You´ve probably heard that plants improve air quality in your home and other indoor environments and can function as air purifiers. Plants are crucial to human life. Through photosynthesis they turn carbon dioxide that we breathe out into fresh air, and they can remove poisonous substances from the air we breathe in. Sadly, however, few studies prove that they actually clean the air around them to an extent that actually makes a difference.
Potted plants do have the ability to remove airborne organisms to some extent (VOC*), but we´re talking about tiny, isolated environments and only after several hours or days. This is according to scientists at Drexel University in the US, who as late as December 2019 published a study in Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Michael Waring, Associate Professor of Architectural and Environmental Engineering, examined previous studies and findings and found little evidence that plants do anything to filter pollutants from indoor air.
Many of these studies are limited by unrealistic conditions. Plants were often placed in isolated environments, with a single volatile organic compound (VOC*) deployed to pollute the air. While the VOC levels decreased over hours and days, Waring found that the studies put little emphasis on measuring clean air (CADR) and on how effectively an air purifier is in reality regarding to “cleaning” the space. When Waring converted the study results to CADR, the plants’ abilities to filter pollutants was found to be much weaker than to simply bring fresh air in by opening a window to spread VOC´s. In addition, people are not likely to work or live in such isolated environments.
The concept of plants as natural air purifiers probably originates from a NASA experiment in 1989, which claimed that plants could remove certain air pollutants. As in previous studies, this took place in an isolated environment, which means that the results are not fully applicable in homes and public spaces.
Of course, plants can indeed clean air, but their efficiency is so minimal that Waring believes that between 10 and 1000 plants per square meter of floor space would be required to achieve the same effect as simply opening a window or turning on the ventilation to generate fresh air. We should continue to enjoy plants, but we must realize that they will unfortunately not help us breathe more easily.
*VOC:s are general pollutants in indoor air and several hundred varieties have been identified. Concentration levels are low, around 100 to 1,000 times lower than current work environment guidelines, but usually higher than outdoor environments. Sources of pollution are outdoor air, environmental tobacco smoke, other combustion, building materials and furnishings, consumer products, activities and people. Source: Karolinska InstitutetFebruary 22, 2021
You no longer need to choose between green plant walls or sound absorbents, because now there’s plant panels with built-in sound absorbent qualities. Various types of acoustic solutions in office environments and other public spaces are an important part of interior design and contributes to a better sound environment.
At By Faux we’ve always seen a demand for acoustic solutions combined with plant walls, and hence we’re very happy to now be able to offer plant walls with built-in sound isolation qualities, and our product SHAPE which consists of hexagon frames of steel with both sound absorbent and plant panels. With this solution we have made it super easy to choose plant walls in for example narrow and sometimes dark corridors that are hard to furnish. The large plant walls in our collection are best suited to cover large areas, but sometimes we need to make smaller installations without compromising on the green in form of lush plants.
About Sound and Sound Absorbents
Acoustics is the knowledge about sound. This includes how sound is generated, how it´s controlled, and above all how it’s perceived in various spaces. Most people can probably relate to how a poor sound absorption can lead to a long and unwanted reverberation in a room as sound bounces uninhibited between floor, ceiling and walls, again and again. This can be prevented by adding a certain amount of sound absorbents to the room, so that soundwaves are absorbed and the reverberation reduced. A good sound environment is associated with limited echoes, an environment in which the room has added sound absorbents to prevent the echoes and stop sound from travelling throughout the room. Spaces with dampened echoes are often perceived as more pleasant, safer, warm and welcoming.
Our sound absorber is a product of fibre from industrial textile waste with elements of polyester fibre and black bicomponent fibre. It´s a self-supporting material with excellent sound absorption qualities.
Sound Absorbing Plant Walls
Today we are veery aware of how closeness to nature affects us, both physically and mentally. Being out in nature can, for example, lead to reduced stress, strengthened cognitive ability and improved mental health. In order to capture our increased interest in nature and its positive effects, more and more people turn to nature and allow themselves to be inspired by it, and hence it´s become important to bring the green elements into our office spaces and public environments.February 22, 2021
There are both harmless and risky plastics around us. Offering a product made of plastic, in this case plant walls made of polyethylene, certainly evokes emotions. Many today are afraid to use plastics, and to some extent wrongfully so. To know which types of plastic and plastic products we as consumers dare to choose, and which we should stay away from, we have delved into studies, reports and advice from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Because we mustn´t forget that plastic is a fantastic product. Unfortunately, we as humans have been bad at taking care of plastic waste when we´re done with the product, and that´s the core issue. Let´s talk more about what ours plant walls are made of.
PE is a versatile material, transparent or semi-transparent, with good thermostability (it can handle temperatures as low as -60 °C). It can be made into both hard and soft products. Depending on the material density, PE is typically divided into different groups. PE can be found in the coatings of milk cartons, the covers of electric cables, storage containers, coat hangers, the handles of dishwashing brushes, and more.
