One of the many things the pandemic emphasized in designing commercial and residential structures is the inclusion of green and healthy living spaces. Post-COVID-19 houses are envisioned to have areas for planting, be it typical Filipino residences, small spaces, or even social housing. Offices, whether company buildings or converted areas at home, now see a need for breathing spaces that can aid in relaxation. Indoor gardening can answer most of these demands.
Integrated Sustainable Building Ecology (ISBE) expert and ASEAN architect Lui Daya-Garcia reminds that like any gardening or landscaping system, indoor gardening is all about proper planting. “There are common indoor plants that can be harmful or toxic to children and pets at home, which is why it’s always important to research and read on facts first.” The architect mentions certain aloe vera species, peace lilies, and poinsettia, which can be toxic to both humans and plants if ingested. “Aside from ensuring that the plants are safe, there is also a need to evaluate their need for sunlight and water.” Photographer Jar Concengco, whose house was designed by Denise de Castro of DEQA Design Collaborative, shares, “We have an indoor pocket garden put in place by Architect Denise de Castro. She envisioned it as a vehicle for natural ventilation throughout the house. Since it didn’t get too much sun, I decided to put tall Calathea Lutea, a plant that prefers indirect light.”
GRASS architect Andrea Dorotan, who lives in a 36-square-meter studio apartment, narrates her experience on edible indoor gardening. “A Saturday before the lockdown, I bought a bunch of singkamas, three of these grew stems and leaves and so I placed them in water to thrive. I also did mini-composting on my aircon ledge. In a plastic container, I layered vegetable cuttings with the little soil that I have. Fifty days later, I used the compost to plant new seeds,” she shares. “As an amateur indoor gardener, my experience has been of hits and misses. Some sprouts grew, others died. It was only half-way through the lockdown that I realized I might be over-watering my plants. Before, I used to water them every day. Now, I have shifted to every other day. My indoor plants keep me sane during this lockdown as I live alone in my condo. It is a joy to wake up and see greens.” Daya-Garcia relates to the idea, recalling how LDG Architects designed a Congress office by employing a tea garden vertical system. “We included fresh herbs such as tarragon, peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, basil, oregano, and stevia to complement an aromatherapeutic table.” The table was incorporated with lavender, a chemical-free alternative to perfumes and cologne known for its wide range of health benefits such as pain relief and sleep improvement. “Aside from the benefit of drinking fresh tea, the herb garden and aromatherapeutic table create a unique visual feast, with the herb garden adding oxygen to the indoor air.”
In Virginia I. Lohr’s study entitled, What Are the Benefits of Plants Indoors and Why Do We Respond Positively to Them?, she elaborated on how indoor gardens can facilitate in dust accumulation, saying that “adding plants to the periphery of a room reduced particulate matter deposition by as much as 20%, even in the center of the room many meters from the plants.” She also tackled the relative humidity of the air inside buildings, saying that it “is often below the range of 30% to 60% recommended for human comfort, especially when buildings are being heated. When the indoor relative humidity is too low, colds are more frequent and wood dries and cracks.” Lohr added that some people may be concerned that interior plants might increase relative humidity too much, explaining that this is unlikely to occur because “when the relative humidity rises, the rate of water loss from the plant slows. Water does not evaporate as rapidly when humidity is high.”
Not only does indoor gardening participate in solving common spatial problems, but it also adds to room acoustics and aesthetics. Green walls, a healthier alternative to decorative walls, can aid in room acoustics when incorporated with the right plants. Lohr explained that the effects of plants on room acoustics can vary. “Plants can reflect, diffract, or absorb sounds, depending on the frequency,” she says.” Generally, the researchers found that plants worked best at reducing high frequencies sounds in rooms with hard surfaces; the effect was similar to adding a carpet.” Daya-Garcia supports this claim, saying that green walls can also add to the beauty of the interior, especially when they are integrated with lush greens. She also cites bamboo, which is one of the most common plants used for room acoustics. “Because of their tall height, bamboos are capable of establishing a sense of privacy. Incorporating it between spaces at home or in the office enables it to act as a sustainable partition.”
The benefits of plants may vary according to the setting, but their functional and valuable properties will always be of use, especially in configuring spaces. As Ar. Lui Daya-Garcia reminds the architecture and design industry to further sustainability in design. “We design and innovate to create motivating and beautiful dynamic places. But with the challenging plethora of our situation, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, we must continually adapt to new changes and always strive to design beyond aesthetics in order to complementarily benefit both people and the environment.”