sustainable horticulture in partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago.

Some cities are building greenhouse farms on urban roofs. Others are forming groups to raise chickens so they can deliver fresh eggs to urban dwellings. Many cities and groups are promoting policies to encourage the growth of farmers markets. According to the USDA, there are now more than 6,000 farmers markets nationwide.

Detroit currently has our country’s largest urban farm, but urban farms are being planted everywhere—even on city hall properties.  Obviously, urban agriculture is not just here to STAY … it’s growing!

Vegetated Urban Rooftops

U.S. cities are going “green.”

Gravel. Asphalt. Black tar. Cement. That’s what you get with the typical urban rooftop. But many U.S. cities are going “green.” Fly above Chicago, Atlanta, Portland, and other cities, and you’ll see rooftops displaying aesthetically green wonders. Homeowners and businesses are catching onto this growing movement.

A green roof is a roof covered with vegetation. It’s designed for both beauty and energy conservation. A green roof is made up of several layers. It starts with a high-quality waterproofing membrane, a root repellant layer, and a drainage system. The layers vary slightly at that point, depending on the manufacturer, but the plants make up the top layer.

There are two types of green roofs: intensive and extensive. An intensive roof is park-like in design. It has walkways and benches, bushes and trees. It’s a heavier, thick- layered system. An extensive green roof usually covers the entire roof with a small selection of plant life. It requires little maintenance and exists solely for environmental benefits. The rooftop of Chicago’s City Hall is an example of both an intensive and extensive rooftop.

A green roof has many varied benefits:

  • It brings beauty to the building and to the environment
  • It creates a peaceful retreat accessible to people and/or wildlife
  • It produces oxygen and captures airborne pollutants and gases
  • It retains much rainwater and precipitation, thus reducing the amount of runoff water.
  • It reduces energy costs by insulating in winter and cooling in summer.
  • It helps reduce Urban Heat Island Effect (when cities are hotter than their surrounding regions) by providing shade and removing heat from surrounding air.
  • It potentially increases the value of the building
  • It can last twice as long as a common rooftop. It costs more at start-up, but a number of U.S. cities have policy incentives to encourage green roof building.

Green roofs have been popular in Europe for a long time, and now they’re gaining popularity in the U.S., too. With green roofs, we can conserve energy while creating green environments for our cities, homes, and businesses.

Click here to view examples of green roofs.

Vertical Green Walls are Sprouting up Everywhere!

Eco-friendly vertical green walls

What do chic boutiques, renowned museums, swanky hotels, and private residences have in common? They’re all sprouting vertical green walls that many people consider true works of art! Whether inside or out, free-standing or attached to buildings, vertical green walls are an attractive, eco-friendly alternative to bare boring walls. They’re also a great way to use space that would normally be overlooked.

Options abound
Strategically placed individual live plants ranging in size from ground covering to small trees are what today’s vertical green walls are all about. But rather than sprouting from dirt in the ground, a carefully constructed and attached support system delivers water and nutrients to the many live plants, succulents and other foliage that form the basis of these living walls. Practically any type of live plants, succulents and foliage can be incorporated into these extraordinary plantscapes including edible plants like vegetables, fruit trees, herbs and salad greens.

No place is off limits
As the trend in vertical green walls continues to soar, so do the heights of these impressive structures. Today it’s not uncommon to see entire sides of towering office buildings covered in lush live plants. Hotel lobbies and interiors are other areas where vertical green walls are common. Living walls have even sprouted up along sound barriers surrounding highways, on walls where you might otherwise hang impressive artwork, and believe it or not, inside urban lofts and office space.

Large or small, inside or out, vertical green walls are sprouting up all over the globe, in locations and eye-catching designs never before imagined. Thanks to technological advances in landscape installation and engineering and the creative imaginations of plantscape artists, this is one sustainable idea that has definitely taken root and is guaranteed to thrive in the right environments.

Click Here to View Examples of Vertical Green Walls

Go Green with Living Walls

living walls purify the air

Living walls are the ultimate in going green. As the name implies, a living wall is an interior or exterior wall covered by live plants. Sometimes these plants are grown in soil. But when water is plentiful and conditions are right, living walls can grow without soil making them surprisingly lightweight.

Living walls, or vertical green walls as they’re also called, are beautiful to look at and functional. With proper irrigation, adequate sunlight and sufficient support, vertical gardens can quickly and inexpensively update the look of an otherwise boring wall. But that’s not all. Many require very little in the way of maintenance. Dead leaf removal and occasional plant replacement are usually all that’s needed.

