You don’t have to be an environmentalist to appreciate plants. Most of us know that being close to greenery makes us feel at one with our surroundings. They can even reduce noise in a room and make a building feel quieter and more relaxing. Plants also offer tranquillity and create a feeling of less stress.
Why plants? The obvious answer is because they are attractive, but research has shown they are good for the buildings. Plants have been used for many years to reduce traffic noise from busy roads. Current Research now shows that plants can also help to reduce background noise levels inside buildings. The effect of this will not only cut down on hearing employees but also it helps the employee to get their work done on time.
Some plant species are more effective than others. Tests carried out in the early 1990s suggested that interior plants can absorb, diffract or reflect background noise in buildings, thereby making the environment more comfortable for the occupants. The effect appears to be dependent on plant type, planting density, location and sound frequency.
To investigate the potential acoustic benefits of interior plants in more detail, further research was carried out by a post-graduate student, Peter Costa, at South Bank University, London.
Plant expert Butch Deedman owner of Deedman Tropical Plants said: “Plants absorb, diffract and reflect sound. The balance varies with the frequency at which the sound is generated and the room’s physical properties. The type of plant, its size, shape, the container, top dressings and the compost all have an effect on the sound reduction capabilities of plant displays.”
Species selection and positioning are crucial to achieve these effects.
Plants alter room acoustics by reducing the reverberation time. Plants work better in acoustically live spaces, such as those that have hard surfaces like marble walls, exposed concrete and stone floors. The impact of plants is less likely to be noticeable in an acoustically quiet space, containing soft furnishings, carpets, heavy curtains or well upholstered chairs, which have a much greater capacity to absorb sound.
The principles that apply to the placement of noise reducing furnishings can also be applied to the use of plants in helping to reduce noise.
Large plant containers
Bigger plant containers contain more compost and have a greater area of top dressing. Both of these have a significant effect on noise reduction, so it follows that they make a larger impact on the room acoustics. Experiments have shown that arrangements of different plants in groups appear to work better than individual plants.
Several small arrangements are better than one big one
Positioning several arrangements around a space works better than concentrating the plants in one location. In this way the surface area of the plants exposed to noise may be maximized and individual work areas in an office space will all benefit from a localised effect.
Edges and corners are better than the centre
Plants placed near the edges and corners of a space are better than plants in the middle. This is because sound is reflected from the walls straight into the foliage.
Consider using screen plants instead of office partitions
Open-plan offices are often very noisy places. The hum of computers, the ringing of telephones and the buzz of conversation all make for a surprisingly noisy environment. Often these spaces are divided up with partitions or ranks of filing cabinets.
Plant screens are an effective alternative. The tops of filing cabinets can also be used to place plants. Small bushy plants in narrow troughs take up little space, but they can still be effective.
For further information on reducing noise in your workplace, then you can contact Butch Deedman at Deedman Tropical Plant Specialists by phone 01204 577000