Interior Landscapes

By Ruth Kennelly

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Forma Interiors Magazine, Volume 4 Issue 1.

A Snapshot Of The Crucial Points To Consider When Planning For An Interior-Planting Scheme

Dublin’s built environment has seen dramatic changes over the last decade. The greedy hand of urban sprawl has touched almost every plot of virgin land and with longer works hours than ever before we as a generation are becoming increasingly divorced from life outdoors. To counteract this growing divide a group of highly skilled designers, adept at integrating our inner and outer worlds, are emerging on the commercial interior scene.

The European Federation of Interior Landscaping has confirmed through research that the display of plants in offices may have a positive effect on its occupants on the following two levels. Firstly, through a positive psychological response to vegetation, inducing a feeling of well being, and secondly through the enhancement of the physico-chemical profile of the internal environment (namely humidity, temperature and acoustics levels).

It is hardly surprising therefore that An Bord Glas has reported a doubling of the estimated value of landscaping services in the private sector over the last five years to €194 million, employing almost 7,500 people.

For the last two years Peter O’Brien and Sons have won the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland’s ‘Interior Landscaping Award’. In 2002 their winning project for MNK properties was an atrium garden within an apartment complex in Howth. Essentially the garden space was sandwiched between two internal walls but despite space being at such a premium, the final scheme afforded each apartment a landscaped vista on both elevations.

In 2003, Peter O’Brien and Sons constructed an interior landscape design by UK firm Charles Funke & Associates for A&L Goodbody Solicitors on North Wall Quay. A propos the increasing demand for interior landscaping, James Marshall, Interior architect with C.F and Associates contends, “As the competition for letting and sales of commercial buildings increases, developers are made aware of the demand for more beautiful offices”

When planning an interior landscape there are certain primary considerations, namely light levels, temperature levels and soil depths. Both Peter O’Toole of Peter O’Brien and Sons Landscaping and James Marshall stress the importance of considering the landscaping during the planning stage of a project to ensure adequate planting conditions are provided.

‘Misting’ is a system whereby the vegetation is sprayed with a fine mist of water – often containing minerals – to promote healthy vigorous growth. 

Temperature control; an issue in many offices, becomes critical when indoor plants are introduced to the environment. By their nature – pardon the pun – interior plants are less hardy then their outdoor relations and their location in a building has to be carefully considered.

If you are planting over a car park, for example, the temperature of the floor plane will drop to a lower temperature than it would if it was over office accommodation. In such instances it would be prudent to introduce underfloor heating to keep the soil at a more favourable temperature. As a general rule Peter O’Toole advises that the soil temperature should be kept above 8 degrees Celsius. If this is not possible the best course of action would be to exclude certain plants from the design.

The correct levels of humidity can have dramatic effects on the plant welfare and for this reason ‘misting’ is often used in large enclosed public areas and atriums.

‘Misting’ is a system whereby the vegetation is sprayed with a fine mist of water – often containing minerals – to promote healthy vigorous growth.

Scale is another important consideration in designing interior landscapes. Many atriums in commercial buildings are now 3 or 4 storeys high. Plants chosen for such applications should reflect the scale of the design, which will inevitably add to overall cost of a scheme. A large black olive tree can cost up to €8000 and a 5-metre fig tree up to €3,500 – even though larger atriums can require fig or palm trees up to 10 metre in height.

Soil depths of 1 – 1.2 metres are required for most interior landscape schemes, which can be facilitated by the use of large planters or pots recessed into the floor. Bear in mind that not only will you need to provide growing space for roots but also for the irrigation system that is essential to long-term success of the scheme.

Although competition in the area of Interior Landscaping in Ireland is not as intense as in the UK, Peter O’Toole asserts that over the last 5 years there has been a huge increase in commercial demand for this service and that it is only a matter time before it is an integral part of any design scheme.

Each year The Association of Landscape Contractors runs a national landscape competition with a category for Interior landscaping.

Thanks Peter O’Toole of Peter O’Brien & Sons, and James Marshall of Charles Funke & Associates for their kind help in writing this article.

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