Deck the halls…
From green office ‘dividers’ to edible green walls, greenery in the workplace is on the rise.
Bland, mono-coloured screen dividers that are de rigeur in open-plan office environments would be a thing of the past if Simon Chamberlain, owner of Greenair Limited, got his way. The company, which specialises in installing and maintaining plantscapes and living walls for the commercial sector, recently housed over 500 plants into Orion Health’s new premises and created ‘living’ screen petitions.
“We used planting for dividers, meaning you still get the office dividers but you’re getting plants and greenery in that environment and people are just feeling good,” comments Chamberlain.
Working with plants might seem an unusual path to go down for a man who once competed internationally on the Thai boxing scene, but plants have been ingrained in Chamberlain’s life for as long as he can remember. The son of a park ranger, he grew up in the generous bush environs of Huia in the Waitakere Ranges. A move to the city prompted Chamberlain to set up Palms Direct (now Greenair) in 2001, because he missed the greener surroundings he’d grown up with.
He notes a massive gap in the market for solutions that contribute to happier and healthier work environments.
“People spend so much time at work, but most of the time, it’s not very positive. If employers can get their staff feeling good at work by creating more positive environments, they’re going to get more productivity out of them and they’ll be less likely to have sick days.”
He’s got a point about that ‘feelgood factor.’ Research published in a 2011 edition of the Journal of Environmental
Psychology showed that plants in the office can bolster employee attention. And numerous studies point to office greenery’s mood-boosting affects.
But cost, says Chamberlain, has always been the biggest barrier to workplaces adopting greenery—be it plants or full green wall systems— even though the investment can be easily recouped via increased productivity, retention and fewer sick days.
Within the last 15 months, however, he says there’s been a noticeable upswing in interest.
Late last year the company completed a green wall in Telstra’s new Wellington site. It features an innovative soilless technology pioneered by Australian company Fytogreen, with whom Greenair has partnered with to deliver its systems across New Zealand. The system features a series of modular panels containing a lightweight soil-less growing media in which a wide variety of plant species grow and flourish. A fully integrated hydroponic watering system supports the vegetated panels, which can be attached to any structural vertical surface, including curved surfaces.
A benefit of using a system that doesn’t involve soil, notes Chamberlain, is that plants don’t get diseases, making maintenance that much easier. They also require smaller amounts of water, making them more lightweight, versatile and sustainable.
“...you’re getting plants and greenery in that environment and people are just feeling good. “