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How plants reduce noise levels indoors

Many buildings serve purposes other than just giving us a roof over our head for shelter. Buildings such as hotels, offices, retail stores, medical facilities, etc. seek to offer inhabitants a sense of calmness, refuge and tranquility from the hustle and bustle elsewhere. This helps people want to stay in the buildings longer, to shop more, relax more, linger, have a bite to eat, concentrate with ease and more.

However, noise often abounds in buildings through phone chatter, children shouting or crying, footsteps on hard floors, unwanted conversations in adjacent cubicles, printers, copiers, HVAC systems…the list goes on and on. This noise is distracting, interruptive, makes employees less productive, reduces privacy, and can taint the customer experience. One way to create a welcoming, stress-free environment is through reducing this unwanted noise in buildings.

Plants have many known benefits to their environs and the people in them. Noise reduction is one of those less-known benefits of plants. Plants are used in many applications to reduce noise. One major example is plantings along freeways to help reduce the amount of noise distributed to adjacent communities. Plants can also greatly reduce unwanted noise inside buildings.

Plants absorb sound

How do plants reduce noise? There are a number of ways plants can reduce noise. One way is through sound absorption. Plant parts such as stems, leaves, branches, wood, etc. absorb sound. Rough bark and thick, fleshy leaves are particularly effective at absorbing sound due to their dynamic surface area. 

Plant Factors that affect sound absorption:

  • Number of plants (the more the better!)
  • Size of the plant(s)
  • Surface area of the leaves and of the plants themselves

Noise deflection with plants

Deflection is another way sound is reduced. When sound hits a masonry wall, the wall does not vibrate (because it is rigid). Sound waves are reflected off the wall and back toward the source. When sound waves hit a flexible material, the material will vibrate and the waves are transformed into other forms of energy as well as being deflected in other directions.

Sound wave refraction

Sound waves can also be refracted. A good example of this is carpeting in a home or office. If a room has all solid floors, sound waves bounce all over and can create echoes. When carpeting is added, the echoes disappear. Plantings that cover surface areas help accomplish the same feat. For example, vines on walls and the sides of buildings will help refract sound. Lawns, ground cover plantings, and green walls are excellent at refracting sound.

How to use plants to reduce noise

Privacy with screen plants
Often, especially in offices with open floor plans, partitions are used to separate work spaces. Using screen plants instead will not only absorb more noise in a busy office, but will provide an attractive addition to the space.

More is better
Given the choice between one large plant arrangement and several smaller ones, it is best, for sound reduction purposes, to choose multiple small arrangements. The plants' surface area is more fully utilized when they are arranged this way.

Use large planters
The bigger the plant container, the more soil it contains and the greater the surface area of the top dressing will be. Both soil and top dressing are great absorbers of sound. 

Plant placement
In order to best reduce noise, plants should be placed around the perimeter of the space instead of at the center. This way, sound reflects off of the walls and straight into the leaves of the plants.

Ambius can help bring peace and tranquility to your business. For more information, call us at 800-581-9946, or contact us online to discuss all of  the benefits that interior landscaping can provide for you and your business.