Indoor Plants to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Seattle Commercial Building HVAC — Really?

To enhance the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of any commercial space, go green — really green, with indoor plants! Although a full Seattle Heating Ventilation and Seattle Air Conditioning (HVAC) Inspection to assure that your office space is adequately vented and filtered is strongly recommended, adding plants to assist with the IAQ has been proven to assist remarkably to achieve the optimum levels of contaminants.


What Affects IAQ?

The definition of Indoor Air Quality:

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a term referring to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. (

Your office’s IAQ can be affected by:

  • Mold
  • Bacteria
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Radon
  • Volatile Organic Carbons
  • Particulates

With ever tightening building construction, indoor air pollution is becoming even more concerning than outdoor air quality. Standard methods of reducing indoor pollution that can be hazardous to health include:

  • Dilution of pollutants with ventilation
  • Filtration of air before distribution
  • Control of pollution at the source

The airflow within a building can be simulated with a computer model using air samples collected at the site. Further collections are made on surfaces within the structure as well as monitoring of human exposure to expected/known pollutants.

How Plants Help Improve IAQ

In addition to effective filtration and ventilation, it has been shown that using indoor plants in an office space helps improve IAQ in a number of ways:

  • CO2 Removal — through the natural process of photosynthesis, green plants remove CO2  and expel O2. In an office environment, CO2 concentrations can elevate relative to outdoor concentrations. If the levels raise too high, it is an indicator of inadequate ventilation — which serves to dilute the concentrations of CO2.
  • Ketone & Aldehyde Removal — the volatile organic carbons (VOC’s) have been fumigated by peace lily and golden pathos plants. In a controlled experiment published in Environmental Science & Technology, which indicated that even in a sealed teflon bag, the plants removed the VOC’s.

One consideration to note, however, is that the growing medium (soil, etc.) and required water to maintain healthy plants may not be conducive to proper humidity levels. While some contractors believe that plants have little effect on the overall IAQ of a structure, the fact is that plants, if nothing else, provide a pleasant environment while scrubbing the air of CO2.