Blog

Ban Stress with Plants

stress awareness

By Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP | November 11, 2010 | topics: stress relief from using indoor plants

Our modern life-styles contribute to personal stress overload and government cuts will have shot stress graphs higher in the recent weeks too as we worry about how they will affect us.

Stress has been named and shamed as making the risk of death 5 times (³) more likely and exposed it as the culprit of a loss of up to 20 million days for businesses, so it’s high time we looked at ways to improve our lifestyles and put stress back where it belongs!

“We know from various studies that plants help to reduce stress – one of the biggest causes of heart disease as well as costing businesses through absenteeism. Just one plant can have an amazingly positive effect on people reducing their stress levels by 50% (¹),” says eFIG’s (²) chairman, Thomas Palfreyman.

Research by a workplace consultancy firm Croner found that the top three causes of stress for UK employees were work (63%), finances (62%) and the economy (49%).

Croner commented that high levels of stress could lead to absence, staff turnover and poor morale in the workplace and advise, “Stress issues should not be put on the back burner as it has a direct effect on productivity and impacts on an organization’s reputation and customer satisfaction. The problems that cause stress should be tackled head on.”

More to the Power of Plants

Several research studies have confirmed that plants – even views of them – reduce stress levels. A new study published early this year in Australia confirmed that just one plant on a desk – at work or in the home office – could have a really positive effect on people’s moods and reduce depression and anxiety by 50 & 60%.

Even Chris Evans on his Breakfast Show quoted research by Dr David Lewis which claims that workers can reduce their stress levels by 60% by looking at a plant for 15 minutes.

And plant-induced calm employees are more satisfied with their jobs, less likely to jump ship and join another company, more focused, perform better by as much as 12% and are more motivated.

If businesses used plants as part of their stress management programmes, they could have a very positive effect on the bottom line.

With National Stress Awareness Day coming up, maybe it’s time to relook at your stress management policies?

Editor’s Notes

(¹)’Greening the Great Indoors for Human Health and Well-being’, Margaret Burchett et al, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, 2010

(²) eFIG, the European Federation of Interior Landscaping Industries is a not-for-profit, membership based organization

(³) Stress increases ‘risk of death five-fold’ – article in The Telegraph, 9 September 2010

Green (and red) Holiday Decor

artificial holiday decor alternatives

By Joe Zazzera, GRP, LEED AP ID + C | October 7, 2010 | topics: holiday decor, artificial decor alternatives, holiday greenery

The holiday season is traditionally decked out in red and green, but you can make your holidays “greener” in more ways than one. Not only can your holiday decorations be eco-friendly, they can also add more “green” back into your pocket. Here are some easy ways to do both:

  • Look for alternatives to the usual VOC-producing polyvinyl-chloride artificial trees and wreaths. Your local decorator or interior expert can provide you with a tree frame filled with beautiful poinsettias for an unusual and colorful alternative. These pyramids of red and green are not only breath-taking in their appearance, they actually help you breathe easier for removing harmful VOC’s from the air. These poinsettia trees are available in all sizes from 6 ft. to 60 ft. tall and can be strung with lights for more impact and excitement.
  • Another alternative to artificial trees are live ball-and-burlap evergreen trees. Depending on your city’s fire codes you may need to treat these with fire retardant but with expert care they should look fresh and beautiful throughout the entire season. Use them outdoors or bring them in with waterproof decorative containers. They’ll do best in cooler temperatures and be sure to keep the root-ball moist. These can be planted outdoors after the holidays, or donate them to your local senior center, school or parks and recreation department.
  • Grapevine wreaths can be heavily decorated and lighted for a spectacular effect, minus the VOC’s off-gassed by the usually artificial wreath. Use natural elements such as pine cones, bird’s nests, little clay pots, ribbons and dried flowers or fruits. Aluminum ornaments can be recycled and are often sold by local craftsmen. Or support a local school or children’s program with a donation in exchange for some hand-crafted paper origami ornaments.
  • Grapevine is also used to make life-sized reindeer, sleighs and other standing ornaments. Grapevine grows rapidly and is a renewable resource, organic and biodegradable and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
  • Want to save on your electric bill? Use LED lighting instead. Although the initial cost is usually higher, these lights use much less power and will usually last for 10 years, a great cost-saving, energy-reducing investment.
  • Colorful blooming plants are a great way to spruce up your lobby and fit any budget. Poinsettias now come in many colors, including different shades of red, burgundy, pink, peach, cream. Some even have stripes or spots. Some of the more non-traditional colors may need to be special-ordered so don’t wait until the last minute.