Living walls are more popular than ever and it’s no wonder. They’re all the rage in urban environments where horizontal space is rare and vertical space abounds. They can promote happiness and a sense of calmness where there once was none. They can cut noise pollution by acting as effective sound barriers. They can add visual interest. They can provide insulation and can even purify the air.

Design options are practically limitless thanks to the ability to mix and match plant species and vary the shape and size of a wall. All that combined with strategic placement of plants lets you achieve practically any desired look or purpose. It doesn’t matter whether you want an entire wall of live landscaping or a few rows of plants to define a space or draw attention to a focal point. It’s all possible with vertical green walls.

Turning ordinary walls into thriving living walls isn’t as simple as potting a few plants. There’s a lot to plan and consider. So do yourself a favor and enlist the help of a plantscape design expert. You’ll be glad you did!

Interiorscaping with Potted Plants

three issues to consider before interiorscaping

Adding a few potted plants to an interior space is one thing. But interiorscaping, which involves using indoor plants including silk plants, succulents, foliage, and other greenery to design an inside space, is a whole different process.

Before you can create the perfect interiorscape, it’s important to take these three issues into consideration:

  1. Your GoalsAs you would with any home or office improvement project, it’s important to define your goals right from the start. Like landscaping the outdoors, your interiorscape options are limited only by your imagination. So think about what you want. Do you want to beautify a space? Do you want to purify indoor air or add moisture? Do you want potted plants to act as a sound barrier? Or something else?
  2. Your LocationIndoor plants, foliage and other greenery need water care to survive. But something else they need is the right location. If a potted plant’s care instructions specify filtered sunshine sunlight, you can’t put that particular plant in a windowless corner and expect it to thrive – or survive. Of course, this isn’t a problem when choosing silk plants. But when interiorscaping with live plants, location definitely matters.
  3. Your BudgetAs you shop for plants you’ll find a vast difference in price among different plant species. To keep from busting your budget, make sure the plantscape you design includes plants you can afford. Also be sure to factor in the cost of containers for any indoor plants that need re-potting. If all of this sounds too confusing, don’t give up on your interiorscape dreams. Instead, find someone who specializes in plantscape design. With the right assistance, you’ll end up with an attractive interiorscape that achieves your goals, requires minimal upkeep, and doesn’t bust your budget!

Interiorscape Your Office

the benefits of using potted plants

Beautifying an interior space by adding plants is the number one reason people choose to interiorscape. But did you know that interiorscaping with office potted plants offers other benefits besides an improved appearance?

It’s true!

Using potted plants in the home or office is an efficient and low-cost way to improve indoor air quality. Plants filter air and remove airborne pollutants emitted by carpeting, furniture, even cigarette smoke. Besides these filtering capabilities, interior plants generate and release clean air into the indoor environment. Breathing fresher, cleaner air helps reduce headaches and nausea.

Office potted plants can also help reduce stress, which in turn can help increase productivity in and around the office by boosting mood and idea generation. With people working longer hours and continually worried about job security, this benefit alone makes interiorscaping something every employer should consider. Indoor plants can even help decrease noise levels; another factor that can increase worker output.

When potted plants are used to beautify an interior space, you have much more flexibility in design. In other words, you won’t be locked into one particular look. By moving a few potted plants around you can instantly update any interior space.

Got a brown thumb?

There’s no need to be concerned your “brown thumb” will ruin your plantscape investment, either. If this is an issue, simply contract with a reputable plant service and let someone with a greener thumb care for your office plants.

If you’re unsure whether you can afford to interiorscape, plant rental and plant leasing services are two options that are definitely worth considering. That way you’ll get to enjoy all of these benefits of interiorscaping – plus plenty of others – without worrying about busting your budget.

Green Plants For Green Buildings to Sponsor Panel of Scientific Researchers

global research leaders

By Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP | August, 2011 | topics: Press Release, Research

A panel of global research leaders in the field of indoor plants will convene on Thursday December 1, 2011, to discuss research to date on the effect of plants on indoor environmental quality.

At the 9th Annual Cities Alive Green Roofs For Healthy Cities conference in Philadelphia, these thoughtful, dedicated scientists will discuss research completed to date and make recommendations for future research.

Never before have such important researchers gathered to discuss their work and findings. Not for profit organization, Green Plants For Green Buildings will sponsor the panel discussion. www.GPGB.org

Confirmed panelists are:

Professor Margaret Burchett (BSc, PhD, Dip. Educ.) A plant environmental biologist/toxicologist. Over the last 15 years she has led research at the University of Technology, Sydney in the Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Group, focusing on the uses of potted-plants to reduce urban indoor air pollution, and to promote health and well-being for building occupants.

