Unusually Clever People

Pioneering LEED greenies champion houseplants


If you’re one of those who fear the hardships of having to tend houseplants or consider them only necessary for those of us who can’t garden outside, you’ll be impressed by the non-botanist builders of the oldest LEED-platinum-certified building in the world (located in Buffalo), who not only don’t mind tending 1,000 indoor plants but also insist that they are necessary both for making nature a daily experience in all seasons and for their air purification qualities.

The building is the Ecology & Environment headquarters, built twenty years ago before LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards existed, and a model for sustainable practice well before they received the platinum status. I have to admit I was aware of E&E—I knew writers who did work for them—but hadn’t paid too much attention until I saw the pictures of the interior we’re using in the Green issue of the magazine I edit. “Geez,” I’m thinking, “Is this place an office or a terrarium?” In an article in the Buffalo paper today, the writer vaguely comments that if and when there is an infestation, “E&E brings in other bugs or natural predators to take care of the problem.” Wow. Sounds like a cool place to work. You can sit with the plants and watch the bugs fight.


E&E recently expanded the atrium where they keep many of the plants and were careful to choose those plants that would accept indoor conditions readily. Which means they’re the same old boring ivies (especially epipremnum aureum), pothos, and—yikes—spider plants (chlorophytum comosum) that you see in most offices. And sansevieria trifasciata as well, I see. But as boring as the individual cultivars might be, they look great mixed up, and especially in bulk. Though 1,000 still seems like a lot to take care of. So I feel vindicated. Think I’ll go out and buy some more pothos.

Photos by kc kratt.

Posted by on February 20, 2008 at 5:00 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
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7 responses to “Pioneering LEED greenies champion houseplants”

  1. susan harris says:

    You are SO vindicated. Now could you please do something about my miserable collection of houseplants? Be my indoor garden coach?

  2. Michele Owens says:

    It’s all so…seventies.

    I think it might depress me more than help me fight the horror of working in an office building.

  3. Michele Owens says:

    I mean, with all that great light and climate control and staffing, why aren’t they growing tomatoes?

  4. eliz says:

    You may be spoiled Michele. I work in a big office building and I appreciate the return to big areas for plants. Believe me, it’s better than not having them.

    This indication of a multifaceted approach to air quality (which is what we’re talking about here as much as aesthetics) is much better than living with the bad ventilation and SBS of the 80s-90s.

    I did forget to mention that they also don’t cut thi grass around the building and have 150 species of plants outside and have spotted the same number of different birds.

  5. eliz says:

    Susan, as I know to my cost as Ron’s (unpaid except for free drinks) garden coach, it generally requires personal visits.

    Send me some digitals if you’re serious.

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Even those old fashioned 70’s plants can be found with varigations that give them a little bit of a different look. I think that the sansaverias (Mother’s in Law tongues) look amazing when they are allowed to grow 5′ tall and taller. The benefits way out shine the aspect of them being boring. Geez and if you would like a little color those cortons grow in my dry light deficient house. So there are choices.

  7. eliz says:

    Well I actually like a lot of these plants, especially the sensaviera. I also still like some disco, 70s-era Masterpiece Theatre productions, Lois Gibbs, 70s-era Springsteen, Zeppelin, and Bowie and almost ALL 70s punk. Our class song was Freebird and I actually still like that. Though I would have preferred Smoke on the Water.

    It may not be surprising that green offices remind of the 70s, as that was a big era for the growth of environmentalism too.