08. Build- Clean Air Plants

The aim of this projects was to look at plants and how they impact buildings.  At first I imagined that I would look at water purification through plants, in particular grey and black water harvesting.  However, since I didn’t move into a house that I owned, this felt more difficult and then I became interested in Clean Air Plants.

Holmgren Domain: Build

For many years I have been interested in architecture, and I become more interested in green architecture.  My thinking shifted when I did the EcoVillage Design Education course in 2006, when I became aware of the quantity of housing stock and I then was more interested in retro-fitting and improving the stock that is already there.

Having spent many years living and working in cities with a very poor Indoor Air Quality, and family history of suffering from asthma I thought this would be an interesting and relevant problem to tackle was the Indoor Air Quality inside people’s homes, and in particular mine which is also my office.

I was really inspired by a TED talk about clean air plants and their impact in Delhi.  I wondered what my home would look like if I did the same here.

Permaculture Ethics

Earth: cleaner air, increase humidity,

People: more beautiful spaces, better concentration, less disease,

Fair Shares: limit air pollution, produce more clean air plant, share knowledge about clean air plants.

For more information about this project’s ethics read here 

Holmgren Princples: Use renewable resources; Produce no waste.

Through this project I was looking at using plants as renewable resources, in terms of their ability to grow but also to reproduce.  I also wanted to use plants in a new way with the aim to produce no waste/pollution.  I wanted to release better air than I was getting when I opened the air, or at least so that I could minimise the negative impacts that my home and furnishings have on the Indoor Air Quality.

Design Process


– potential volatile chemical compounds in different rooms, light levels, ease of maintenance, ease of propagation, average number of people using that space, when space used,


– sun/shade preferences, transpiration rates, rate of removal VCOs, Inputs and Outputs relative quantities of CO2 emitted at night, resistance to infection, shape, colour, height, pattern, like the plant, price,


– Beneficial connections, relative placement, element cards

To read more about the surveying, assessing and designing phases of the process read here 


– propagated: mother in law’s tongue, bananas, aloe, chinese money plant

– saved: peace lily

– gift: umbrella, African violet,

– bought: leopard lily, palm, prayer plant, golden pothos, dragon plant, cheese plant, cyclamen, spider,


– watering, re-potting, feeding, pest/disease check, propagate

For more information about how I followed the design cycle read here

Portfolio Criteria

Dissemination: write up on blog, created cards to be used in training

Community Building: engage local shop keepers, provided local shop, talked to friends,

Symmetry: shared knowledge with tutors, to be used as part of presentation for participants on PDC, created a new tool, tweet picked up and retweeted by other permaculturalists

Evaluation and costings: positive qualitative impacts from flat mates and visitors ‘feels more like home’ ‘more like your sort of place’, feels like better air and humidity levels, more beautiful; £200 on plants and pots, created cards to be used multiple times, popular blog posts about clean air plants,

Timeline: January- March 2011

Read about my Clean Air Plant Permaculture Design adventure here


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