Towards a Better Workplace...

A two-year study by NASA scientists found indoor plants to be sophisticated pollution-absorbing devices, effectively removing formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from the air. Other benefits from having plants in the workplace include:

  • Reduction in staff absence resulting from minor ailments generally associated with Sick Building Syndrome;
  • Providing a calming, natural environment to reduce stress;
  • Absorbing noise in open-plan offices;
  • Absorbing odours;
  • Raising humidity levels to prevent stuffiness and the effects of dust pollution;
  • Providing shade and a cooling environment in buildings with large areas of glass;
  • Improved concentration and worker productivity;
  • Making us feel better!
  • And health complaints from staff at the BMW Headquarters in Munich initiated a study into the benefits of interior planting in offices. Data gathered compared planted and unplanted work areas. Health and Safety Officer for BMW, Beate Klug, said: "Once the planting was introduced, 93 per cent of employees felt healthier and more motivated."                                                                                

Horticulture Week, 2004


What is Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)?

SBS is a widely used term to describe 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.

The complaints may be localised in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term "building related illness" (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.


Up to 30 per cent of new and remodelled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality. Often this condition is temporary, but some buildings have long-term problems and the causes of SBS include:

  • Operating or maintaining a building in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures.
  • Poor ventilation.
  • Air pollution from: Formaldehyde (e.g. foam insulation, plywood and particle board, carpeting, furniture, paper tissues and household cleaners); Benzene (e.g. tobacco smoke, petrol, synthetic fibres, plastics, inks, rubber, detergents); Tricholoroethylene (e.g. dry cleaned materials, inks, adhesives, varnishes, lacquers and paints).


Building occupants complain of symptoms associated with acute discomfort such as:

  • Headaches;
  • Eye, nose or throat irritation;
  • Dry cough;
  • Dry or itchy skin;
  • Dizziness and nausea;
  • Difficulty in concentrating;
  • Fatigue;
  • Sensitivity to odours.

Most people who complain of symptoms report relief soon after leaving the building.