How to grow fresh air

Air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths every year and is now the single biggest environmental health risk, according to the World Health Organization. Luckily, nature has already solved many of the problems we humans are grappling with, and that goes for air pollution as well. An arrangement of three common houseplants can result in measurably cleaner indoor air, protecting us from the air pollution and smog that have become an inescapable part of our urban environments.

Nature is brilliant. Human beings have had only the blink of an evolutionary eye to invent things, while nature has benefited from a 3.8-billion-year head start in research and development. With that level of investment, it only makes sense to look to nature for solutions before trying to invent them ourselves.

That was what Indian researcher Kamal Meattle did. He lives in New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world. When Meattle’s lung capacity had fallen by 70 percent and he became allergic to New Delhi’s air, he either needed to move or to find a solution. Along with his research team and with the help of valuable research from NASA, Meattle discovered that three common houseplants had complementary abilities to detoxify indoor air, not only enriching it with oxygen, but also reducing incidence of eye irritation, respiratory problems, headache, lung injuries and asthma.

The Rollerboy

An arrangement of three common plants – the Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), and the Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum) – can result in measurably cleaner indoor air. Areca Palm converts CO2 into oxygen during the day, while Mother-in-law’s Tongue does so at night. The Money Plant’s main function is to remove toxins present in the air, particularly formaldehydes and other volatile chemicals.

Kamal Meattle placed 1,200 of these plants in his office building in New Delhi, resulting in fewer sick days among the 300 employees, increased worker productivity, and a 15% decrease in energy consumption. The building became the healthiest building in New Delhi, according to research performed by the Indian government.

Application to Space10

When designing Space10, the design and architecture studio Spacon & X was inspired by Meattle’s studies, and incorporated the three plants into the office space. “The main goal is to achieve a refreshing and revitalising ambience in the office, as if you were near a forest,” said Svend Jakob Pedersen.

“The combination of these three plants helps to filter toxins from the air and to generate new oxygen to such a degree that if you had a certain number of plants for each worker in the space, you could actually seal it off entirely and create an ecosystem,” he explained.

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