Dr. Alan Darlington-Adjunct biology professor and research scientist from The University of Guelph-Developer of NedLaw living wall biological filtration system.

Dr. Bodie Pennisi-Research Scientist and Associate Professor at The University of Georgia. Lead researcher of “project carbon”.

Dr. Bill Wolverton, Former NASA Research Scientist- conducted the first known research studies on indoor plants and VOC removal for the space program. Dr. Wolverton is best known for the earliest studies on the benefits of living plants indoors.

The discussion will be moderated by Green Plants for Green Buildings Board members Joe Zazzera and Amanda Culiver.

Registration information can be found at the Green Roofs For Healthy Cities website. www.greenroofs.org

Plants: Special Agent “Air Cleaners” Reporting for Duty

keys to reducing carbon footprints

By Linda Reindl | June 9, 2011 | topics: Press Release, Carbon Footprints, Interiorscapes

The Green Industry holds in their hands the keys to reducing carbon footprints and ultimately cleaning the air we breathe. Good health is now as important to some consumers as having the biggest, newest or shiniest status symbols, and “healthy lifestyles” is now one of today’s top consumer trends.

Project Carbon, a recent research project at the University of Georgia, proves that plants do remove carbon from the air we breathe. This study is the first of its kind to provide quantitative data of carbon removal by plants in an interiorscape setting. Plants in homes and offices are not only aesthetically pleasing, they can improve the quality of air we breathe!

Project Carbon, funded by the National Foliage Foundation (NFF) and supported by Green Plants for Green Buildings and the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, allowed researchers, Dr. Bodie Pennisi and Dr. Marc van Iersel, to identify the amounts of carbon removed from the air by plants, both under simulated conditions and in actual interiorscape environments. A little over a year later, research proves there is an advantage to having plants in homes and offices.

“NFF is proud to support this project as it clearly substantiates the argument for using indoor plants, and it provides a sound platform to quantifiably measure the amount of VOC’s removed from the air,” said Kathrein Markle, NFF President.

Research Highlights:

  • In addition to absorbing carbon, plants improve indoor air quality by removing pollutants.
  • While all plants take carbon out of the air, larger, woody plants absorb and keep in their bodies more carbon than small herbaceous plants over time.
  • Plants must be in healthy condition to continue removing carbon from the air we breathe.

Interiorscape plants have been documented to remove several volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene and formaldehyde. This aspect should serve as a basis for the claim for improvement of indoor air quality. Carbon dioxide assimilation provides corollary information to VOC removal and a more complete assessment of plants’ benefits to the indoor environment.

Technically speaking, Project Carbon was conducted in two phases. The first phase included growing plants under simulated interiorscape conditions. Plants were grown for 10 weeks and upon termination, the following data was taken: shoot and root dry weights and total leaf area. From this data, scientists calculated the amount of carbon that interiorscape plants removed from air. The second phase consisted of measuring carbon removed by plants “on the job” — that is plants installed in an actual interiorscape.

Noise Action Week – May 23, 2011

excessive noise can damage productivity

By Laura Hampton, eFIG | May 19, 2011 | topics: Noise Action Week

Noise in offices – it’s annoying, right? But it’s not just the disruption it causes that makes noise an issue for businesses. In fact, excessive noise levels can damage productivity and affect our health and well-being – bad news for business.

Luckily, there is a way of reducing noise that has a whole range of other benefits too: plants!

We already know that plants have a whole array of benefits; you only need glance at the range of articles featured here on the Plant Solutions website. From increased productivity to reduced absenteeism and lower stress levels, the benefits of plants really cannot be ignored.

But did you know that the introduction of plants into a space can actually lower noise levels and absorb those distracting sounds?

According to the eFIG (European Federation of Interior Landscapers) website; “Research has found that plants absorb, diffract and reflect sound waves so that noise is reduced, producing a calmer and more productive working environment. The reduction of noise by plants is most noticeable in spaces with hard surfaces.” Indeed, research into the area by Peter Costa of South Bank University, Melbourne, Australia, showed that plants both absorb and deflect sound – making for a much more comfortable environment.

Findings like this are always important – they prove that the benefits of plants go far beyond the aesthetic and confirm that the installation of plants in any area is a great investment. However, these findings are particularly prominent this week because it marks Noise Action Week.

Intended to draw people’s attention to the ill-effects of excessive noise levels, Noise Action Week runs between the 23rd and 27th May. It will be documented across the web so showing support for the initiative by providing statistics like those on the noise reducing properties of plants will really raise the profile of the interior landscaping industry.

For further information please contact Laura Hampton, eFIG Ltd via

Email: laura@zabisco.com