For over 50 years research has demonstrated that plants deliver benefits for urban citizens by reducing air pollution and supporting well-being. As cities in Australia increase their density it is important to understand how plants can benefit people in denser spaces, such as apartments. A range of research shows the benefits of plants in indoor and outdoor settings for remediating air pollution, improving mental health and concentration. In this project, our aim was to draw on this literature and systematically review and synthesise this knowledge to derive a scale of plant benefits. The intention is a scale optimised for easy integration into a smart device application (app) that interactively asks users to rate and improve their spaces using plants and by doing so encourages them to understand the benefits that plants bring.
To increase the reliability of the outcome the project applied a limited Delphi expert panel focus group process. The expert group met and iteratively contributed to the rating. The outputs of the research include a literature review with a summary document, recordings of the discussions amongst the expert panel, and scales of plant benefits that can be integrated into the app. During the process, to gain consensus among the expert panel members we have subscribed to the Best Available Scientific Evidence (BASEline) approach. As much as possible we used high quality science to determine the relevant relationships but, where information was not adequate to contribute to the index, the research team estimated the most likely relationships. In the spirit of the Delphi method, which was developed to provide answers in the face of inadequate information or time, we have aimed to provide best available input into the app while acknowledging the gaps in the research. We anticipate that the identification of these gaps will guide future research that will contribute to the broader understandings initiated in this project.