The visual effects of plants are obvious, their entwining vines and delicate leaves have a beauty to them, aligning us closer to nature.
Although the benefits and beauty of the natural world are rarely contested, scientific research suggests that there are health benefits in incorporating plants into our interior environment. In particular, the biological properties of shrubbery are beneficial to our overall wellbeing, creating environments that reduce noise and filter the air, promoting a cleaner and healthier atmosphere.
Noise is an interruptive and distractive phenomenon and makes even the most good-natured among us irritable. This issue is particularly problematic in the built environment where buildings are constructed from hard surfaces, and consequently, noise is increasingly refracted.
Being flexible, fleshy matter which absorbs sound waves, plants can reduce sound level by three different methods — deflection, sound absorption, and refraction. Consequently, the use of shrubbery that reduces noise is a cheap tool enabling us to create a welcoming space to live, work and reside within.
In particular, foliage is the most effective parts of vegetation which scatters sound waves as they bounce upon the leaves. Additionally, large leaves have been found to be the most effective; the wider the leaf, the more it absorbs the noise.
Here, we look at three plants that reduce indoor sound in the built environment.
The tropical spathiphyllum wallisii also known as the peace lily is a herbaceous perennial, with light green pointed leaves and creamy white spadix. The leaves are glossy, veined and basal; wide enough to effectively absorb sound waves. The peace lily thrives in indoor spaces, away from the cold, and prefers to be placed in a position which doesn't receive direct sunlight.
Also known as the ficus elastica, rubber plants that can grow up to 50 metres tall. Their leaves are shiny, wide-spacing and dark emerald green. Best surrounded by bright light, rubber plants thrive when placed within well-draining and well-aerated potting soil.
A popular indoor plant also known as ficus benjamina, the weeping fig derives from the Amazonian rainforest. A plant which grows relatively slowly, the weeping fig has large pointed leaves (often patterned) and arching branches which effectively reduce sound. In addition to its large, thick leaves, the weeping fig is especially good at filtering the atmosphere of pollutants, specifically xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde. Preferring a partially shaded, sunny spot, weeping figs prefer not to be moved around, as if moved, this can cause their glossy leaves to fall.
How important are acoustics in the built environmnet? Click here to find out more.