Plants in interiors: a growing interest

28. November 2022

Plants in interiors are currently in vogue. What’s behind this trend? What are the added benefits of indoor greenery? Can any interior go green? We asked Moritz Kuederli, the CEO of Hydroplant, these questions and more. 

Moritz Kuederli is the CEO of Hydroplant, a company which, as its name suggests, has its roots in hydroponics. Soilless cultivation got a big boost in the 1970s thanks to the Swiss hydroponics pioneer Gerhard Baumann and it has been impossible to imagine the plant world without it ever since. 

Kuederli’s father, who founded Hydroplant in 1972, wanted to establish the use of hydroponic systems in offices. In addition to the plants themselves, he also sold a subscription-based plant maintenance service. In 2004, the then 30-year-old Moritz took the reins of the company and gradually expanded its range of services, most recently adding the vertical greening business. Today 50 employees help ensure that Hydroplant continues to flourish. 

We sat down with plant expert Moritz Kuederli to find out why social media feeds, trade magazines and interiors are suddenly overflowing with plants – and what green façades are all about.

Mr Kuederli, how many indoor and outdoor spaces has your company greened in the past 50 years?

Moritz Kuederli (MK): Up to now we’ve done roughly 10,000 offices and about 600 façades and walls. Vertical greening is one of our more recent business areas. 

We have the impression indoor greenery has become much more popular recently. What’s your take on this?

MK: I have the same impression, yes. Indoor greenery was very popular in the seventies, but interest waned a bit after that. I believe one of the reasons indoor greenery has been making such a strong comeback is our increased awareness of health and wellness. The pandemic also changed the way we think about indoor spaces: all of a sudden everybody had to stay at home, so we began to focus more on the design of our own four walls. 

And what is usually your customers’ top priority of when they acquire plants for indoor spaces? 

MK: Whereas aesthetics used to be the top priority, today our customers care more about creating an inviting atmosphere and making their offices attractive to potential employees, distinguishing them from the competition. I’ve also noticed that people’s awareness of the actual function of plants – e.g. to absorb contaminants – has also grown. Our customers want to concrete benefits from the plants.

Presumably your company doesn’t only green offices, right? 

MK: We do offices quite frequently, but not exclusively. We have also done projects in restaurants, hotels and hospitals, as well as one research centre and in numerous old people’s homes.

In short: What added benefits does indoor greenery have?

MK: As I already mentioned, plants reduce contaminants and give off oxygen. They also have a positive effect on room acoustics and increase humidity. Having a sufficient amount of humidity indoors also reduces heating costs. 
What types of indoor greenery systems are there aside from troughs and pots? 

MK: Living walls, for one, and hanging gardens. Plant wall art is like a small-scale living wall. We also carry convertible plant shelves, create indoor gardens and design our own receptacles. Last year we introduced the HP green curtain®. We always work with product designers on our developments and have won various prizes, such as the «Red Dot Design Award» for our plant wall art Verticalis.

Can indoor greenery work in any room?

MK: Every plant needs light; some need more than others. The important thing is to study the situation at the outset and the specific needs. For example, not all types of glass let enough UV light filter through. Some rooms have very little natural light. In that case, a special grow light can be helpful. However, it does mean an added cost: both for the installation and the electricity. Aside from light, air quality and climate are also very important: too much of a draught or fluctuating room temperatures is not great for a plant. 

But if you choose the right kind of plant you can counteract such circumstances to a certain extent, right?

MK: Of course. Plants can also be stabilised. For instance, in moss walls the plants are preserved with glycerine, among other things. And if a site is entirely unsuited to plant life, there is always the option of artificial plants.

Let’s go outdoors, where there is also a growing interest in plants.

MK: The issue of greening exterior spaces gets a lot of attention in the media, also in connection with the impact of climate change. I think the growing interest has to do in part with that. People are hearing and reading about the positive effects it has. 

Can you tell us more about the benefits of green façades? 

MK: There are several! Green façades provide natural protection from UV radiation, cooling the rooms inside, which is a big plus in locations with a lot of exposure. Green façades absorb sound and CO2, increase biodiversity and positively interact with the architecture. 

So the function is what’s most important when you green a façade?

MK: Many of our project partners are still interested in the aesthetic aspect, but I am definitely noticing more and more awareness of the added benefits I just mentioned. Some cities are creating specific departments to handle this issue and make an effort to broadly implement it in urban centres. But vertical greening systems for façades are still very expensive. Because it’s not “just” plants, as many people think: you need a structure and an irrigation system, which is costly.

Could you tell us a bit about a specific project before we finish?

MK: We created a living wall for the façade of The Circle Convention Centre at Zurich Airport. The first phase was completed two years ago: the evergreen wall is one of the largest vertical greening projects in Switzerland, with roughly 15,000 plants spread over 430 square metres. The second project phase will be completed in 2023, during which another 230 square metres will be greened. We are really looking forward to seeing the final result!


Thank you for the fascinating talk, Mr Kuederli!

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