3 Reasons to Use Plants as Social Distancing Barriers
Several years ago, a hospital facility manager asked me to provide a design using large plant containers to create a barrier between a drop off zone and walkway during an expansion. Several vehicles were parking in the flow of foot traffic and he came up with the idea of using attractive flowering planters instead of installing bare metal poles. Lucky for me, it triggered an alternative solution to his parking dilemma. For over seven years, a row of silver Lechuza planters have been diverting traffic with colorful annuals mixed with bright orange ixora hedges. Besides the additional revenue, the other rewarding aspect of the annual planters are the regular compliments of appreciation I get from patients passing by.
In this time when businesses are required to help team members and customers stay separated, there may be an opportunity for interiorscapers to offer their clients attractive solutions for creating social barriers.
For example, check-out lines can reach extreme lengths with the six-foot separation rule. I’ve seen and experienced a lot of confusion and animosity when you can’t figure out where the line starts or when others mistakenly cut in. By strategically placing tall planters like a hedge maze, you can help direct the line flow and help to lessen customer aggravation.
Another good use of plant groupings would be to help camouflage restricted areas or empty aisles.
In office buildings, rows of plants can provide unobtrusive barriers between desks, or serve as social distancing markers in common areas when placed six feet apart.
While a company can use signs, gates and caution tape to create social distancing barriers, I have three reasons why living foliage can do it much better:
1. Plants Produce Oxygen
To our eyes, plants appear as inanimate objects. Except they are always silently working to convert water, carbon dioxide and minerals into oxygen through the photosynthesis process. Perhaps in an enclosed environment, this influx of oxygen is one reason being around plants helps to reduce stress and create feelings of happiness.
2. Plants Can Add Humidity to the Air
Plants can also work to marginally improve indoor moisture levels. A non-pharmaceutical intervention study of the influenza virus at the Mayo Clinic in 2018 determined regulated humidity levels indoors reduced the amount of airborne virus particles, while drier interior air conditions allowed the virus particles to remain longer. One theory of why this happens is the heavier air moisture makes it more difficult for the virus to stay suspended after the infected individual sneezes or coughs, while drier air has less resistance making it easier for the virus to travel.
3. Plants Are Aesthetically Pleasing
If you’re stuck waiting in line, wouldn’t you much rather look at pretty foliage rather than metal barriers, direction signs or orange cones?
Views of nature and plants have shown to reduce depression, promote positive feelings and even reduce pain medication requests from hospital patients.
During these times when a majority of us are experiencing high levels of stress, tension and frustration, I say anything that can help alleviate pain is an altruistic investment.
I think that is part of the reason people come up to me and say “thank you,” when I’m replanting the annuals for the hospital containers. At first, I thought it was odd for someone to say thank you to me for simply doing my job. Now, I think they say it because people understand it’s an added expense to maintain fresh seasonal change-outs and appreciate the hospital’s efforts to provide a more welcoming space for their patients.
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