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A Living Office – Tips to Spread ‘Green’ Around the Workplace

By Sacha Ferrandi, Guest Contributor

Incorporating plant life and other green facets into your office can have a huge impact on your employees’ happiness and productivity. Sacha Ferrandi of Source Capital Funding, Inc., is an expert in commercial real estate and believes that office culture, productivity, and real estate value all improve through the incorporation of living plants within a working environment.

NASA studies have shown that even the most common houseplants can positively affect air quality and reduce pollution. Beginning in the 1980s, NASA began compiling a list of the most useful houseplants in terms of air quality, and their findings included Aloe Vera, Peace Lilies, Boston Ferns, English Ivy, and Spider Plants, just to name a few (find the full report here). Numerous studies have shown that plants inspire and help humans, both at home and in the office. In fact, employees have been observed to be 15 percent more productive when houseplants are placed in minimalist workspaces, showing the addition of greenery can greatly improve office atmosphere.

There are various ways to incorporate natural elements into your office setting. Whether you choose to hire a company well-versed in office installation, task your employees with making your office greener, or do it yourself, your efforts can contribute to a healthy, living environment within the office. We suggest a balanced mixture; hire a professional as the lead on your project, and utilize employees through a group effort to create a sense of connection to the projects and the company as a whole.

If you’re in need of some inspiration for your office, consider these tips and get started:

Dwarf Fruit Trees

Bring the orchard to the office with a project that requires little work but a multitude of benefits. Incorporate fruit trees in various areas of the building, and ask employees to volunteer for care of the plants. You can inspire camaraderie and competition by creating a friendly challenge between “tree teams”. Various employees will be in charge of different trees; whichever team’s tree grows the largest or produces the most fruit wins.

Living Walls
Living walls are currently exploding in popularity. They can be added to outdoor or indoor walls and will help reduce air pollution, decrease energy costs, reduce noise, and provide a sense of calm. Living walls don’t come cheap and do require a bit of care, but their benefits can be worth the investment. Here are a few of the popular living wall types:

  • Vertical Display

Typically, these displays use grids to display potted plants. This option is versatile and allows for frequent updating or tailoring. A vertical plant display is generally a less expensive option, coming in at around $75 to $125 per square foot.

  • A Trellis

Trellised walls support the growth of climbing plants like vines or ivy with the use of grids or cables. This is the cheapest living wall option, coming in around $50 to $75 per square foot.

  • Engineered Modular System

This system uses plant modules and care can be very expensive and intricate. This is an expensive system, but when done well on a highly designed wall, can exhibit a three-month grow-in period. It can cost anywhere between $100 and $200 per square foot.

  • Hydroponic Walls

Fixed hydroponic vertical walls allow for varied plant types. These walls use a bare-root system in which plants that need little to no soil are placed in pockets along the supporting structure. The irrigation systems within this structure usually allow for recirculation of water. These are also pricier options, ranging from $90 to $100 per square foot.

A Plant per Desk

Give your employees a larger sense of ownership over their personal workspace by purchasing a plant per desk. Find one type of pollution-reducing plant from the NASA list: Aloe Vera, Spider Plants, Spider Plant, Gerbera Daisy, Snake Plant, Golden Pothos, and more, just to get you started. Task each employee with watering and caring for their plant; incorporate friendly competition and have a prize for the employee with the most flourishing plant.

Green Entrance Threshold

As mentioned earlier, plants stimulate efficiency and can even lower blood pressure, but that’s not to say you should turn your office into a jungle straight out of the Amazon. Create a threshold that the employees must walk through upon entrance to the building (two trees on either side of the door can work if you are feeling lazy). Creating a sense of calm with lush greenery near the entrance can help encourage the ‘plant efficiency’ without purchasing plants for everyone, and provide great aesthetic first impressions for visiting clients.

A Green Roof

Green roofs are covered with vegetation growing over waterproof layers of different types of materials. If you don’t have access to the roof, use any balconies at your disposal. This project can be as complicated or simple as preferred. You may choose to cultivate the greenery yourself or purchase from companies that offer modular green “blocks” that can be simply installed. Collaborate with your office to come up with the preferred style and create an outdoor “hangout” space for your employees.

Some Outdoor Attention

While turning your office environment into a green living area is the main aim, don’t shirk your responsibility to the outdoor landscaping. Work with your office’s landscaping crew to incorporate a garden atmosphere of local plants in the outdoor break areas of the office. Benches, parking areas, any place that the employee walks to or from during the workday will work.

Things to Avoid

As this is an office setting, any changes affect a larger group of people. There are a few precautions you should take as you head towards a green office environment. Stay away from plants that can cause allergies—a heavy pollen plant is a huge no-no. Also steer clear of heavily scented plants as they can become irritants to individuals. Pollen can contribute to irritation of the eyes, nasal passages, and more and the goal is to make the office a healthier and more enjoyable space, not a powder keg of allergens.

Incorporate these green tips into your office décor for a healthier, more productive company and improve the lives of your employees and your bottom line.


Sacha Ferrandi is a 15-year expert in commercial real estate and is the founder of Source Capital Funding, Inc. and Texas Hard Money. As an expert in hard money lending for commercial real estate, Sacha has been exposed to the development of commercial properties of all shapes and sizes. Source Capital Funding, Inc. is based in San Diego and licensed in California, Arizona, and Minnesota

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