Other blooming plants include paper-white narcissus, cyclamen, ornamental peppers and azaleas.

  • Looking for a desk-top decoration or unusual gift? Miniature trees made of sweet-smelling rosemary can be decorated with mini ornaments or tiny bows, and some evergreens may also be available in smaller sizes. Keep them moist indoors and plant them outside after the holidays.
  • Don’t forget to add the music. Host a lunch-time concert and invite your local school choir or charitable group to sing traditional carols. Sponsor a giving tree or food drive as part of the event. This is the best time of year to support charities and show your social responsibility.

Green Earth-Green Plants Publication

green earth – green plants names advisory council

By www.greenearthgreenplants.com | July 6th, 2010 | topics: green business, certified business, green earth green plants certified

Green Earth—Green Plants® announced today the formation of its Advisory Council.  The group’s membersare green certified interior plantscape businesses and other interested businesses, organizations and individuals.  “We are happy to announce the formation of this Advisory Council who will represent our Certified Business members and provide important feedback for the Certification Program” says Kathy Fediw, LEED AP, CLP, CLT, president of Johnson Fediw Associates and founder of the certification program.

The Advisory Council members are:

Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP:  president and CEO of Plant Solutions, Inc.

Jennifer Bermudez-Perez: president, Growing Roots LLC franchise

Mike Langwiser:  operations manager of Atria, Inc.

Jim Mumford, GRP, CLP:  president of Good Earth Plant Company, Inc.

Joey Steinbeck, CLT:  general manager of Foliage Concepts, Inc.

Those on the Advisory Council must be an owner or employee of a Green Earth—Green Plants® Certified Business or the manufacturer of an Approved Product and prove their dedication to promoting eco-friendly business practices.  They are all serving as volunteers to this program.  They will be advising on the revisions and updates to the certification assessment; the valuation of the assessment’s point system; and future direction of the program.

“We at Johnson Fediw Associates are very grateful to this group of hard-working individuals and know that their feedback is crucial to the continuing success of this program” says Fediw.   The Green Earth—Green Plants® program certifies eco-friendly interior plantscape businesses and projects and includes recommendations for Approved Products.

Johnson Fediw Associates is a third-party consulting firm providing green certification programs to horticulture businesses.  For more information on the Green Earth—Green Plants® program, go to www.greenearthgreenplants.com or call 281-687-6966.

Concerns About Mold and Indoor Plants

news you can use – a response to concerns about mold and indoor plants

By Plant Solutions | July 2010 | Topics: Benefits of Plants

Not only do indoor plants aid in suppressing airborne microbes, but when they are properly maintained by a professional Interior Plantscape Contractor, there is less opportunity to produce mold, harmful or not. Proper care, lighting and watering will help avoid such problems”. Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP

More useful information from GPGB LEED Advocate Chair, Joe Zazzera:

According to the State of Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Indoor Fungal Infestations and Mycotoxicity: “There are no confirmed cases of mycotoxicity, via inhalation exposure, in residential or office settings”. Additionally, “The presence of mold in a building does not in itself constitute a health threat”.

To view the entire article, go to:

In an additional study conducted by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, Interior Plants Influence On Airborne Microbes Inside Energy–efficient Buildings: “significant findings indicate that large quantities of indoor plants may be used to increase humidity levels and suppress levels of mold spores and other airborne microbes inside energy-efficient buildings, while reducing air polluting substances”.

To view the entire article, go to: http://www.wolvertonenvironmental.com/MsAcad-96.pdf

For more information on the many health and environmental benefits of using living plants indoors visit http://www.greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org/

Barrel Cactus Living Wall

By LivingWallArt.com | May 2010 | Topics: Living Vertical Greenwalls

[nggallery id=4]

The Barrel Cactus Vertical Living Wall was built-in Scottsdale, Arizona. Designed by Joe Zazzera, GRP, LEED and installed by the Plant Solutions Team in May this year, this project is a vertical living wall using golden barrel cacti and a custom-built frame. A. Dunham Workshop built the vertical frame out of steel. The intent was to create a piece of “living art” to draw attention to the entry of the Plant Solutions design showroom.
Extra Media Published By: LivingWallArt.com

There’s Opportunity in ‘Them There Walls’

favorite methods takes advantage of biofiltration

By Plant Solutions | July 2010 | Topics: Living Vertical Greenwalls

Joe Zazzera, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP), is probably way too young to remember the cartoon character Yosemite Sam. Yet, like this Warner Brothers creation, he, too, sees golden opportunities. His, though, don’t reside in the western hills; they reside in urban landscapes in virtually every city in the country. Zazzera, president and CEO for Arizona-based Plant Solutions, is excited about transforming interior walls into plantscapes. “At one location, we’ve installed a small green wall to replace our client’s use of cut flowers,” he explains. “Live-plant walls are different, pique interest, and they are a practical use of available space.

