How plants reduce noise levels indoors
Many buildings serve purposes other than just giving us a roof over our head for shelter. Buildings such as hotels, offices, retail stores, medical facilities, etc. seek to offer inhabitants a sense of calmness, refuge and tranquility from the hustle and bustle elsewhere. This helps people want to stay in the buildings longer, to shop more, relax more, linger, have a bite to eat, concentrate with ease and more.
However, noise often abounds in buildings through phone chatter, children shouting or crying, footsteps on hard floors, unwanted conversations in adjacent cubicles, printers, copiers, HVAC systems…the list goes on and on. This noise is distracting, interruptive, makes employees less productive, reduces privacy, and can taint the customer experience. One way to create a welcoming, stress-free environment is through reducing this unwanted noise in buildings.
Plants have many known benefits to their environs and the people in them. Noise reduction is one of those less-known benefits of plants. Plants are used in many applications to reduce noise. One major example is plantings along freeways to help reduce the amount of noise distributed to adjacent communities. Plants can also greatly reduce unwanted noise inside buildings.
Plants absorb sound
How do plants reduce noise? There are a number of ways plants can reduce noise. One way is through sound absorption. Plant parts such as stems, leaves, branches, wood, etc. absorb sound. Rough bark and thick, fleshy leaves are particularly effective at absorbing sound due to their dynamic surface area.
Plant Factors that affect sound absorption:
- Number of plants (the more the better!)
- Size of the plant(s)
- Surface area of the leaves and of the plants themselves
Noise deflection with plants
Deflection is another way sound is reduced. When sound hits a masonry wall, the wall does not vibrate (because it is rigid). Sound waves are reflected off the wall and back toward the source. When sound waves hit a flexible material, the material will vibrate and the waves are transformed into other forms of energy as well as being deflected in other directions.
Sound wave refraction
Sound waves can also be refracted. A good example of this is carpeting in a home or office. If a room has all solid floors, sound waves bounce all over and can create echoes. When carpeting is added, the echoes disappear. Plantings that cover surface areas help accomplish the same feat. For example, vines on walls and the sides of buildings will help refract sound. Lawns, ground cover plantings, and green walls are excellent at refracting sound.
How to use plants to reduce noise
Privacy with screen plants
Often, especially in offices with open floor plans, partitions are used to separate work spaces. Using screen plants instead will not only absorb more noise in a busy office, but will provide an attractive addition to the space.
More is better
Given the choice between one large plant arrangement and several smaller ones, it is best, for sound reduction purposes, to choose multiple small arrangements. The plants’ surface area is more fully utilized when they are arranged this way.
Use large planters
The bigger the plant container, the more soil it contains and the greater the surface area of the top dressing will be. Both soil and top dressing are great absorbers of sound.
In order to best reduce noise, plants should be placed around the perimeter of the space instead of at the center. This way, sound reflects off of the walls and straight into the leaves of the plants.
Growing Plants Indoors
Most building interiors are designed for efficiency and for the comfort of the people that use them. That means a fairly constant indoor environment without too many fluctuations in light, temperature and humidity. Buildings are also designed to keep the weather out. Wind and rain aren’t comfortable and they aren’t conducive to good business, either.
Plants, on the other hand, thrive in the full face of the weather and changing seasons. Rain is the main source of water and a strong breeze does wonders because it removes dead tissue and old leaves. Many species even need seasonal variation to trigger changes in their physiology. Those plants that are adaptable enough to cope indoors have their own particular requirements for:
- Growing media
- Plant Nutrients
These dictate where they can be used.
Of all the elements required for plants to survive, light is perhaps the most important. Without it, plants die very quickly.
But how do you know which plants will survive in the different light levels that are found in a building? Some species may only thrive in a well-lit atrium, whereas others might be able to cope with the low light found in a seldom-used conference room. Accurate light measurement and expert species selection will help to ensure that you will get the look you require.
The temperature inside most occupied buildings usually falls between 16 °C and 25 °C, or 61 °F and 77 °F. This is comfortable enough for most people.
So, if you want plants in your building, you need to find those that can survive well at the same temperatures. Luckily, there are hundreds of species and varieties from the tropics and sub-tropics to choose from. All ideally suited to such year-round warmth.
Water is essential if indoor plant displays are to survive for more than a week or two. Indoor plants need just enough water to maintain their physiological wellbeing, but no more. Water enters the plant by its roots, highly specialised organs that regulate the uptake of water and nutrients, as well as provide anchorage and physical support.
Unless the plant is an epiphyte (a specialised group of plants that live among the tree tops, e.g. bromeliads and many orchids) or a water plant, the roots of a plant are buried in the soil.
