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The ideal humidity for a healthy office environment and regulating indoor air quality with plants

What is humidity and relative humidity?

Humidity is typically expressed in percentage ratio, it's a measure of the water vapor in the air. Absolute humidity and relative humidity are two terms known to relate to the concept of Humidity, let us look into what they mean:

On one hand, absolute humidity is measured in grams per cubic meter, representing the total water vapor in the air, remaining constant regardless of temperature.

On the other hand, relative humidity, expressed as a percentage, indicates the relationship between actual water vapor and the air's capacity at a given temperature. This metric is usually used in indoor measurement devices.

Why is relative humidity level important?

Monitoring humidity levels in the office is crucial to ensure employees' well-being, and to keep an eye on success measures of your worker's mental health, which in turn can be a strategic move for the well-being of your team. It's like having a backstage pass to the science behind a satisfying workplace. Research suggests that maintaining optimal humidity can reduce stress and boost focus—the key components for a positive work environment.

Working with other indoor air parameters humidity impacts the respiratory and dermatological health of indoor inhabitants. Dermatological: Some studies suggest that the main causes of well-known atopic eczema come from low humidity in the air. Also, dry air is known for speeding up the aging process by drying moisture from the outer layer of the epidermis.

Additionally, too low humidity can potentially cause Respiratory health issues. Low humidity directly is a reason for dry throat syndrome and allergies.

On the other side, increasing humidity can cause bacterial and sporal growth, which brings viral alerts for health, and increases the number of seasonal sicknesses, which causes a potential lack of workers in the office, and increases the workload for others.

Does outside humidity affect indoor humidity?

Yes and no. While it may be snowing outdoors with high humidity relative to its temperature, once that air enters a building and is heated, its new relative humidity becomes very low. This transformation can lead to dry indoor air, causing discomfort. The interplay between outdoor and indoor humidity is notable, as moisture and air move in and out of the house through various openings like windows and doors. There are many strategies to manage outdoor humidity's impact on indoor levels. For instance, leaving windows open during rain or snow can increase moisture and elevate indoor humidity levels. This dynamic relationship between outdoor and indoor humidity highlights the need for thoughtful control mechanisms to ensure a comfortable and balanced indoor environment.

What is the appropriate range of indoor relative humidity?

For better understanding, let's split humidity levels into two groups: Recommended range: In our regular overview of indoor air quality around Switzerland and Germany, we set, alongside all health standard organizations, the standard of 30-70, being perfect middle. Range of 20-30 and 70-80 being good too, and is acceptable for the indoor spaces with no plants.

Discouraged range:

Too high or too low humidity should raise immediate concerns. At the extremes, a humidity level of less than 10% or above 90% is considered critical, resulting in air that feels stifling and can contribute to adverse health effects such as migraines and nausea. Interestingly, such extreme conditions may also inadvertently lead to a reluctance among employees to venture into the office—a situation no employer desires.

Import to note: The suitable range for indoor air humidity can vary based on location, the season of the year, and whether it's the heating season.

How do other air parameters impact humidity?

TVOCs: According to the studies the increase in relative humidity can promote a release of TVOCs( toxic volatile organic compounds), especially formaldehyde. This usually happens when dry building materials are introduced into the environment. Did you just move to the new office? Or replace the current office? Is there a construction outside? Well, now you know.

Temperature: We have noticed alongside other specialists in air studies research that temperature is negatively correlated with Humidity (Fig1).

We diligently measure Indoor Air Quality in our clients' open office spaces and monthly share insights into the secret of understanding IAQ parameters. If you want to know more about the impact of plants on human well-being, we invite you to our category of Plant Science Research.

Negative correlation between humidity and Temperature
Figure 1: Correlation between Temperature and Humidity in one day

How do plants regulate humidity?

Introducing natural humidifying plants can be a game-changer in improving the stiffness of indoor air when opening windows or changing HVAC systems isn't feasible. These plants contribute to optimal humidity levels through their natural transpiration process, effectively combating the stagnant feel in the air.

Through a fascinating natural process, plants actively manage a continuous circulation of water within their structures, releasing humidity into the surrounding air, thus, creating a small ecosystem inside the office. This not only contributes to a well-balanced and comfortable atmosphere but also ensures that the office environment remains consistently humidified.

Top 4 plants that elevate humidity and stiff air in your office

Elevate your office humidity for improved respiratory and skin health, especially in stiff indoor spaces. Integrating natural humidifying plants into your environment can humidity levels. This approach not only adds greenery to your indoor space but also optimizes indoor air quality. As these office plants draw water from the soil, ensuring hydration for their aboveground parts, they contribute to a natural transpiration process. This process acts as a living humidifier, maintaining a comfortable moisture balance in your office —a vital consideration for creating a biophilic office environment with optimal relative humidity.

Introducing natural humidifying plants can be a game-changer in improving the stiffness of indoor air when opening windows or changing HVAC systems isn't feasible. Among other plants we selected plants that contribute the most to the indoor environment with their green vibrance and natural transpiration process, effectively combating the stagnant feel in the air.

Schefflera arboricola compacta

We wrote about Shefflera as a great solution for green walls, but did you know that Schefflera can strive in low humidity 20-30%? After introducing this plant to the environment with low humidity, and increasing watering, it will slowly regulate humidity level to the needed perfect range.

Regardless of the reasoning to get one, an “umbrella plant” looks astonishing in any environment, but also would survive in dusty corners.

Schefflera arboricola Compacta on the right in the green biopilic office

Caryota mitis

This resilient plant is widely popular due to its ability to thrive in diverse environments. Its glossy and firm leaves serve a dual purpose, not only maintaining their vibrant green appearance regardless of air changes but also effectively collecting even the tiniest dust particles.

Caryote Mitis and biophilic design

Ficus lyrata

Also known as the Fiddle-leaf fig, Ficus Lyrata is an extraordinary plant, with great air-purifying capabilities that were even used for space exploration studies. We usually choose this plant in our plant concepts quite often for its beauty and tropical aura.

Ficus Lyrata or fiddle-fig in the biophilic office

Kentia howea

The Kentia, with its palm-like appearance, adds a touch of grandeur to your plant arrangements. Its resemblance to a palm tree brings a unique and majestic quality to your green ensemble. While also being quite stable

Kentia howea in the green working office

For our other impressions from clients, visit our project page.


And for the last bit, we prepared an interesting fact for you:

Barbie and Kentia. Kentia meme

Ever thought about talking to your plants? Turns out, it's more than just a weird habit—there's science to support it. Talking to your plants not only boosts your mental well-being but can also contribute to their growth. In a study, Researchers found that playing music at the level of a regular conversation (around 70 decibels) triggered specific responses in plants, that indicated plant reacts to the sounds. The interesting part is that the frequency of the sound affected how active these responses were—higher frequencies gave stronger responses.

So get yourself an office plant, and you'll always have someone to chat with in the office.


This article was brought to you by Marketing Representative - Lala Rud


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