“With real estate costs going up, architects are designing away atriums and other garden areas in favor of revenue-producing space. Live-plant walls don’t take up valuable space. They are also very attractive and functional, providing the same air-quality benefits that other indoor gardens provide.”

Zazzera notes that interior plantscapers can employ any of several different methods to install green walls. One of the favorite methods takes advantage of biofiltration. The green wall is constructed of a special, foam-like medium. Water is circulated through the medium via a small water fountain beneath the wall. In this scenario, the customer gets the benefits of two features — a green wall and a water feature.

“Green walls are new and exciting, and they’re not budget breakers for clients,” Zazzera goes on to explain. “In some cases, if you’re replacing cut flowers with a small, live-plant wall, the cost is already in the budget. On average, it will cost your clients around $100 per square foot for installing a green wall, or they can choose to lease one. As always, maintenance is key.”

Riding the Green Wave

Green walls are not the only new opportunities for interior plantscapers, says Zazzera, who is actively involved in trying to get interior plants into the LEED rating system. Installing and maintaining green roofs has potential for industry members, as well. “We already have a working relationship with architects and building owners,” he emphasizes. “The truth is that intensive green roofs, those that are heavy and require additional engineering to install, are less common today than their extensive counterparts.” In other words, you don’t have to be an architect or engineer to install every green roof, says Zazzera.

Green roofs come in all different shapes, sizes, and complexities. They do have their challenges, he emphasizes, not the least of which involve safety concerns working on roofs and maintaining plants in a sometimes hostile environment. A good place for beginners to start is to access the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Web site, greenroofs.org. The group is a valuable resource for learning about installing green roofs, and obtaining its Green Roof Professional designation will help interior plantscapers get their “foot in the door” of prospective clients.

The fresh opportunities presented by green roofs and green walls align with growing interest in sustainable landscapes and environments. As Zazzera relates, buildings already receive LEED credit points for having green roofs that reduce water runoff, provide additional insulation, and reduce the heat island effect. He chairs an advocacy group that’s lobbying the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to award LEED credit points for interior plants, also. When that day arrives, he points out, green walls and green interiors overall will be even more attractive investments for building owners.

Jetson Green Publication

plant walls for vibrant green spaces

By Preston Koerner | May 12, 2010 | topics: IAQ, Landscape, Modern design

The folks at Plant Solutions installed this vibrant living wall in a conference room of their Scottsdale office. The TerraScreen Living Wall is made with two 4’x4′ panels, which are made with a black, powder-coated, galvanized steel wire, and brackets that attach to the wall. The panels protrude a little less than five inches from the wall.

Plants are placed in 6″ no-hole cachepots and an irrigation system keeps them watered. This installation has pothos plants with colorful Neoregelia Medusa variety, according to Living Wall Art.

Green walls, like other interior plants, not only bring a slice of nature to the unnatural, but they also capture airborne pollution through absorption or by sticking to the plants. They can be good for indoor air quality.

Living walls are popular these days, especially with a NY Times article on the topic by Kristina Shevory, “Gardens that Grow on Walls.” It should be clear, though, they require care and a plan with respect to irrigation, lighting, nutrition, and plant choice. Some living walls die, while other green walls thrive.

WESST Corporation Gets LEED Credit for Use of Indoor Plants

By Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP | May 3, 2010 | topics: press release, LEED credit, use of indoor plants

WESST CORPORATION GETS LEED CREDIT FOR USE OF INDOOR PLANTS

Albuquerque New Mexico’s Wesst Corporation was recently awarded Silver LEED Certification in part through the use of indoor plants, only the second project to do so in the U.S.

Credit for the use of live plants indoors was given under LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a third party rating system offered through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Points were awarded in the category of Innovation in Design, under LEED.

