Quantifying The Quality

For greenhouse growers, the U.S. Green Building Council is a tough nut to crack, especially when it comes to its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process.

LEED is a prestigious third-party certification program and a national benchmark that promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability in five key areas of human and environmental health, says Dr. Bodie Pennisi, Horticulture Department, University of Georgia. These five areas include: LEED development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

This certification lacks any official agricultural connection to indoor plants and the role they play in improving human health by improving indoor air quality, Pennisi says. Green Plants For Green Buildings (GPGB) President Mike Lewis adds, “Ironically enough, you can have the greenest building on the planet and do not have a single living plant in it. Isn’t that weird?

“If you look at the ads and catalogs of all the vendors that supply LEED certified buildings with their cabinets, carpet, paint, the HVAC, those pages are filled with pictures of palm trees and blooming plants, because people identify plants with being green.”

Project Carbon is hoping to bridge that disconnect through the work of Drs. Bodie Pennisi and Marc van Iersel from the University of Georgia, which is funded by the National Foliage Foundation (NFF).

Cold, Hard Facts

Project Carbon, short for Quantification of Carbon Assimilation in Interiorscape Plants, aims to address this question: If an interiorscape of a certain size and plant species is implemented under typical light levels, how much carbon would be removed from the air over a given period?

Pennisi and van Iersel worked with 216 4-inch plants under three light levels. The plants used were Ficus benjamina, pothos, philodendron, sansevieria, aglaonema and spathiphyllum. After a ten-week period, these plants “fixed” a total of 700 grams of carbon under simulated conditions, Pennisi reports.
Also in their findings she adds, “Plants absorb carbon dioxide as a molecule. One might argue that what should be reported as a positive impact on the environment is the carbon dioxide removal and not just carbon removal.”

The results of Project Carbon are currently in the preliminary stage. Pennisi will be presenting her and van Iersel’s findings at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) this month, January 14-16.

Along with carbon dioxide removal, prior research has found indoor plants excel at removing a significant amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In what Pennisi calls “phytoremediation,” plants in closed quarters can aid in depleting the air of octane, benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, to name a few. These VOCs emanate from such things as carpeting, occupants, newspapers, CD players and adhesives.

LEEDing Role
According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.  LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

Bill Lyden of Farm Life Tropical Foliage says, “The direction for any new construction is towards green, eco-friendly buildings. If we ever do get LEED points awarded for getting plants inside of these buildings, then I think there will be a huge demand for interior plant material. This would be quite an opportunity for growers to capitalize on and put in their marketing programs.”

The three key issues responsible for keeping indoor plants down and out of LEED’s current rating system are maintenance, transportation and a presumed expendability, Lyden says.

“Moving plants from South Florida where they’re grown to Minneapolis where a new building is can use too much fossil fuel. Also, in a recession like the one we’re in right now, it’s hard to justify keeping a plant program if people are getting laid off. Whereas, if plants are part of what makes a building green and part of the LEED criteria, the plants will stay.”

“We’re seeing some shift away from using plants in newly designed buildings because of cleaner, more stylized designs,” GPGB President Mike Lewis says. “We feel it’s important that at a table when a building is being designed or renovated that plants be represented. Lacking any real data regarding the carbon removal capabilities of live plants, it was difficult to make that case.”

Lewis goes on to say that a new, fresh scientific argument is needed in earnest to make a real impression on today’s architects, interior designers and building owners. “We’re not out of the game by any means and that’s why we’re pushing hard with Project Carbon,” Lewis says.

Before the Funding

Well before the NFF funding, the groundwork for research efforts like Project Carbon was laid by the U.S. Military and NASA research scientist Bill Wolverton back in the 1960s, Pennisi says.

Wolverton began to experiment with water hyacinths and other swamp plants. He tested their ability to clean up contaminates from water, specifically Agent Orange. He then moved his work to the BioHome at NASA’s Stennis Space Center to study indoor house plants as air purifiers.
Pennisi says Wolverton hypothesized that plants emit water vapor that creates a pumping action to pull contaminated air down around a plant’s roots. There, it’s converted into food for the plant.

She adds that other researchers have shown VOC removal through a plant’s stomatal uptake, absorption and adsorption to plant surfaces. “Plants do a lot more than people realize,” Lewis says. “Scientists know it, people know it, but no one has done any quantifiable measurement on exactly what they do. We need good, strong talking points–Project Carbon being one of them.”

Leave a Reply

More From Grow Initiative...

November 26, 2015

2015 Metrolina Greenhouses (Huntersville, NC) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
Yoshimi And Grace Shibata

November 26, 2015

American Floral Endowment Establishes Fund To Honor Legacy Of Yoshimi Shibata

Yoshimi “Shimi” Shibata, a flower grower and wholesale florist, passed away in October at the age of 100.

