Consider a few suggestions from interior plantscaping professionals on the best sound absorbing plants and placements they recommend in workspaces.
According to a 2014 study, workers lose as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions. As designers and architects look to create workspaces that are useful, beautiful, and contribute to team member wellness and productivity, creating functional areas for sound privacy can be a distinct challenge.
The way most workers need to complete tasks have significantly changed the way companies use their spaces. Quiet spaces are needed for deep, focused work. Technology enabled meeting rooms and collaboration spaces are used for productive meetings.
Ideally, an office is designed in such a way that it enables team members to do their best work.
But when office space comes at a premium, designers and architects have to get creative.
Businesses expect a lot from their office spaces. They want enough room for all workers, a space flexible enough to be reconfigured as business grows, a place that is aesthetically pleasing and that enhances team member wellness and collaboration.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to make sure a design includes all of these aspects. As a result, designers and architects still often have to leave space for cubicles and open office spaces; a big contributing factor to general noise levels.
A 2013 study showed that 60 percent of cubicle workers and 50 percent of all workers without partitions found sound privacy to be one of their top frustrations with their work space, and one of the leading factors in decreased workplace satisfaction.
Designers and architects can solve some of these noise issues with softer surfaces, collaboration rooms, focus rooms and huddle spaces. Though many businesses will ask to incorporate these types of rooms when possible, designers and architects have to consider creative methods of reducing general noise levels when those types of spaces are not an option.
One creative way to both combat office noise and also bring biophilic elements to a design is to incorporate plants and greenery into a space. Studies have shown that both plants and living green walls are an effective way to absorb sound and noise pollution.
Beyond their sound absorbing qualities, plants and biophilic elements can help to improve a worker’s overall well-being. Access to natural elements like greenery, natural light, and organic textures have been found to both improve employee productivity, and reduce absenteeism. In particular, plants have been found to be a mood booster and a stress reliever for team members, which can in turn, help to improve an employer’s bottom line.
However, scattering a few random plants around the office won’t necessarily solve noise issues, and plants suffering from inadequate care likely won’t do much either.
Interior plantscapers carefully take into consideration available space, plant species, available light, temperature, care, and watering requirements to create living displays that both thrive, and absorb sound.
Consider a few suggestions from interior plantscaping professionals on the plant varieties and placements they recommend for creating sound privacy in workspaces.
“We have seen this issue come up a lot more frequently due to changing office configurations and more open spaces that result in ambient noise. We typically recommend using full plants such as lady palms or cast iron in darker spaces, or Schefflera amate in higher light areas.
We’ve used these placed closely together in tall planters as a natural “wall” between spaces to help absorb sounds. We’ve also recommended moss walls or living walls filled with pothos varieties that are mobile and easy for clients to move when and where needed.
In ever-changing office spaces, we need to not only help with aesthetics, but need to be aware of, and be a solution for, unintended consequences.”
– Jennifer Hartt Meier, Landscaped Interiors, Fayetteville, New York
“In order to properly regulate sound absorption in an open office space, there are a few different options. Partitions of Cladonia stellaris will have the effect of absorbing a potential of -18Db in a work space. Positioning a series of select plants suspended in the periphery of movement corridors will significantly lower the reverberation of the windows. Adding trees along windows will also help with this.
Additionally, the komorebi effect of light filtering through elements creates a calming environment for humans.”
– Eric Bond, Envirozone Design, Montreal, Canada
“I would recommend groupings consisting of different sized plants with some being as large as the space can accommodate.
For height and mass, plants with large leaves, such as Strelitzia nicolai (white bird of paradise) and Ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig) would be effective sound absorbers. Dracaenas and palms such as Rhapis excelsa (lady palm) and Howeia forsteriana (kentia palm) would also be effective choices for taller plants.
For smaller plants in groupings, we often use Sansevierias, Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ and Dracaena warneckeii. Also Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant) and Aglaonemas.”
– Steve Foster, Foster Plants, Miami, Florida
“Consider living green walls or preserved moss panels for maximum sound absorption. Preserved reindeer moss in particular has demonstrated an effectiveness in absorbing sound in the frequencies of the human voice range. Moss panels can also be installed on ceilings to further reduce the reverberation of sound within a space.”
– Kevin Kelly, Kelly Mac Interiorscapes, Pittstown, New Jersey
“To create a beautiful, lush, green and noise reducing environment, we suggest placing plants at the perimeter of your space. Plant selection should include varieties with broad leaves such as fiddle leaf figs, split leaf philodendron, white bird of paradise and even a larger variety Aglaonema. These plant types are not just noise reducing, but modern, sleek and will make your space much more visually appealing.”
– Maria Battista Procter, Battista’s Blooms, Culpeper, Virginia
Article after article has touted the importance and benefit of nature in the workplace. Though using plants as a sound barrier might not completely eliminate noise distractions, they are certainly able to help create both some sound and visual privacy; a much needed respite in an increasingly built environment.
Creating a workplace that enables employees to do their best work relies on designers and architects to work together with businesses to find the best solutions for their spaces. By strategically incorporating plants and biophilic design elements, designers and architects are able to create spaces with some sound privacy while remaining aesthetically pleasing.