If you feel like the stuffy air, close confines, and general dreariness of your office environment is making you physically ill, you’re probably right. Many office buildings are poorly ventilated and either too dry or too damp, the latter condition leading to mold growth. Plus, everything from the paint on the walls to your coworkers’ perfume adds to the mix of chemicals you breathe in every day. But according to the NASA Clean Air Study, a variety of indoor plants can help filter all sorts of pollutants from the air, including benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, and ammonia.
With that knowledge, most offices might add a few hardy plants here and there, which is definitely better than nothing. But what happens when you take it to the extreme? Architecture firm Salgascano presents a stunning example of prioritizing greenery in the workplace with its design for Second Home Lisboa, a co-working space in Portugal’s capital city. The bright, airy complex provides an open-plan workspace and a variety of other facilities for its 250 members amidst the tropical foliage of over 1,000 plants.
The warehouse-style facility provides a high ceiling, lots of windows and plenty of artificial lighting to augment the daylight that comes streaming in through the glass. Curvilinear work surfaces flow throughout the space in organic arrangements, all topped with dozens of potted plants. Some of them stretch almost all the way toward the ceiling, and it’s easy to imagine the whole place feeling more and more like a lush jungle as they continue to grow.
Not only do the plants serve as a decorative element, they reduce background noise, improve the air quality, provide privacy and help boost the productivity and well-being of workers using the space. Wouldn’t you feel more inspired and focused if you were gazing at all that greenery every day instead of cubicle walls?
Selgascano’s efforts to make Second Home Lisboa a green, healthy space don’t stop there. The building was renovated with recycled and environmentally sustainable materials, and features an advanced radiant heating and cooling system to promote cross-air ventilation. This co-working space is set inside the Mercado Da Ribeira, a historic market hall built in 1892, and overlooks its rows of colorful produce in the market below.
“We wanted absolutely to maintain that inherited idea of one single open space, getting small companies to share a huge table divided in three, encouraging relationships,” says architect Lucia Cano. “The flowing design of the table gives members their own area of private space to focus on their work whilst keeping a sense of community.”
“Another big aim was to reduce the energy consumption of the building. Working with one of the best climate engineers we ever worked with, Adam Ritchie, we were able to eliminate the air-conditioning system and create a radiant floor system with natural ventilation taken from the ones used in a conventional greenhouse. And maybe that’s why we decided to give privacy and at the same time a better quality of air, placing 1,000 plants on the top of that big table.”
“Actually the plants are the only thing you notice when you enter the main space, even if 250 chairs, 100 lamps and 250 people are also hidden in between that densely occupied big ‘greenhouse table.'”