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Could Plants Enhance Noise Reduction at Work?

Could Plants Enhance Noise Reduction at Work?

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 aid noise reduction 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?

Plants have been used for many years for traffic noise reduction, from busy roads, and research has shown that plants can also help to reduce background noise levels inside buildings.

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 balance varies with the frequency at which the sound is generated and the room’s physical properties.

The effect appears to be dependent on plant type, planting density, location and sound frequency, as outlined below:


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 noise reduction.

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.

Plant Arrangements

Experiments have shown that arrangements of different plants in groups appear to work better than individual plants.

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.


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.

Screening Qualities

Open-plan offices can be 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.

Plants are attractive, but continuing research shows that they are good for buildings. How could they improve yours?

For an additional read, please visit Are Office Plants Improving Employee Wellbeing?