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Launching the Indoor Forest Project: a green, permanent installation for cleaner studio air at Northcity4

12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 … finally, Go!


A year ago, Northcity4’s initiative Indoor Forest, a vision to build a permanent, green, air-purifying installation of vessels, plants and watering systems in our work space, won a grant of $10,000 in the Bank of Melbourne Local Project Competition. After some careful planning and research during the past twelve months, Northcity4 and project leader and studio artist Inari Kiuru, are excited to officially launch the project.

The practical phase of the program began this week by the first of two air quality analyses at the NC4 studios, conducted by our generous supporter Bell Laboratories. Two meters detecting possible fumes and pollutants were set up at the studio for the day, while Bell Labs Director Wayne Anderson also took airborne particle measurements beside our jewellers benches while they sawed, sanded and worked with fire.

Did you know that indoor air pollution is 2-10 times higher than the outdoors or that indoor plants reduce symptoms such as headaches, sore eyes, loss of concentration and feelings of depression? Indoor air is high in CO2 with harmful pollutants emitted from indoor plastic or synthetic furniture, furnishings and equipment like computers, copiers and solvents.

source: Professor Margaret Burchett and Dr Fraser Torpy, University of Sydney

In order to give the laboratory some initial clues on what chemicals to look for, we had supplied them with all the MSDSs (material safety data sheets) of our main working chemicals such as fluxes, solders and polishing compounds. Interestingly, the analysis will also detect possible emissions from the building materials and furnishings, as well as investigate the effect of the traffic-dense street outside on our indoor air.

We’re looking forward with interest to receiving the results in a couple of weeks. Later next year, to find out the exact effect a large number of indoor plants will have in improving our air quality, a second, comparative measurement under similar conditions (weather, number of artists working and the work flow of the day) will be undertaken after the installation is complete.


Indoor Forest jewellery sustainability

Bell Labs Director Wayne Anderson sets up sodium hydroxide vials into the measuring equipment

Indoor Forest jewellery sustainability

Emma sawpiercing a plastic knitting needle. The operation was surprisingly dusty, and a heavier mask to keep particles safely out was recommended by Wayne

Nicky melts 9k gold in a crucible for pouring an ingot; particle meter gets a little warm …

Nicky melts 9k gold in a crucible for pouring an ingot; particle meter gets a little warm …

Cass concentrates on polishing rings

Cass concentrates on polishing rings

Nicky fuses delicate 18ct gold parts while Wayne reveals his family's love for jewellery

Nicky fuses delicate 18ct gold parts while Wayne reveals his family’s love for jewellery

What is the Indoor Forest and what will it look like?

The central idea of the Indoor Forest project is to create a functional, green, permanent installation inside our workspace, to naturally assist in cleaning the studio air in a measurable way, alongside the NC4 conventional extraction fans. We envision the installation fitting well into the existing Northcity4 interiorsupporting the navigation and flow of the space by allowing ease and freedom of movement between the areas of the studio, and work/teaching activities within the school. The installation will also enhance functionality by replacing separating walls/divisions with suitable greenery. The ground, walls, and ceiling beams are all possible alternative locations for the plants.  Sustainable / recycled / ethical materials, methods and sources for the plants and for the construction of vessels and other attachment systems will be used where possible.
The second principal goal of the program is to collate the research findings and practical experiences into a free, public resource on the NC4 website. We want to provide specific data to assist jewellers using similar processes and chemicals to us, as well as more general guidelines for everyone on getting started with indoor plants. As far as we know, The Indoor Forest project is unique in Australia – we’re not aware of any other non-profit organisations experimenting with indoor plants for air cleansing and sharing their experiences with the community. (If you’re out there, please get in touch and let’s chat!). Northcity4 would like to become an active leader in the field, educating and inspiring others while deepening NC4’s creative approach and sustainable understanding. We want to create new and interesting opportunities for the NC4 artists as well as interested public, and to foster fresh exchange and contacts between Northcity4 and organisations/individuals who share our ethics and can contribute to the growth of NC4. 
Trees on wheels - an early vision for an "indoor forest" at Northcity4

Trees on wheels – an early vision for an “indoor forest” at Northcity4

Some background and early steps

The idea for an indoor garden at Northcity4 sparked when Inari came across the NASA Clean Air Project based on Dr Bill Wolverton’s findings that some of the most common indoor plants can significantly improve air quality by removing frequently present airborne toxins, such as benzene and formaldehyde, by their root systems. 
As the vision for an air-cleansing installation began to take shape, in 2013/14, five of the species on the top air-cleansing plant list were planted as samples at NC4, to see how they’d succeed in our indoor environment long-term: Golden Pothos, Weeping Fig, Spider Plant, Peace Lily and Snake Plant aka Mother-in-law’s tongue (see image below). In addition, English Ivy is currently being grown from seedlings. The results are very positive as we have ample natural light and artists present all year round for consistency of care. The maintenance has been relatively easy, with moderate watering and regular fertilising. This means a larger installation consisting of similar species in our environment will most likely have longevity, and be affordable and simple to maintain for years. 
Pioneers on the field of experimental gardening inspire us to research and imagine solutions which are highly functional and have therapeutic value, as well as contemporary aesthetics. Some interesting examples include Patrick Blanc, whose Vertical Gardens started a global wave of interest in innovative greenery for urban interior spaces, Takenaka Garden Afforestation initiativeKamal Meattle  and the University of Sydney Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Research Group. Institutions and individuals who have conducted groundbreaking research regarding houseplants and health. 
Who would've believed a Mother-in-law's tongue can improve the atmosphere at home?

Who would’ve believed a Mother-in-law’s tongue can improve the atmosphere at home?

What happens next?

Early next year, once we have the data from the first air quality report, Inari will begin further research into how many plants are needed for the volume of the building to improve air quality, followed by designing and building an infrastructure for a large, living “forest”. The final construction and planting of the Indoor Forest will happen in July to September 2016. Stay tuned for news and images of these next steps via our newsletters, as well as the Indoor Forest blog to be launched in February 2016. There you’ll find regular updates, more background information and links to current research in the field. You can also follow us in Instagram @The_Indoor_Forest_Project.
For questions and comments, please don’t hesitate to contact InariStay in touch!


Green regards,
Inari & Northcity4 team

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