Deck the halls…

From green of­fice ‘di­viders’ to ed­i­ble green walls, green­ery in the work­place is on the rise.

Element - - Business - By Deirdre Robert

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. “

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