Growing
clean

and
healthy
air

Growing clean and healthy air

Countering indoor air pollutants

When you need a short break during the day, a stroll through the nearby park comes to mind. And when you need an extended break from the busy city life, a weekend escape to the rural reserves may help you connect back to nature. These are just some ways to reap one of the benefits of greenery – access to fresh air. But is the occasional access enough?

In a 2016 report on indoor air quality, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment reflected that Australians spend 90% or more of their time indoors.

This percentage is probably unsurprising as we spend most of our time either working in offices or resting at home. While you may be attuned to the indoor temperature, what you probably don’t realise is the number of pollutants that linger in the air.

Such pollutants, more often than not, come from indoor sources.Formaldehyde gas pollutant is emitted from products that contain formaldehyde-based resins such as particleboard, a widely used building material. Another pollutant example is volatile organic compounds (VOCs), released by common household materials such as paints and cleaning products. With low ventilation rates in many of our interior spaces, especially those in high rise buildings, these pollutants are often trapped indoors.

In Australia, a 1998 report by Dr Brown of the CSIRO Building Construction and Engineering estimated that indoor air pollutants are costing us around $12 billion each year due to illnesses and subsequently underperformance. In fact, a later study by The World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation concluded that household air pollutants cost the world’s economy $255 billion in lost labour income and $5.11 trillion in welfare losses. So what can we do to reduce indoor air pollutants?

Household plants are a great way to improve indoor air quality.

A widely cited research by Dr Wolverston from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) concluded that the Spider Plant, Golden Pothos and English Ivy are some of the most effective plants that reduce various air pollution concentrations. In this study, common foliage plants were first placed in a closed chamber. The closed chamber was then measured for the presence of air pollutants establish a baseline reading. The chamber was left undisturbed for twenty-four hours, and the pollutants were measured again.

More recently, Papinchak repeated a similar experiment in a simulated indoor environment over the course of three days. Instead of measuring air pollutants, ozone pollutants were measured. These pollutants can be commonly traced to office equipment such as photocopiers, laser printers and even ultraviolet lighting. From this study, Papinchak concluded that Snake Plant, Spider Plant and Golden Pothos also had pollutant removal properties.

These studies go to show that living with greenery not only beautifies indoor spaces but are also useful in building healthy living spaces.

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Here at Beulah, our projects are driven by investigating thinking and the pursuit for design and research innovation. Through these insights, we create transformational spaces and experience for present and future generations.

We transform this thinking into action for Southbank by Beulah, The Wilds and Provenance.

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