Polyethylene is by far the most common type of consumer plastic, used in many everyday products. It´s a thermoplastic material, which means that it can be melted into a liquid and then be cooled down to be moulded into a new solid material again and again. Various processing conditions lead to different qualities in the material, which can be used for many different purposes.
One of the most attractive qualities of polyethylene is its durability. It´s highly resistant against bleaching and chipping, while also being impenetrable by many chemical substances, like acids and caustic solutions. PE is also great for electric isolation. It maintains its qualities under extremely cold conditions but can melt at high temperatures.
Most important, however, according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, is that polyethylene is a harmless plastic, assuming no harmful substances have been added (for example halogenated flame retardants in electronic products).
Polyethylene is weather resistant but can become brittle when exposed to sunlight for extended periods. This limitation can be overcome by adding UV stabilizers, something we have done with our plant walls.
The life expectancy of Polyethylene
How long is a string? The life expectancy of protects made of PE is very long. As an example, The Plastics Pipe Institute Inc. in the US have published a study that shows that municipality water pipes made of PE have a life expectancy of 100 years. External factors will of course affect this, as well as how the product is being used. Another example that demonstrates this is large tanks made of PE containing various types of chemicals, which consequently have an expected life expectancy of 15-20 years.
Plastic products have received a bad reputation for their affects on the environment, but like most potential pollutants it is the behaviour of humans – not the product itself – that causes harm to the environment. Polyethylene is not biodegradable, which means it´s not a material suitable to expose of at the landfill.
Qualities in polyethylene, however, does make it a suitable material for recycling, because it can be melted down and reshaped to a different product. Its resistance to chemical contamination and absorption of fluids also means that the recycled product won´t contain many pollutants.
Other plastics that we use daily, in anything from food packaging, to clothes, toys, kitchen items, etc, include PVC, PET and Polyamid. Feel free to read the summary from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency regarding these plastics, their risks and uses.February 22, 2021
Many people who are faced with the choice of a green plant wall obviously consider the advantages and disadvantages of choosing an artificial or living plant wall. We have compiled a guide that shows both the advantages and disadvantages of the different options.
Artificial Plant Walls – The Benefits
They are made of plastic (recyclable polyethylene) and have been created for those who for various reasons cannot have real plants, partly due to allergies but also for cost reasons and the maintenance required. One of the biggest benefits of an artificial plant wall is that you do not have to water your plants or worry about them not being adequately cared for. Since the artificial plant walls do not grow, you also do not have to worry that they will grow and cover any area. It also means that regardless of the season, they will not lose their leaves. Another advantage is that you can let them adorn walls and surfaces together with other materials and let your imagination flow without regard to location, light or temperature. Today’s artificial plant walls are extremely detailed and mimic real foliage’s colors, movement patterns and dimensions to capture the same feeling as with living plants.
Artificial Plant Walls – The Disadvantages
Because artificial plant walls are made of plastic, they do not produce oxygen like real plants do. The artificial plant walls are manufactured in a standard design and it can therefore be difficult to find specific plants for your plant wall. Some plants can be assembled afterwards, but the market for artificial plant walls is less popular than with real plants. Another disadvantage of artificial plant walls is that you are not allowed to see your plants grow. It can in itself be both a good and a bad thing, but for those with a green thumb that really want to care for and maintain plants and see them grow, artificial plant walls do not provide that opportunity.
Living Plant Walls – The Benefits
A real plant wall uses the process of photosynthesis. As a result, if strategically placed, the plant wall can help lower temperatures, maintain humidity, and even control air circulation. This can also mean that less power is needed to heat or cool a room because the plants naturally remove the heat in the summer. To keep air and temperature under control, a real plant wall can encourage wildlife and biodiversity outdoors. So if you love being visited by birds, you can find plants that attract them to your facade. There are also studies that found that living plant walls can help reduce pollution.
Living Plant Walls – The Disadvantages
A disadvantage of a living plant walls is the risk that they grow cover larger areas than intended. This means that you need a long-term investment in its maintenance, which usually entails long and expensive leasing agreements. While artificial plant walls do not need to be watered, living plant walls require regular watering, either via irrigation systems or manually, which costs money and still cannot guarantee that the plants will live and thrive. If the public environments are visited by children or people with allergies, real living plant walls can sometimes not be installed and thus the green effect is absent. In some cases, pesticides are used to keep pests away and these can be both toxic and give off strong odors.
Both artificial and living plant walls have a number of common advantages, to begin with they are both green. The colour green and elements of greenery in a workplace or other public environment are said to have effects that make individuals calm and less stressed, which we know gives positive health effects. Both living and artificial plant walls can be used to frame environments and function as room dividers, which is an easy way to increase well-being and at the same time bring in greenery to the workplace.
Whether you choose a living plant wall or artificial one, we hope you now have a good picture of both the advantages and the disadvantages.November 17, 2020