How to grow fresh air: A model of green buildings

Green and the City:  Sheratons Waterfall Garden in Toronto
Green and the city: Sheraton's Waterfall Garden in Toronto

Save money; increase productivity. Tell me more!

Seventeen years ago, Indian researcher Kamal Meattle (see his “TED in 3 Minutes” talk here) became allergic to New Delhi’s air when pollution had reduced his lung capacity by 70% and made him very sick. His subsequent research efforts led him to discover that there are three basic green plants to put in specific spots indoors in order to grow all the fresh air we need to stay healthy:

  • the Areca Palm (converts CO2 into oxygen)
  • the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (converts CO2 into oxygen at night) and
  • the Money Plant (removes formaldehydes and other volatile chemicals from the air).

In his office building in New Delhi, 1200 plants were put in for 300 occupants to test the results of improved air quality.
A 2008 study by the government of India found the building to be the healthiest building in New Delhi and noted some impressive health effects: that occupants of the building experienced a reduced incidence of eye irritation (52%), respiratory system problems (34%), headaches (24%), lung impairment (12%) and asthma (9%).

Even more incredible was the finding that productivity increased by over 20% with the addition of the plants and the healthier air.

The importance of a healthy workplace cannot be under-emphasized but this research also highlights a way to reduce the energy consumption of buildings. Currently, approximately 40% of the world’s energy is used up by buildings, so if less energy is needed to provide fresh air by using more natural air-filtration, there will be an important energy savings. It’s also a beautifully simple solution to greening homes and buildings by encouraging people to add plants wherever possible – something that everyone can do.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can green your own home or workplace, check out MaRS’ Best Practice Series Brown Bag Lunch event on July 9th: “Green or green-wash? Lessons from building North America‚Äôs greenest hotel in Toronto”. Tom Rand, MaRS’ Cleantech Advisor, will discuss which green technologies work and which are just window-dressing. In particular, Tom will discuss the technologies, decisions and problems of transforming a derelict building on our very own College Street into a modern, clean and green hotel.