The project started and the first progress report is due 31 July 2007.
The Project has been completed at 15 February 2010.
Future funding is being sought to research CO2 energy savings and effects of different potting media on VOC reduction.
Updates for the HAL Nursery Annual Industry Report.
Project No: NY06021
This 3-year project was undertaken to advance an understanding of the benefits of potted-plants on indoor air quality and the wellbeing of building occupants, to contribute to ‘greening the city’ for sustainable urban communities. Over 80% of Australians live in urban areas, and spend 90% of their time indoors. The quality of the indoor environment is therefore critical to our health, and indoor air is virtually always more polluted than outside. Urban air pollution is a national health concern, its costs being estimated at $12 billion p.a.
The project comprised laboratory trials of volatile organic compound (VOC) removal, with three untried species (bringing to 12 the species laboratory-tested by the UTS team); an office study of minimum numbers of plants required to reduce VOCs and CO2; a preliminary examination of whether plants could, undesirably, (as suggested by several authors) increase airborne mould spore loads; and an investigation of the extent of effects of plants on psychological wellbeing of building occupants.
The laboratory trials confirmed the species tested have similar strong capacities to remove VOCs as the nine species previously tested by UTS. The office study recorded some VOC and CO2 reductions, but less marked than in our earlier office studies, probably because of greater efficiency of more modern air conditioning systems, and inadequate lighting. R&D is required to optimise plant contribution to CO2 removal, which is clearly achievable with more advanced horticultural technology. However, no significant effects of plants were found on mould counts or types; indoor counts were very low – down to about one twentieth of outdoor loads. Also, highly significant reductions in negative mood states were found with plants – and one plant can make the difference. Recommendations for further R&D are presented in the Final Report of the project, which has been submitted to HAL (15/02/2010).
(Prof) Margaret Burchett
Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Group
Address correspondence to:
Hal Confirms Interior Plantscape Industry Research And Development Project Funding Allocation
Your National Interior Plantscape Association in collaboration with Dr Margaret Burchett, University of Technology, Sydney, has prepared the outline of a Research and Development project, Greening the Great Indoors for Human Health and Well-Being aimed at providing evidence of the ability of indoor plants to improve the health, well-being and productivity of office staff; to determine if low numbers of plants can be beneficial to both human health and indoor air quality; to provide information on plant numbers, types and placement in offices for optimum health-promoting benefits; and, to obtain information on a new, previously untested interior plant variety as regards its ability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Horticulture Australia Limited has now confirmed that this R & D Project has received a significant funding allocation to be provided over the next three years.
From the Research & Development to date globally, we know that indoor plants can improve office air quality but we do not know if this translates directly into improved health, well-being and productivity of office workers. As well, we have not established the minimum number of plants required to improve air quality in an office. Whilst “green views outside” or “contact with nature” have been demonstrated to have restorative powers for humans, very little research has been carried out into the “green indoors” and its effects on human well-being.
The US National Science and Technology Council has catalogued over 900 papers from more than 100 journals and conferences. Europe also has a very large body of technically sound studies and documentation linking health and productivity with specific building designs and operations. The University of Technology Sydney (Australia) based Project Research Team with which NIPA is working to make this project happen, are the global leaders in this field of R & D and are currently completing complimentary laboratory and office field studies through the University of Technology, Sydney On the basis of these and earlier findings, the Green Building Council of Australia has recently moved in the right direction by adopting a “Green Star” rating for the inclusion of indoor plants in new buildings.
However, further R & D is needed to convince building managers and occupants that the indoor potted plant microcosm (PPM) is indeed a remedy for the 400 volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) identified in indoor air, coming from outdoor air. NIPA and the global leaders in this area of research based at UTS are committed to undertake this much needed further research and development.
The cost of undertaking such a major research project far exceeds the capacity of the Australian interior plantscape industry as it is made up of many, many micros businesses. The cost is also beyond the capacity of any industry association or educational institution. To this end, late last year NIPA applied for a funding allocation to Horticulture Australia Limited who has enabled many worthwhile research and development projects to be undertaken with their financial support.
The issues to be addressed through this R & D include questions about indoor plants in the workplace that are commonly asked by professionals in the interior plantscape industry, office workers, building owners and managers and other would-be buyers of indoor plants are: “Do indoor plants really make a difference on how people feel at work?”. “Can one or two indoor plants really have an effect on indoor air quality?” and, “How many plants are actually needed?”. These “issues” will be addressed and reported in a manner that can be applied by all the various professionals.
Interior plantscapers will receive the research findings as Industry Fact Sheets and in industry journal articles which they can use in business negotiations. The findings will be available on CD in building manager “speak” to achieve maximum education and awareness for all. The final stage of this R & D project is to achieve maximum exposure through a professionally managed mass media campaign progressively implemented internationally.
The primary target is building managers, local government and property developers with awareness linked to the interior plantscaping industry. Target audiences will be accessed through a multi-national awareness campaign progressively implemented concurrently with the release of the project’s research findings.
Both NIPA and the UTS team believe interest in the research findings will be in demand as it is cutting edge and supports moves already afoot to ensure Greening Buildings is the way of future local governments, developers and building managers. The growing concern for litigation related to Sick Building Syndrome will ensure commercialization of the IT. The implications of the research findings will be readily available across all building, design, interiorscaping and community sectors.
The benefits to industry will be the empowerment with knowledge of industry professionals; estimates of productivity increases by office workers gained from improved IEQ vary from zero to as high as 30-50 per cent. Increased numbers of CH2 type buildings, greater environmental awareness by office employees and unions, reduced litigation related to VOCs in the workplace. The bottom line will be relief for interiorscapers who can look forward to supporting their current assertions with quality Australian based research in the future…