Plants in the AB, But at What Cost?

By Jet de Vries

– On the morning of April 15, the students that walked into the Academic Building (AB) were pleasantly surprised by something new. Plants were being arranged on the first, second and third floor, adding living, green decoration worth just under 13.000 euros to the modern building.

“I saw it and I was like: Plants! Good! Finally some life in the AB,” says Judi Kleine Brockhoff,  second-year Social Science major. But when students discover the cost of the plants, most are shocked: “10.000 euros? That’s excessive,” says Frederiek Tijssens, second-year Science major. Other students do not see why AUC would invest that much money in plants. “Aren’t there other things that you could better spend this money on?” says Lizzy Da Rocha Bazilio, third-year Social Science major.

The plants are part of the Healthy Building Initiative, which dedicated some of the money that AUC received for the Quality Agreement Funding (QAF) – 400.000 euros in total – to making the AB healthier. The QAF comes from the Quality Agreements which were made in April 2018 by the minister of education of the Netherlands and it plans to reinvest the basic grant, which Dutch students used to get for free and now is transformed into a loan, into improving educational quality in the coming years.

Paula García, member of the Student Council (SC) 18-19, says that of the 15.000 euros allocated to the Initiative, 1.500 euros was spent on the daylight therapy lamps and the rest was spent on plants. In early April, the plants in the small red pots on the third floor, the big pots in the Darwin area, some pots on wheels spread through the AB, and the living picture on the first floor were placed.

Five different plants in similar pots on the second floor of the AB

Anna De Graaf, third-year Science major and board member of Pangea, was also involved in the process and said that the rest of the plants were placed after the break. Among the last plants to arrive were the two big trees and some plants in larger pots on wheels in the canteen.

The green decoration was so expensive because the AUC building is under a contract of UvA who have specific partners of which the SC had to choose from. According to Juanita García Gutiérrez, member of the SC 18-19, the chosen company, Ambius, was their cheapest option.

AUC Managing Director Belinda Stratton outlined the total costs to be “just under 13k”–excluding the monthly cost of 116 euros for the plants’ maintenance, approximately 1.400 euros annually. “The living picture is the most ‘demanding’, the monthly maintenance cost for this on its own is 27 euros,” Stratton wrote in an email.

The living picture on the first floor

“You’d think it is simple, adding plants to the building. But it’s not,” said García Gutiérrez. Multiple actors were involved in the process of deciding on the location and the types of plants including AUC’s sustainability committee Pangea, Dean Murray Pratt, Stratton, and the AB’s housemaster. “The architect made a ton of stipulations for the building, what we can and cannot do,” said García Gutiérrez. “We also had to keep in mind the fire-exits.”

The overall opinion of the plants seems to be that they are a nice addition to the modern design of the AB:  “I love them and I want more,” says Evi Sifaki, third-year Social Science major, and Ksenia Avakyan, second-year Science major, says that it makes the AB less depressing. Others think that the addition of the trees might have been overdoing it. Bob van der Voort, second-year Social Science student, says, “After all these plants, the trees look a bit over the top and out of place.”


Photos by Carmen Koppert

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