This is where the water needs to be and that is why professional interior landscapers use subterranean irrigation systems to deliver water directly to the rooting zone. Roots need oxygen to work properly, so a supply of air is also necessary. That is why compost media with large numbers of air-filled pores are essential, and why water-logged soils cause plants to die.
A wide variety of growing media are used by interior landscapers. They all have their advantages and faults and it is quite a complex science to work out which growing medium works best in different situations.
The growing medium has many functions. It must provide a suitable anchorage for the plant’s roots; act as a reservoir for water and nutrients; be a buffer against sudden changes in the environment (especially changes in temperature). And, for indoor plants in containers, it must be heavy enough to provide stability and reduce the risk of the plant display toppling over.
Interior plants are not usually heavy feeders although nutrients are needed to maintain health, colour and growth. Fertilizer is usually applied to the growing medium, where it can be extracted by the plant roots.
The three most important plant nutrients are:
- Nitrogen (N), for healthy green leaves and stems
- Phosphorous (P), for healthy root growth
- Potassium (K), for better flowering and colour
A good fertilizer will contain a balanced ratio of these elements, plus essential micro-nutrients, or trace elements.
Fertilizer use depends on the size of the display and the environmental conditions. Large plants and those in particularly bright areas generally require more nutrients than small plants and those under poor growing conditions.
Most of the water given to plants is used for transporting soluble nutrients around the plant. It eventually exits the plant through pores (stomata) on the surface of the leaves through a process called transpiration, a process that varies with humidity, light levels and temperature.
Sometimes full sunlight just is not a reality inside homes and offices with indoor plants. In these situations, it may be helpful to utilize grow lights to supply the plants with enough light to convert into energy. Whether the season inherently does not provide sufficient sunlight or the indoor environment simply does not allow for access to natural light, grow lights can be a welcomed addition to your indoor landscape. When selecting a grow light, be careful not to choose one that puts off too much heat or spectrums of light that do not promote growth. Consult a plant expert to determine the best type of light for your space.
The concept of hydroponics refers to growing plants without soil. Many think that hydroponics is only growing plants in water, but it can also include growing plants in other mediums such as gravel, sand, vermiculite, and even very moist air. The key to hydroponics is that the plant receives its nutrients not from the growing medium, but from the water and fertilizer, both of which can be easily controlled. Though there can be benefits to growing plants hydroponically, doing so can require extra attention and a great deal of additional equipment.
Here’s How Plants Help To Benefit Your Home & Work Environments
- Lower stress and enhance productivity by 12%
- Attract and retain select employees
- Absorb sound and create a soothing environment
- Boost comfort levels and reduce operations & maintenance costs
- Improve your corporate image
- Plant-filled rooms contain 50%-60% fewer airborne molds & bacteria
- Remove indoor pollution naturally
- Reduce humidity by 30-60%
- Can lower heating and cooling costs by 20%
Biophilia. A green wave of plants is flowing into architectural and interior designs as biophilia enhances the way to better living. Biophilia is a necessary component of human health. It signals our own biology desires to commune with nature every day. And we provide just that with our plants.
Benefits. Buildings are lifeless without sunlight streaming through the windows or plants nestled in strategic areas. The benefits alone are staggering when potted plants are introduced into a home or work place. Air quality improves. Stress is reduced. One study found significant productivity gains, less absenteeism, less health problems and a better sense of well-being were reported from employees working with plants in their environment. Even the structural designs of buildings are taking lessons from nature with biomimicry.
Business. A happy company is a productive one. And buildings that include plants in their interior show an increase in employee productivity. In terms of cost per square foot, employee asset is 10 times the cost of building operations; and nearly 100 times the cost of energy consumed in the building. By providing plants throughout the interior of your building, both the aesthetics and the health benefits not only ensure the happiness and well-being of your employees. It saves money due to less employee down-time.
Home. Clean air is so essential to a healthy home. Plants purify the air and help reduce building pollutants that emit from walls, cabinets and flooring. It’s been proven plants can remove approximately 80% of formaldehyde from the air within a 4 hour period. Besides clean air, plants provide a comfortable, nurturing space to unwind and de-stress, creating a sanctuary for all family members to enjoy
Plants. As a company that nurtures, encourages, and provides green living plants for homes and businesses, we are confident when it comes to promoting natural products we’ve met the ultimate of all guidelines – Mother Nature herself.
Plantscapers Inc. is your company for beautiful plants, healthy environments and for sustainable, renewable, green living areas.
Interior plants are vital to any environment that aims to be healthy, supportive, and sustainable.
For more information about clean air see: Green Plants For Green Buildings