Monday, 22 April 2013


Office Planting,  part of a re-design of the desk area in the office where I work. My initial requirements for this space (which is behind me as I sit at my desk) were that it provide me with more 'refuge'*. I felt a bit overlooked in this new open-plan space, which created a mild but constant sense of dis-ease. 

Using plants to form a boundary and decrease overlook (the 'view in' sector) allowed me to achieve some privacy shielding in a way that was allowable within the cultural boundaries of the workplace. As the plants grow, their shielding will increase, but at a rate acceptable to my colleagues.Informal comment suggests that the presence of the plants is more than accepted and actively enjoyed.

The selection of particular plants were chosen for their ability to thrive in a position away from direct sunlight (my desk sits outside the direct sun sectors of the office) and for 'eco-system services' they could provide, largely filtration of chemical pollutants from the air. The newly renovated office space I occupy has been extensively redecorated, including: wall and ceiling painting; new carpet tiles and new furniture. These three alone are potentially sources of off-gassing volatile organic compounds. Glimpses of the cleaning products used in the office also suggests that they may also introduce novel chemistry to the space. In the selection of plants for filtration services I have drawn on the scientific research of NASA published in Nasa Clean Air Study: Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement (1989), the subsequent publication by the NASA lead investigator B.C. Wolverton: How to Grow Fresh Air (1996) and the permaculture design 'Improving Indoor Air Quality' presented by Hedvig Murray as part of her Diploma In Applied Permaculture Design.

In the photograph above the following plants are featured:

Dracaena marginata (Common Name:Madagascar Dragon Tree)
FUNCTIONS: Filters formaldehyde, xylene and trichloroethylene from the air; Aesthetics

Hedera Helix (Common Name: English Ivy)
FUNCTIONS: Filters benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air; Aesthetics.

Dypsis Lutescens AKA Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Common Name: Area Palm)
FUNCTIONS: Filters xylene and toluene from the air; Humidifier; Aesthetics.

Anthurium andraeanum (Common name: Flamingo Lilly)
FUNCTIONS: Filters formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia from the air; Aesthetics; Privacy

Although 'privacy' is only listed beside the Anthurium (currently the tallest plant), in fact all of the plants contribute to this function. The privacy functioned has also been levered by the use of the raised wooden tray, which increases the general height of the 'privacy shielding' without appearing as a hard barrier. The tray includes a waterproof butyl lining, soon to be joined by capillary matting and a shell mulch to improve plant watering (this part copies a design by Claire White).