Plants are an available technological solution to purify the office air: this is the idea behind the Fabbrica dell’Aria (The Air Factory), designed by the neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso and Pnat in collaboration with Lombardini22 that hosts the first prototype in its headquarters in Milan. The office becomes the metaphor of the city of the future as imagined by Mancuso, as well as of a world where plants, as at the beginning of life on earth, will be in charge to reabsorb carbon dioxide to still guarantee liveable environmental conditions. The Air Factory is based on a 35 square meter greenhouse capable of filtering the air inside the workplace, ensuring better working conditions and wellbeing for all employees.
During the last years, plants and biophilia have become important office design tools in order to achieve people’s mental and physical wellbeing. The Fabbrica dell’Aria (the Air Factory) project gives a new direction to this research, connecting personal wellbeing to the global need to find solutions to stop climate change.
Most of all, the Air Factory is an invitation not to forget the “healing” properties of plants, also for what concerns the environment:
“Climate change is caused by the increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Technological efficiency will not solve this problem alone. Globally, with a thousand billion trees in 30 years, we could reabsorb 1/3 of the carbon dioxide we have produced. It would cost an irrelevant amount of money compared to the problem we are going to face if we do nothing”, Mancuso says.
As Lucia Matti, PR & Events Lombardini22 tells us, the project was born from the encounter between the experience of Lombardini 22 and the ideas of neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso, who continues:
“In 15 years of work we have never found a confined place with an air that is not at least 3 times worse than that of the outside,” says the scientist. “These air factories are able to purify 97 to 99.7% of air pollutants which, according to the WHO, are the leading cause of death in the West countries. For particulates and dust, we have between 97% and 99% of filtration. It is a scientific and measurable fact”.
The system of the Air Factory filters directly the air inside the office, which is sucked and forced through the plant growth bed in the 35 sqm greenhouse, where it gets in contact with the plants, and it gets purified before re-entering the working environment.
The whole process is based on the Stomata botanical filtration system, patented by Pnat, which uses plants with a large leaf surface such as Ficus, Chamadorea, Kentia, Strelitzia Reginae, Strelitzia Nicolai, and Filodendrum, together with other climbing plants.
The system also uses an artificial lighting system that changes according both to the needs of the architectural space and to the physiological needs of the plants. Finally, a sensor system allows everyone to real-time measure and to view the improvement in the quality of the air coming in and out of the greenhouse.
Text by Gabriele Masi.
Pictures by Filippo Podestà.