Read More
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac' (2015 Texas A&M University Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 Texas A&M University (Overton, Texas) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, Texas.

Read More
Latest Stories
Giving Tuesday

November 24, 2015

Giving Tuesday On December 1 Is An Opportunity For The …

Organizations such as American Floral Endowment and others are encouraging industry members to participate in the generous spirit of the holiday season.

Read More
Random Acts Of Flowers

November 24, 2015

Random Acts Of Flowers Partners With FTD And Pro Flower…

The organization, which recycles and repurposes flowers with a volunteer team that delivers bouquets to health care facilities across the country, made its 100,000th delivery to a health care facility in Chicago.

Read More
Kate Santos Operations Director Dummen Orange

November 18, 2015

Kate Santos Presents New Opportunities For The Horticul…

Dr. Kate Santos is a scientist, an artist, an advocate, a traveler, a dreamer, a visionary and a go-getter. Well-known for her work managing Dümmen Orange as Operations Director, Santos has taken on a new role as co-founder of Luxflora, an organization for women in horticulture.

Read More
Bell Nursery reaches out by supporting projects that help children connect with plants

November 12, 2015

Bell Nursery Is An Advocate For Outreach In Its Communi…

In a heavily regulated society, growing relationships is just as important to our industry as growing beautiful flowers. In environmentally sensitive states like Maryland, outreach has become mandatory, says Bell Nursery’s Gary Mangum.

Read More
Dave Armstrong Sakata Holding Corp.

November 5, 2015

Why Lobbying For Plant Breeding Is Important

Horticulture industry members who take the opportunity to advise Washington legislators on agricultural policy will find a surprisingly receptive audience.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 3, 2015

GrowIt! Announces Its 2015-2016 Plantastic Idea Scholar…

In 2014, GrowIt! was founded by two aspiring young horticulture professionals, Mason Day and Seth Reed. Their goal was to inspire more people to engage with plants in their daily lives. In the past year, more than 50,000 people have signed up for GrowIt!, using the app to find plants that will work well in their areas. With the app’s help, they have identified mystery plants identified and even made friends with other plant lovers around them. GrowIt! founders say their vision is coming true, and now they want to know about other young professionals’ ideas. GrowIt! announces the 2015/16 Plantastic Idea Scholarship, giving $1000 to three students. Reed and Day want to promote young minds that have big ideas in the world of plants. “Maybe as a student you want to work to promote high school horticulture programs around the nation,” the GrowIt! founders said in a press release. […]

Read More
AFE Scholarship

November 2, 2015

American Floral Endowment Awards Scholarships To 17 Flo…

The American Floral Endowment recently awarded scholarships totaling more than $37,000 to 17 undergraduate and graduate students across the country. The scholarships are intended for students pursuing degrees in floriculture and horticultural fields.

Read More
American Floral Endowment Emerging Leaders

October 23, 2015

American Floral Endowment Develops New Floriculture Bus…

The program offers a chance for floriculture companies to host an intern and help enthusiastic students contribute to both the organization and the floral industry.

Read More
A Modern Take On The Classic Garden Party

October 21, 2015

PlantNite Offers A Modern Take On The Classic Garden Pa…

PlantNite is a company that brings plants to the people by organizing 2-hour social events in local bars and restaurants.

Read More

October 21, 2015

Dümmen Orange Creates Fashion With Flowers At Fashion W…

As a feature sponsor for Fashion Week Columbus in Ohio, Dümmen Orange North America made a statement with its flower genetics in the spotlight. This was the first time Dümmen Orange partnered with Fashion Week Columbus in its 2015 events, held the week of October 3-10, 2015. Fashion Week Columbus is a non-profit organization showcasing local and emerging fashion designers while providing scholarships to fashion design students. Each year, Fashion Week Columbus hosts a week of fashion-related events to feature local talent in the Columbus, Ohio area. “A leader in the floriculture industry, Dümmen Orange is committed to breeding, distributing and promoting superior flower genetics,” says Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos. “To do this, we strive to be in touch with contemporaries in the lifestyle industries. A large focus of this mission is to translate trends from fashion.” With more than 500 working fashion designers in the Columbus market, […]

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse-Barlow, Peace Tree Farm

October 6, 2015

Generation Y’s Reluctance To Garden Linked To Fea…

The Rookie Gardener is easily spotted at a garden center by her nervous and unsure energy that’s as glaring as a scarlet letter, or by his exuberant, self-assured confidence that is only otherwise seen at a college fraternity party. They are our industry’s enigma, our Kryptonite, the treasure chest we cannot open. The Rookie Gardener’s reluctance to garden isn’t from our industry’s lack of targeted marketing or encouragement but from Millennials’ Fear of Failure (FOF). It is obvious that failure is a part of life, but we as a generation have been programmed to not expect or accept failure. Since early childhood, we were encouraged to always win, to do our absolute best at school every day, to beat the competition. “Focused on getting the grades or winning the game, these children have internalized the pressure, (which) paralyzes kids in their ability to take risks,” writes Holly Korbey in an […]