According to Studio Southwest Architects and the LEED Consultant Halcom Consulting, key points cited in the submittal were live plant’s ability to filter VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), uptake carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, and release fresh oxygen into the atmosphere. The Plant type and percentage of the installation along with VOC removal characteristics with milligram per hour removal properties for formaldehyde, Xylene and ammonia were cited within the LEED submittal. Green Plants For Green Buildings (GPGB.Org) extensive library of resources back up the research and findings in the submittal. The 420 Sq Ft bio-filtration wall measures 17 ft by 24 feet high and was installed by NedLaw of Canada. The “Bio” wall is fully integrated into the buildings air handling system.

The credit award supports the argument that human beings need to feel connected to the natural environment in order to enjoy a sense of psychological, physical and social well-being.  Biophilia directly confronts the issue of aesthetics and our evolved sense of beauty. The patterns, forms, textures and colors of nature provide abundant models that can be used in building and product design to enhance their aesthetic appeal, not just their functionality and efficiency. Incorporating this natural sense of beauty into a building makes them not only greener in the environmental sense, but also greener in a human sense.

Unlike Australia’s ‘Green Star’ green building rating system, the current USGBC LEED system does not yet offer a specified direct credit for the inclusion of live plant applications. Within the current LEED section titled “Innovation in Design” it is possible for plants to be part of a specially developed use.

It is widely recognized that plants in the workplace offer more than just aesthetic value.  In fact, research science and studies have shown that in addition to improving indoor air quality they help reduce stress, enhance employee attitudes, and increase productivity.

For more information on the many health and environmental benefits of using living plants indoors visit www.gpgb.org.

########

First Building in U.S. to Get LEED Credit for Use of Indoor Plants

E & E Awarded the Platinum LEED Certification

By Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP | March 22, 2010 | topics: press release, LEED credit, use of indoor plants

The Ecology and Environment (E & E) Headquarters in Lancaster, New York was recently awarded Platinum LEED Certification in part through the use of indoor plants.

Credit for the use of live plants indoors was given under LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a third party rating system offered through the US Green Building Council (USGBC). Points were awarded in the category of Innovation in Operation and Maintenance, under LEED for Existing Buildings 2.0.

The specific credit was for the Biophilic Connection to plant life found in this building, which supports the argument that human beings need to feel connected to the natural environment in order to enjoy a sense of psychological, physical and social well being.  Biophilia directly confronts the issue of aesthetics and our evolved sense of beauty. The patterns, forms, textures and colors of nature provide abundant models that can be used in building and product design to enhance their aesthetic appeal, not just their functionality and efficiency. Incorporating this natural sense of beauty into this building made it not only greener in the environmental sense, but also greener in a human sense.

Key points cited in the submittal were live plant’s ability to filter VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), uptake carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, and release fresh oxygen into the atmosphere. E & E used information from GPGB.Org’s extensive library of resources to back up their research and submittal.

Unlike Australia’s ‘Green Star’ green building rating system, the current USGBC LEED system does not yet offer a specified direct credit for the inclusion of live plant applications. Within the current LEED section titled “Innovation in Design” it is possible for plants to be part of a specially developed use.

It is widely recognized that plants in the workplace offer more than just aesthetic value.  In fact, research science and studies have shown that in addition to improving indoor air quality they help reduce stress, enhance employee attitudes, and increase productivity.

For more information on the many health and environmental benefits of using living plants indoors visit www.gpgb.org.

########

Benefits of Living Plants In Buildings

awareness of the need and desire for indoor air quality

By: Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP |  February 1, 2010 | topics: LEED, Indoor Plant Benefits, Environmental Awareness

With the advent of the LEED rating system and with LEED for homes coming on in a strong way, the awareness of the need and desire for indoor air quality improvement and control is greater than ever. Due to our increased environmental awareness, we no longer trust the health and quality of our food, clothing, hair-care products, cleaning products, carpeting and paint.  Plenty of data exists proving the toxicity of these items.  We can no longer ignorantly keep these chemicals near us in any form without risking becoming irritated and sick behind their use. When it comes to our living and working environments, we want the best and healthiest options we can afford.

According to the ASID Study “The impact of interior design and the bottom line”, and The American Journal of Medicine, businesses pay $15 Billion a year in direct medical costs due to problems related to poor indoor air quality.

