Growing Fresh Air With Common House Plants
Dr. Bill Wolverton, author of How To Grow Fresh Air, explains how plants and their companion microorganisms are used to create a closed ecological life support system for long duration space habitation. His research included wastewater recycling as well as the purification and revitalization of indoor air.
Indoor air pollution can be higher inside the home than outside, especially in during winter months. For larger buildings this approach works to reduce energy requirements for air circulation and provides a cost savings, helping to comply with indoor industrial air quality standards.
Here are the three plants Dr. Wolverton identified best suited to improving air quality and the number of plants required to provide a healthier indoor breathing environment:
Day Time Oxygen Production
Areca Palm, Golden Palm - Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
4 plants, shoulder-high, per person
The Areca Palm breathes in carbon dioxide and breathes out oxygen during the day.
In excessively dirty air conditions, such as in city of Mumbai India, plant leaves are wiped clean once daily with a moist soft cloth. In cities with cleaner air, this is done once weekly. The Areca Palm prefers to have its soil slightly dry between watering and thrives in full sun. Moving the Areca Palm outdoors every three to four months will help rejuvenate healthy plant growth.
More info about Areca Palm's habitat.
Night Time Oxygen for Sleeping
Snake Plant - Sansevieria trifasciata
6 to 8 plants, waist-high, per person.
The snake plant releases oxygen during the night, helping to condition indoor air while humans and pets sleep.
The snake plant prefers intermittent dry conditions and full sun, but it can survive in low light conditions.
More info about Snake plant habitat.
Absorbing Toxic Aerosols In The Work Area
Pothos - Money Plant - Epipremnum aureum
3 plants per person, 18 inches high
The Pothos plant absorbs toxic vapors, working to remove volatile organic chemicals (VOC's) including paint fumes, solvents, and petroleum fuels. Many toxic vapors are in homes come from fumes coming from sources such as flame retardants in furniture and common household cleaners. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 700 "secret chemicals" are added to products every year in the United States. See Washington Post article about secret chemicals
The Pothos plant is a moisture loving plant and handles low light conditions well.
More info about Golden Pothos habitat.
With these three plants, it's possible to grow enough the fresh air to stay alive inside a closed environment for a long period of time.
Office Building Air Quality Research
These three plants where tested for 15 years at Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park in New Delhi, India. The 50,000 square foot building is 20 years old and contains over 1,200 plants for 300 working occupants.
The Parharp office building is rated the healthiest building in Delhi by the Government of India. This study was published in September, 2008 by the Government of India, Central Pollution Control Board and the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata, India.
The study found that there is a 42% probability of increasing blood oxygen by 1% if one is inside the building for 10 hours. Compared to other non-planted buildings in Delhi, the Parharpur Office Building showed reductions in:
- Eye Irritation - 52%
- Respiratory Conditions - 34%
- Headaches - 24%
- Lung Impairment - 12%
- Asthma - 9%
Because of the fresh air produced by the buildings’ plants, there was a 15% reduction in energy costs. This is significant reduction in cost considering that 40% of the world’s energy is used to maintain building environments.
The most surprising discovery in this study was a measured 20% increase in human productivity and marked decrease of employee sick days.
Another experiment sealed all fresh air and exhaust from the building for 6 weeks and found that that the air quality inside the building was better than outdoors.
Page Updated: April 2013