Students design a special plant for healthier classrooms

The health of primary school children is seriously endangered in the long term. Classrooms in particular do not get their air quality in order, research has shown. Three students from Rotterdam have now come up with a sustainable answer. “We hope that the plants will be in the classrooms before the summer.”

The polluted air of the busy Rotterdam city center is the setting for Thomas Baks to put his green fingers on the wound. The deluge of plants he planted to allow him to breathe freely in his own home are witness to this. In addition, he designed a concept version of a plant through a school project that purifies indoor spaces from polluted air.

Young students design a special plant

This idea also caught on with his fellow students Nick van Buijtenen and Sander Bakx. And so the boys decided to continue designing it even after the Industrial Product Design course at the Hogeschool Rotterdam. They arranged for them to do their final internship at their own start-up and in a few months they promoted the concept version to a fully-fledged product. They also formed a company: OTree. The company’s motto from the very beginning has been to “innovate by bringing technology and nature together”.

Lessons in poorly sanitized classrooms

When studying the sales market, the three founders stumbled upon primary schools. Because not only the air quality in the entire Randstad area is very poor. Research by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) shows that between 70 and 80 percent of Dutch classrooms score below par in terms of air quality. In this case, this mainly means that the proportion of carbon dioxide (CO2) is too high.

The fascination and annoyance about the lack of effective solutions started from this research. Nick: „Children are taught in areas that are badly cleaned bar and bar. These installations are generally dramatic and effective renovations are extremely expensive. ”

OTree, Lilly, classrooms, air quality
The Lilly also indicates with lamps when it needs water. Photo: OTree

Plant Lilly

The plant pot that arose from the frustrations and the designs was given the name Lilly. What makes the pot unique, according to Nick, is that it is fully integrated into every room. “It looks like a normal plant, only it can survive the summer vacation.” This is because ‘Lilly’ is able to store water.

Furthermore, the plant pot works almost organically, explains Nick: “The planter sucks dirty particles from the air and feeds them to the bacteria in the soil. The feces of the bacteria that result from this, in turn, nourishes the roots of the plant. ” For the connoisseurs: this process is better known as a phytoremediation process and that makes Lilly up to 50 times more effective than a regular plant.

Consequences of poor air quality

The consequences of poor air quality are serious for children, especially in the long term. Research shows that a poor indoor environment in classrooms can lead to headaches, fatigue, aggravated allergies and easier transmission of infectious diseases. The latter in particular seems to be of vital importance in the current pandemic time. This development is a possible explanation for the relatively high number of corona infections in children attending school. Especially since the virus is generally much less contagious in children.

Just because the boys are now entering the market doesn’t mean they will stop improving the Lilly. “At the moment there are still a few pilots in schools and offices and we first want to wait for the reactions,” the boys explain. By this they mean the entire design process that has always been in consultation with teachers, students and school administrators. “We hope they will be in the classrooms before the summer so that we can give children a healthier time at school.”

‘Arie Slob really has to hurry up with the ventilation in schools’

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Students design a special plant that ensures healthier classrooms


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