Read More

October 6, 2015

NASA Scientists To Discuss Indoor Agriculture Innovatio…

The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environmental Agriculture Center (CEAC) will host Dr. Jacklyn Green, CEO and founder of Agate Biosciences, and Dr. Roger Kern, president and founder of Agate Biosciences: Science & Systems Engineering, on October 30, as part of its seminar series. Both Green and Kern are former NASA scientists and engineers, and they will discuss their continuing efforts to develop technology and seek innovations to address issues concerning urban indoor agriculture, with a potential for application on Mars. Through the creation of Agate Biosciences LLC, Kern and Green have turned their attention to earth-bound issues of food production, to provide advanced technologies for plant nutrition, biosecurity and the undertaking of scientifically based research in greenhouse design and controls systems, and in plant health under controlled environment agriculture. A recent NASA news release reports that the Mars Rover 2020 mission is planned to deliver an extensive array of instruments designed to explore the habitability […]

Read More
Rebecca Lusk

September 22, 2015

Trailblazer Rebecca Lusk Of Luxflora And Dümmen Orange …

Rebecca Lusk of Luxflora and Dümmen Orange is no stranger to breaking new ground, whether it's in her own company or in forming an organization that gives women in horticulture a united voice.

Read More

September 14, 2015

Smith Gardens Is Developing Growers With A New Initiati…

Finding enough qualified growers has long been a problem in the industry, but it’s one that Smith Gardens is working to solve, at least locally. The operation, which ranks No. 22 on Greenhouse Grower‘s Top 100 Growers list, is the largest in the Pacific Northwest, and spans more than 50 acres of greenhouses and 50 acres of field growing over four locations in Washington, Oregon and California. As a 112-year-old family business that recognizes the need to invest in its future, Smith Gardens has made its Cultivating The Future initiative a corporate priority to attract young people to careers in the horticulture industry. Don Spence, the production manager at Smith Gardens’ Aurora, Ore., location, started working with local schools years ago. The operation expanded its program to local community colleges, and this year Smith Gardens worked with the American Floral Endowment to set up an internship program, and hosted an […]

Read More
Smartphones may influence kids’ decisions about food

September 12, 2015

To Understand Your Next Consumers, Look Beyond Millenni…

There seems to be a constant stream of content in the media about Millennials and their habits and characteristics, particularly as consumers. But, what if they’re not the ones to be focusing on? A recent article in Food Business News is saying that they’re not. Instead, it suggests shifting the focus to the next generation. The article states that, according to bestselling author Matt Walsh, the most disruptive group of future food consumers was born in 2007. With gardening consumers becoming increasingly interested growing their own food, changes to the food industry will likely impact the horticulture industry, as well. “If you understand how an 8-year-old thinks, you’re a long way toward really understanding a transformative change in consumer behavior,” says Walsh, CEO of innovation research lab Tomorrow, during a July 13 presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago. When an 8-year-old makes […]

Read More

September 2, 2015

Delegation Is Key To A Successful Greenhouse Operation

In a packed room at Cultivate’15, speaker Bernie Erven presented key steps growers need to take to improve their delegation skills, the benefits of delegating and the dangers of not learning how to delegate. This is a skill, he says, that everyone needs to learn. “For all of you who are part of a family business, you are choosing not to do things the easy way,” Erven laughed, as he presented a list of ways to know whether or not you’re an effective delegator. The owner of Erven HR Services, LLC, Erven has been working with and observing family businesses for many years. In his presentation, he said, he didn’t share anything that he hasn’t seen first-hand. You might not be a good delegator if you: Tend to be a perfectionist Work more hours than anyone else Lack time to explain clearly and concisely Are often interrupted Enjoy what you used to […]

Read More
Marc van Iersel

September 1, 2015

GROwing Floriculture Research And Extension

Research and outreach efforts help keep floriculture production profitable. With seemingly continuous budget cuts to university and federal budgets, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to sustain their programs and to keep making a positive impact on the industry. So what can be done to ensure that the industry will keep getting the research and outreach support it has come to rely on? There already is a variety of funding programs that support research and Extension programs in our industry. This funding is critical for many floriculture research and outreach programs. What can we do to leverage that funding and make sure it has the biggest possible impact? A program that I was part of in 2010 may serve as a model. LAUNCH was co-founded by NASA, NIKE, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State as a program to help make innovative ideas become a […]

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]