Over 900 VOC’S (volatile organic compounds) can be present in indoor environmental air.  Not all VOC’S are harmful but the harsh ones like formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, chloroform, ammonia, acetone are commonly used in items like paint, carpeting, construction supplies, glues, ceiling tiles, furniture and finishes.

This poor indoor air quality has negative effects on our health.  Out-gassing, or emissions of these VOC’S, cause problems such as nausea, headache, coughs, fatigue, dry skin and sore throats. These are just some of the results of poor indoor air quality.

How Living Indoor Plants Help

Live Indoor Plants convert harmful VOC’S into carbon-based materials that they then use in the photosynthesis process to make their own food. The resulting byproduct is oxygen.

This is actually a bimimicry action; there is no other known way to convert these compounds into something harmless. It is as nature designed and intended.   Air filter devices and HVAC systems can capture some of these VOC’s but they are still there, they haven’t changed.  Plants do what our most complicated HVAC systems can’t, and plants offer a host of other physical, emotional, and mental benefits.

Scientists have found that there is a microcosm, an ecosystem of sorts that exists in a regular soil mix consisting of plant roots and ordinary harmless bacteria.  The bacteria breaks down the VOC’s and the plant roots nourish and keep the bacteria alive.  Plants absorb the newly converted compounds and use them in the photosynthesis process for food and energy and growth.

In a two-year study by Norwegian Professor Tove Fjeld, in 51 offices with living indoor plants, fatigue was reduced by 20%, headaches and sore throats by 30%, coughs by a whopping 40% and dry skin irritations by 25%.

In yet another study by Texas A&M Professor Dr. Roger Ulrich, it was proven that when plants are present in hospitals, patients are ready to go home after surgery in less time; they require less pain medication; and nurses report that they are less likely to become upset or despondent from their illness or surgery. Ulrich’s study also showed that plants improved problem solving skills, ideation and creative performance. So research definitely shows that plants improve health!

How Many Plants

Research by NASA as well as Australian Scientist Margaret Burchett have shown that 1 plant per 100-160 square feet of indoor space is sufficient to have an effect and improve indoor air quality. They found that the plant size did not matter as long as they were of the 8” nursery pot size or larger.  The studies have shown that upon initial installation, VOC’S were removed within 4-5 days; any added VOC’s (by addition of furniture etc.) are removed within 24 hours. This shows that plants get better at processing VOC’S.

What are the Costs

There have been many return on investment studies that show anywhere from 30% to 300% ROI. The typical return in the office environment shows 12% improvement in productivity along with 60% reduction in absenteeism rates. This translates to a $24 ROI per day per employee commercially for a cost of about $200 per year per employee for plants including maintenance.

The residential environment is difficult to chart due to the fact that there is very little data and not much consistency with which to make accurate measurements. Designs simply vary too much to give accurate ROI numbers.  Experience has shown that most residential clients are not as concerned about specific dollar ROI as they are their interior environmental quality and aesthetics. It is discernible however, that the benefits outweigh the costs.

The Biophilic Connection

When most of us want to relax and unwind, we go for a walk in nature, take our dogs to the park or go camping or fishing. This Biophilic need for plants, life and nature is an archetypical one that is innate in all of us.

In her work Building Biophilia: Connecting People to Nature in Building Design, Environmental Psychologist, Judith Heerwagen, PhD states,  “Studies show that incorporating the natural environment into buildings can have a positive influence on psychological, physical and social well being”.  She goes on to state; “Appreciating natural beauty isn’t something that some people have and others don’t. It doesn’t need advanced education and training. It happens without effort or even conscience awareness. The more our buildings can tap into our ancient sense of beauty, the more likely they will support us psychologically and emotionally, as well as functionally”.

Our job as designers, contractors and builders is to educate and reconnect our clients to this need by providing them with the highest quality of design, décor and environmental quality as we can. Now more than ever the health benefit, productivity improvements and the return on investment for the biophilic connection to nature should be part of that design.

BIO-

Joe Zazzera, is President and CEO of Scottsdale based Plant Solutions Incorporated and is a Governing Council Board member of the USGBC Central Arizona Chapter. He is a national board member of Green Plants for Green Buildings and Chair of their LEED Advocacy Committee. His goal is to see indoor plants adopted into the Indoor Environmental Quality, IEQ,  section of the LEED rating system. Joe is a LEED AP as well as an Accredited Green Roof Professional, GRP through Green Roofs For Health Cities.

X
- Enter Your Location -
- or -