Marius Ballieux, of Ballieux Organix Architects, conducted research using NASA-validated equipment to measure the composition of air right down to the molecular level, in order to get an accurate reading of the concentration of VOCs in indoor air and to see how quickly and thoroughly plants could bring down the VOC levels.
Some VOCs can be harmful to both the environment and to our health: they can cause headaches, sore throats, dizziness and even life-limiting diseases if exposed to too great a concentration.
Early studies in test environments showed that plants immediately began to bring down VOC levels in the air and, in the right quantity, could bring levels down to zero in the space of a few hours.
A further test was carried out in two real classrooms in Aalsmeer, The Netherlands: one with plants and one without. Even though the classroom with plants had less than half the ideal number of plants for the best outcome (30 instead of 75), VOCs were reduced by 50 per cent.
Marius believes that plants should be factored into a building at the design stage, to ensure they are as effective as possible, but even placing plants in a room at a later stage can have a profound effect on air quality.
The research was supported by Waterdrinker Aalsmeer and Nieuwkoop Europe.