Nuaire Harnesses Plant Power to Highlight Air Pollution

Andy Mudie - Business Operations & Marketing Director

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On a wet and misty Wednesday in June, an eager team from Nuaire downed-tools, PCs and gantt charts, and picked up shovels, forks and wheelbarrows for an activity not typically linked to  fan manufacturers.  We planted an Air Quality garden for the children of Cwrt Rawlin Primary School in Caerphilly.

As you would expect, Nuaire’s focus is on improving indoor air quality through all forms of mechanical ventilation. If the outside air is polluted, we offer systems like the new Noxmaster which filter gases and particulates using carbon and hepa filters. But employees also interested in environmental initiatives that can play a role in reducing outdoor air pollution, and urban planting is inspiring example with a myriad of benefits.

Numerous studies have established that certain species of trees, shrubs and plants can play an important role in mitigating air pollution. Citizen Sense, a research group funded by the European Research Council, recently created a tool-kit for planting air quality gardens. In the run-up to Clean Air Day, 21 June 2018, we came across the Phyto-Sensor toolkit and found the evidence of plant power highly compelling. Did you know trees and plants can capture particulate matter, absorb pollutant gases and repair polluted soil?

We were keen to put this knowledge to use, and partnered with our local primary school to plan and create an Air Quality garden as a learning resource for the children.

It has been heartening to learn how many staff at Nuaire are passionate about plants, and keen to get their fingers dirty for an environmental project. Our team of 13 gardening experts came from all parts of the business, and included our Business Ops Director, Commercial Sales Director, Engineers, Procurement Manager, Manufacturing Technicians and – of course – members of the Marketing Team (off-piste ideas are our domain).

Our air quality garden comprised of a range of trees and plants, all known to reduce air pollution or ‘bioindicate’ – to change appearance when pollutants are present. With neither the time nor prowess of Alun Titchmarsh’s ‘Ground Force Team’, we designed a planting scheme that could be finished in a working day, and that would be easily-accessible to the children.

For height and structure to our flowerbeds, we planted Silver Birch trees, which clean the air by trapping PM10 and PM2.5, and clean the soil by taking up heavy metals. The shrubs included Aster, Salvia, Heuchera, Lavender and Geraniums, all of which are effective at removing particulates or nitrogen dioxide, and, in some cases, both.

Since the garden was planted over a week ago, we have been delighted to witness how quickly the children and teachers have warmed to the garden, making it their own. Today, we made a visit to see how the plants and shrubs were fairing in the heat and spoke to the Head of School, Mrs Lloyd.

While we watched a group of 20 or so children moving happily around the plants and taking turns to sit on the new bench and spruced-up wooden seating area, Mrs Lloyd expressed how pleased the children and teachers are with the new green space. The project has been incredibly rewarding for all involved and positive way to highlight the issue of air pollution in affected areas, like Caerphilly.

While the grounds of Cwrt Rawlin Primary school are lined with trees and shrubs, the borough of Caerphilly contains two Air Quality Management Areas or AMQAs, which means air pollution levels are high enough to impact the health of people living in these areas.

An AQMA is defined by failures to meet air quality objectives set out by DEFRA. This could be one or two streets or a much bigger area.  Caerphilly town centre is an AQMA and is also home to Hafodyrynys Road, one of the most polluted streets outside of London.  

Air pollution affects children more than adults because it reduces lung growth and causes asthma.  It’s important to arm them with age-appropriate information about pollutants, their sources and what they can do to reduce their own exposure.  While we’ll continue to advise and educate about indoor air quality, we have been hugely inspired by the power of urban planting and the simplicity of planning an Air Quality garden. We hope to encourage other schools to take up the green-finger challenge in their own grounds. 

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