While the benefits of getting out in nature are clear, sadly, getting your daily dose of fresh air and sunshine is not always possible. Today, modern life demands that much of our work, rest and play happens indoors. And with urbanisation on the rise and technology use skyrocketing, the average Australian is now spending 90% or more of their day inside.
In response to this, we’ve found different ways to bring nature indoors. This can be seen in our choice of natural materials for furniture and furnishings, and the addition of indoor plants to our homes and offices. Recently, there has been a lot of interest in ‘biophilic design’ which goes a step further, incorporating natural materials such as wood into the building design and structure – and this has the potential to greatly increase our health and wellbeing.
As developers of mass timber homes and cabins, we’ve seen and experienced firsthand the positive impacts of building with timber. So in this article we’re sharing some of the key health and wellbeing benefits of living in a timber home.
Lower your blood pressure and stress levels
With the increased pressures of modern life, stress levels have reached diabolical levels, and this is having a flow-on effect on our health. With a recent National Health Survey showing that an estimated 2.4 million Australians reported high or very high levels of psychological distress it is clear that we must find ways to lower stress levels in our daily lives.
There is currently a growing body of research on the potential of timber buildings to reduce stress levels in occupants. This includes a review on ‘Wood and human stress in the built indoor environment’ where multiple studies were shown to have revealed autonomic stress responses were less in rooms that featured timber, compared to rooms with minimal or no wood. While the research is encouraging, most of us have felt the difference firsthand entering an indoor space filled with natural materials in comparison to a room that lacks them, and a report and surveys conducted by Planet Arc confirms this, with respondents reporting ‘feelings of warmth, comfort and relaxation’ when surrounded by timber.
Absorbs moisture for optimal humidity
Another important benefit of mass timber is its ability to absorb moisture from the air, then release it back into the room as the air dries out. Through this natural process, humidity levels in a mass timber home are maintained at the optimum level for comfort. Not only does this make the house feel more comfortable for the occupants, keeping humidity levels in the optimal range of 30–55% also improves the air quality.
In addition, the natural antibacterial substances found in many types of timber such as pine and oak, allow mass timber homes to limit mould and bacteria growth, even in areas with high rainfall and moist conditions. This ability to provide better air quality and a healthier environment for all, including asthma and allergy sufferers, is a key reason for the growing trend towards mass timber public buildings such as schools, hospitals and offices.
Helps you feel and perform at your best
Indoor structures that incorporate biophilic design principles provide occupants with an opportunity to connect with nature while inside. According to research conducted by Planet Arc, being surrounded by natural elements like plants and timber increases productivity at work, enhances learning at school and accelerates healing in healthcare environments.
If you have ever stepped inside a mass timber home or public space where wood is the focal point, there’s a good chance you have felt the instant sense of calm and wellbeing that being surrounded by natural materials provides. It’s not hard to imagine the positive impact it would have on employees, students and healthcare patients if we were to move away from plastic, steel and concrete, towards the natural beauty of timber.
Bring nature inside with timber
While no comparison to the real thing, building with natural materials is a step in the right direction to rekindling our connection to nature. With so much of our time spent indoors, it’s clear that this could have a real and meaningful impact on the health and wellbeing of us all.