WHAT IS SICK BUILDING SYNDROME AND CAN PLANTS HELP?
What is Sick Building Syndrome and Can Plants Help?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sick building syndrome accounts for up to 61 billion dollars a year in health costs, productivity and absenteeism. It is an affliction that affects many employees who work indoors in office complexes.
It’s not surprising that employers would like to see this syndrome reversed for a win-win situation where employees will be healthier and enjoy their daily work at the same time as the employer enjoys higher productivity and ultimately, higher profits.
Just what is this Sick Building Syndrome?
The Environmental Protection Agency defines sick building syndrome as “situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.” These health effects can include headaches, mild nausea or dizziness, and dry throat or cough. The symptoms tend to go away when those that suffer from them are no longer exposed to the building space.
So, what causes it?
Most people don’t realise how many pollutants are found in office buildings. Indoor air pollutants known and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) come from many wood products, adhesives, carpets and underlays, chemicals and many other common items found in office buildings. Outdoor air pollutants (such as exhaust fumes), can also enter the office through ventilation systems causing the indoors air circulation to be worse than that outside the building!
Can plants really help?
Plants (real ones, not artificial) are great at removing these VOCs and purifying the air in indoor environments. Studies performed by NASA have found that at least one living plant per 100 square feet of floor space can help clean air in an office building. The Green Building Council of Australia uses plants as one of its ‘Green Star Rating’ tools to assess the sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings. These plants must be installed and maintained by professional Indoor Plant Hire companies to ensure they remain healthy in order to be effective in removing VOCs. This not only creates a healthy place for people to live and work, but it saves money and minimises the environmental footprint.
Common indoor plants such as the peace lily, bromeliads, philodendrons, pothos, English ivy, Dracaena and more are efficient at removing VOCs. These VOCs include formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and trichloroethylene. Indoor plants concentrated in problem areas can help relieve the symptoms of sick building syndrome.
Healthy body…and mind?
Plants have a positive affect on the body, but they also have psychological impacts as well. A recent article from Real Business sites studies performed by Roger Ulrich that suggested exposure to living plants significantly benefited overall health. This is called Biophilia. In other words, people have an innate need to be with or near nature. Plants in an indoor environment have a huge impact on people’s ability to perform well and satisfy their biophilic needs.
Does it really matter?
Our built environment is currently the world’s single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The global community is gradually transforming the way our built environment is designed, constructed and operated. There are many building and design factors involved in this process, and plants are one of the easiest ways we can all be part of this transformation.
By providing a healthier environment for employees, businesses can cut back on costs related to health concerns. Healthier employees have better morale and are typically more productive.
Potential clients that have employees affected by sick building syndrome will be pleased to know that including indoor plant hire can improve their work environment and ultimately have an impact on their bottom line. When clients understand that interior plantscaping, not only adds to the professional ambiance, but also makes the office space physically and mentally healthier they will place more value on your interior design services.
What can you do?
Through helping to improve environmental efficiencies in our buildings and boosting productivity we automatically create jobs and improve the health and well-being of our communities.
Be sure to relay to clients the economic impact of sick building syndrome and the solid evidence that living plants can improve the situation and contribute to higher profit margins. How do you show clients the benefits of interior Plantscaping?