We can all agree that plants look attractive. But dig a little deeper beneath their beauty and you'll discover the facts - the benefits of indoor plants go far beyond the aesthetic. Recent research has shown that indoor plants significantly improve a whole range of aspects of our indoor environment. The benefits cover a spectrum from physically cleaner air to direct beneficial effects on psychological health, task performance, illness reduction and productivity.
These findings are important as in Australia over 80% of us live in urban areas and spend an amazing 90% of our time indoors, so the quality of the indoor environment is crucial to our wellbeing. Plants play a vital role in providing a pleasant and tranquil environment in which to move, work or relax. Indoor plants can also help health, wellbeing and productivity in the workplace. Evidence from scientific studies show that indoor plants reduce toxins in the air and from indoor products such as paint, plastics and carpets.
Research shows that indoor plants:
Help to reduce noise
Help improve productivity and performance
Help improve well being
Help improve indoor air quality
Help to lower stress and negative feelings
Help reduce sick building syndrome
Improve business image with potential clients
Contribute to fulfilling at least 75% of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Criteria
Indoor Plants Help Improve Air Quality
It is interesting to note that air pollution is almost always higher indoors than outside, even in the city centre, and air-conditioning systems are almost never designed to remove outdoor gaseous pollutants from air drawn into the building. As polluted outdoor air moves indoors, it mixes with more indoor contaminants from unflued gas appliances and VOCs (Volitile Organic Compounds) outgassing from plastics, synthetic (i.e. petroleum-derived) furnishings, finishes, solvents, etc.
Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have carried out laboratory and real-world office studies on the ability of indoor plants to reduce VOCs, CO2 and CO. They have so far laboratory-tested 11 indoor plant species for VOC removal. After a week of acclimatisation to exposure to any test VOC, all plant species worked equally well to remove VOCs within about 24 hours. They also work equally well in light or dark (24/7). Researchers from the UTS say this is because it is primarily the potting mix microorganisms that remove VOCs. The plant contributes to the process by nourishing its root-zone microbial community (as any plant does).
In essence the plant system - leaves, roots and potting media - take VOCs from the air such as benzene and formaldehyde released by furnishings, carpets, photocopiers, printers and many modern building materials which cause loss of concentration, headaches, eye, nose and throat problems, drowsiness, heavy-head and, lowered concentration. Plants also contribute oxygen back into the environment.
Overseas findings show that indoor plants can reduce Nitrogen and sulfur oxides, Air toxics, Particulates and Ozone. The UTS Research, conducted over the last 15 years, has shown that indoor plants can reduce:
CO2 (Carbon dioxide)
CO (carbon monoxide)
Can reduce by over 80% to below 100 ppb (Aust. Office Max. 500 ppb)
If VOC loads go up, so do removal rates
All plant species equally effective (the process depends on symbiosis with normal potting-mix bacteria)
Works day and night (24/7)
And 20 cm pots are as effective as 30 cm pots
Reduce by 10-25%
Exchanged for equal amount of O2 (oxygen)
The more foliage the better for CO2 removal
Optimise CO2 reduction by placing plants according to their recommended light requirements
Reduce by up to 90
Plants Can Help Reduce Sick Building Syndrome
Another key study was carried out at the offices of the Norwegian State Oil Company by Tove Fjeld. She examined the effect of indoor plants on health and discomfort among a group of office workers. Data was collected regarding 12 different symptoms, including fatigue, headache, dry skin on the hands and face, coughing, and eye irritation. After this time, half of the group were provided with a selection of common interior plants and half had none.
Over three months, considerably fewer health problems were reported by those people with plants. Fatigue and headache fell by 30% and 20% respectively, hoarseness and a dry throat fell by around 30%, coughing by around 40% and dry facial skin fell by around 25%.
Plants can be effective at reducing background noise. Species selection and positioning are crucial to achieve these effects.
Plants Improve Business Image With Potential Clients
Surveys show plants in the foyer and office spaces give the perception that the company is:
Warm and welcoming
Stable and balanced
Concerned for staff welfare
Comfortable to work with
Prepared to spend money on added beauty
Patient and caring
Providing a healthier, cleaner atmosphere
Indoor Plants Contribute To At Least 75% Of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Criteria
Air pollution mitigation
Reduce all types of urban air pollution
Low Emitting Materials
Absorb toxic emissions - VOCs etc
Increase effectiveness - remove CO2/add O2
OK for Plants - OK for staff also
Absorb & buffer noise
Add aesthetics & calming greenery; lower stress
Not directly influenced but tend to stabilise humidity in human comfort zone, so could have unquantified effects here
Not directly influenced but stabilisation of temperature and humidity could lower air-con. energy consumption