Sustainable air-filtration

Sustainable air-filtration
Friendly Filtering Spider Plant---clippings of the hanging new generation can be planted to make more!


We are a design lab based in Joshua Tree, California. Our purpose is to:
1) Look at plants as technology but from a human and creative perspective
2) Pursue the potential many plant species have for removing toxins and adding moisture to the breathing zones in our homes, offices, clinical spaces, and commercial spaces.
3) Encourage the co-habitation of plants and humans.
4) Increase the appeal of incorporating plants into our living spaces by applying good, sustainable design principles to existing methods of keeping houseplants.
5) Personalize the breathing zones of individuals based on their environmental health concerns such as benzene or formaldehyde exposure.
6) Re-imagine the kitchen’s tea cupboard and spice rack as a living resource.
7) Re-imagine the bathroom’s medicine cabinet as a living resource offering safer, lasting, fresher, and more holistic alternatives to many of the commercial items that are conventionally stocked in medicine cabinets at home.
8) Critically engage the ways in which plants can be used for aesthetic purposes in interior design.

In this pursuit we are currently developing the following design lines:
“Sustainable Air Filtration”
“Sustainable Humidity Maintenance”
“Living Medical Resource”
“Living Kitchen Resource”
“Built-In and Mobile Terrarium Installations”
“Interior Desert-scaping”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spider plant

The spider plant is really the main plant in our experiments. This is because they are generally very good at filtering the air of toxins and transpire quite a bit, but mostly because it is so easy to grow the clippings a mature spider plant grows off of it.
The spider plant targets formaldehyde especially but also filters other indoor air pollutants. Plants take these toxins and break them down in the soil, making them into nutrients the plant needs to survive.

Terrarium #4 (a bute)

Our most recent terrarium is especially beautiful. We were lucky enough to come upon two circular glass containers (via our friend Meghan, Thanks!), one of them on a stem and the other a flat bottom container. In this Terrarium there is:
- bottom jar
1) 4" of gravel
2) 2" coconut substrate
3) 2" composted topsoil
4) moss layer
5) heart leaf philadondron
-top jar
1) 1" gravel
2) 2" coconut substrate
3) 2" composted topsoil
4) moss layer
5) croton plant
6) spider plant clippings (on their way, not pictured)

This terrarium works especially well because the bottom glass container is totally enclosed with the top one resting on it, making getting the clean air out a matter only of lifting the top jar off for a moment. And it still allows the plants to water and maintain themselves. The top glass container is opened but the croton we chose to go into it has leaves that create an almost perfect seal, leaving only the area around its stem for air to move out.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Greywater system

Today we built a greywater system. It is not yet filtering wastewater because we don't have the aquatic plants yet but it will be soon. The system is comprised of 3 plastic tub containers sitting on top of one another with the support of a metal frame (but you could use other methods to still benefit from gravity pulling the water down).
Our materials were:
-for the main project
1) 1/2" rubber tube about 12' long
2) three 50 quart plastic tubs
3) a steel frame and two wire hanging baskets
4) a submersible pump running 263 gallons per hour
5) gravel (enough to cover 3" inches in the top and middle containers)
6) coconut substrate (only used on the highest container, enough for about 3" of coverage)
7) epoxy steel putty
-for the extra water filter (We decided to use a hanging filter that would truckle water down from the top container to the middle one. We did this because the activated carbon was too expensive to put a sufficient amount in the top tub. The hanging basket filter is also nice because the sound of the water falling down is beautiful.)
1) an old plastic plant holder
2) a coat hanger
3) activated carbon
4) gravel
5) polyester fiber

Constructing the greywater system:
1) Since our system is stacked we did not have to worry about pumping water through them all but only to the top, so we only had to make two holes in the plastic containers. The first hole we drilled rather high up on the container. (We found that for this one it is important to have the hose running out to the hanging filter at the height you want the water to stay at because th pump is less powerful than gravity.) The second hole we had to burn because we had to give the drill back. Its not the best option health/environment wise, but it certainly was easier than drilling the hole.
2) Once we got the holes in the containers, we attached the hanging filter basket with a wire coat hanger under the top container and over the middle one. The filter basket has:
- first a layer of polyester (or cotton)
- a layer of charcoal
- another layer of polyester
- a layer of pebbles
3) We connected the tube from the top container to the basket. I guess we didn't connect it so much as place the tube that is taking water from the top tub in the filter-basket. As far as the outtake tube is concerned, if you didn't manage to get it perfect, we sealed it with epoxy steel putty.

