The plant world is a system from which we have a lot to learn. Plants have a widespread organization, without 'command centers', capable of responding quickly to changes. They can only survive if they have a complete ecosystem and therefore their evolution is based on mutual support, symbiosis and community. Fabbrica dell’Aria (The Air Factory) is a space that offers this new knowledge, it is an example of how a non-hierarchical system based on cooperation can produce innovation, savings, real well-being and even beauty.
Project by Stefano Mancuso, scientist of international prestige, professor and director of the Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology in Florence, conceived with the collective of designers, architects and biologists of Pnat, a spin off of the University of Florence, the Fabbrica dell'Aria is a laboratory of scientific and technological innovation that purifies the indoor air. Configured as a modular greenhouse, it uses plants to purify and improve the quality of the air, favoring the sensory pleasure of the environment, as well as a significant saving of electricity, therefore also economic.
This virtuous – and beautiful – model is now also a ‘living forest’ within a workplace and project that has always been devoted to experimentation as Lombardini22, a reference group in the architecture and engineering scenario.
The Lombardini22 Air Factory has found a place in the new spaces where the business units of the group more directly linked to energy sustainability and atmospheric quality of the environment have moved: L22 Engineering & Sustainability, CAP DC, Atmos. After visiting the first prototype, just built at the time, at the Manifattura Tabacchi in Florence, the decision was immediate: Lombardini22 also had to have its own Air Factory.
“It is such a beautiful project that the desire to have one in our offices was an immediate reflection, also because it is a scalable and replicable model in other contexts: it was just a matter of figuring out where to build our ‘factory’” explain Elda Bianchi, partner of Lombardini22. “But good things never come alone, and the opportunity came with the expansion of our headquarters, a large space with an internal patio. The decision was instant: we will make it, and we will make it here!”
How the Air Factory works
The 35 m2 greenhouse is equipped with a botanical filtration system (Stomata, patented by Pnat) which amplifies the natural ability of plants to retain and degrade pollutants, transforming them into nutrients for plants. The air is not taken from outside the building but is a recirculation of indoor air: sucked and forced through the plant growth bed, made to flow in contact with the leaves and finally reintroduced purified into the environment itself. This also guarantees energy and economic savings compared to traditional management and maintenance costs, since the air is not heated or cooled but supplied, pure, at the comfort temperature.
Establish a kind of circular economy with the plant world
While roots and leaves work as filters that are always efficient, a system of sensors allows the improvement in the quality of incoming and outgoing air to be measured and returned in real time, the values of which are visible on a screen.
Botanical species and artificial lighting
The selection of plants favors those with a large leaf surface since the filtering capacity is proportional. Lombardini's Air Factory22 houses tall plants such as Ficus, Kentia, Strelitzia Nicolai; medium plants such as Chamadorea and Strelitzia Reginae; small plants such as Aspidistra and Filodendrum. In addition, the creepers Cissus rotundifolia and Tetrastigma voinieranum grow on a support network. Finally, artificial lighting plays a double role: a diffused indirect white light at the service of the architectural space and a light with variable wavelengths at the service of the physiology of the plants accompanies the flowering and vegetative phases with adequate chromatic frequencies.
Can be used in any type of context
The advanced technological air purification device is potentially implementable in any type of project development. With the Fabbrica dell’Aria, Lombardini22 wants to represent an unconventional way of understanding the air and the atmosphere not only in work spaces but also in residential projects as well as in the contract, hospitality and retail sectors. The new green space thus proves to be a place to live daily for the studio's collaborators, but also a site-specific showcase available to all players in the real estate sector with whom to build – concretely – a culture of sustainability based on real well-being.
Example – concrete – to be reproduced
“We hope to convince our customers to put in their offices, shopping malls, hotels and also – why not? – in some data center, an Air Factory that helps you live better” concludes Franco Guidi, CEO Lombardini22.
Concept and design: Pnat; partner tecnici: Artemide, Essedi, Ferrari Arredamenti, HW Style, Impianti Cogliati; partner 2021: Interface, Omnitex, Schüco, Sedus