Wood & Wellness

Sarah Hicks

Wood has been used as a building material for millennia. Still, it has only been relatively recently that the physical and psychological benefits of incorporating natural elements like wood into our buildings have been studied, quantified, and better understood.

Researchers are discovering that the materials we use to build the places where we live, work, learn, and play can contribute significantly to the well-being of building occupants.

We have all heard of sick building syndrome. We understand the devastating health effects of black mould in housing. We worry about volatile organic compounds, off-gassing from synthetic materials, and hidden carcinogens like asbestos in older buildings. Obviously, buildings that cause harm are unacceptable. But as we build for the future, now that we know more about what is possible, we need to do more than think about illness prevention. It is time to change our expectations for buildings and commit to buildings that enhance occupant health and lift the spirit.

Think for a moment about how you feel when you step into a forest or other natural setting. Tension starts to melt, it is a little easier to breathe, the things that matter come into clearer focus, and you feel more connected to the world around you.

We believe it is possible to recreate those feelings and positive health outcomes in a building. People are inherently drawn to nature and automatically relax when elements from the natural world surround them. The term ‘biophilia’ that we see so often these days literally means ‘the love of living things’ in ancient Greek. Biophilic design is an antidote to humanity’s growing disconnection from nature and the adverse human health impacts that have resulted from increasing urbanization.

By incorporating wood, other natural materials, and biophilic design into our buildings, we have the power to have a significant, positive impact on occupant health and well-being.

For additional insight into wood and wellness, we invite you to view a recorded presentation given by Tye Farrow, Senior Partner at Farrow Partners Architects and a prominent advocate for buildings that cause health. The free session is hosted online by the Canadian Wood Council on their Wood WORKS! eLearning site. Another great resource on this topic is from ThinkWood.

Sarah Hicks is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Element5 based in Toronto, Ontario. Previously, Sarah was a Spokesperson at the Canadian Wood Council. With more than 15 years in the industry, Sarah brings excellent insight into the growing role of mass timber in Canada.

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