4) Then we worked on the contents of the top container:
- three inches of pebbles
- three inches of coconut substrate
- one inches of rocks (to keep the substrate down)
The nice thing about this way of doing it is that the filter basket supplies what you would be getting if you also added a level of cotton on the bottom followed by a layer of charcoal. The plants that are in this container right now are plants we collected from a bog. Among them are: cattails, water lettuce, and some kind of reed. We also have some spider plant clippings in there just to see how they do.
5) The second container just has 3" of pebbles for exclusively submersible, aquatic plants. The output from this is much lower but doesn't have the same unequal time effects as the first tub so it holds water higher than its output. For this hole we also used the epoxy steel putty. We just let this tube lay into the bottom tub. So far all we have is some bamboo growing in there.
6) The final step was to put the pump in and snake a pipe up the steel frame into the the top tub.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Two Terrarium Projects and lighting

Terrarium #2:

Yesterday we built an opened terrarium out of an old refrigerator drawer. In this terrarium we put one inch of gravel in the bottom (split layer: on the bottom 1/2 inch of small gravel and on top 1/2 inch of large gravel). Then there is 2 inches of coconut substrate, 4 inches of composted topsoil, then a layer of moss. In the terrarium we planted:
1) rubber plant
2) 2 tulip bulbs
3) Gerber daisy
Finally, we watered it and misted the plants but it is better to water the plants before the moss layer.

A note on the moss layer:
The moss takes the best if you water the bottom of the moss and the topsoil thoroughly before placing the moss on the topsoil.

Terrarium #3:

Today we bought two metal hanging planters to make an open terrarium, maybe it will be converted to a closed terrarium soon. The bottom layer is rocks, about one inch thick, then an inch of coconut substrate. In this design we added a sprinkled layer of charcoal and 3 inches of soil. We put water into this one before the moss as we have learned we should always do. In the terrarium we planted:
1) 2 spider plant cuttings
2) peace Lilly
3) Mum flower plant
4) 4 tulip bubs
Once we hung it up we attached a 14 watt fluorescent bulb (equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent bub) that hangs about 8" above the plants.

Project 2: lights

The easiest and cheapest way to get lamp cords is by taking them out of trashed lamps, but we didn't have enough time for this so we bought an AC lamp cord and a light bulb connector and assembled them. To connect the two you:
1) put the bottom fitting on the cord with the cardboard
2) tie a underwriter's knot with the cord (make it small enough to fit in the casing)
3) connect the ribbed cord (the neutral cord) to the silver screw
4) connect the smooth cord to the bass screw
5) fit the top to the cap

Just having the bulb attached to a cord makes for versatile lighting solutions and allows many options for the terrarium container.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Air Filtration Terrarium: Model 1

Last week I bought many of the plants that are able to not just produce oxygen but break down toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene which are commonly found indoors especially in urban environments and emit purified air. Many of the plants I used in the air-filtration terrarium model 1 also have high transpiration rates and therefore have the ability to keep a healthy level of humidity in the personal breathing zone they serve.
Terrarium #1:
Terrarium Model 1 is a completely enclosed bio-sphere. It is made in a green-tinted clear plastic Rubbermaid tub.
1) The first layer is 1" of 1/2 to 1" rocks (rough/not-smoothed, raw/not-coated or painted)
2) The second layer is 1" of smaller pebbles
3) The third layer is 2" coconut fiber substrate
4) The fourth layer is 3" composted soil
5) The fifth layer is collected sheets of moss planted around the air-filtration plants
6) The plants used in this model are:
- Spider plant
- Heart-Shaped Philodendron
- Tulips
- Croton

High transpiration rates are achieved with the use of a 14 watt florescent bulb that hangs 8 inches over the container 12 hours a day. After the initial watering and misting of the plant leaves, the terrarium is kept completely enclosed. When the plants transpire the moisture collects on the sides and lid of the container, condenses, and falls back onto the plant roots and moss layer. One week after the initial setup a fan (80 mm PC fan that can be salvaged from computer bases) is installed on one side of the terrarium and an air output valve is installed on the other side (made from 1 foot long pieces (2x) of PVC pipe (3/8" piece with holes drilled into it and capped on one end and a 1.5" piece to fit over the piece with the holes). This way, the amount of clean air outflow can be controlled by the inhabitant of the personal breathing zone the terrarium serves. The fan used in this model has 3 speeds and is powered by a 12 volt battery (re-chargeable is preferred). The maximum speed is 2600 RPM with 34 CFM outflow at that speed. When the breathing space is known to be highly toxic, the fan can be put on high and the air output pipe can be opened fully. After the fresh air has been emitted, the system must be enclosed again with a sheet of plastic over the fan opening and by covering the holes in the air output pipe to keep the system working. This model should be effective in removing toxins, especially formaldehyde and benzene, with little maintenance except occasional misting with a spray bottle if it dries out from using the filtered air.

After 1 week we added this fan as well as the PVC pipe, images below: