Author: Chris Philpot
Exposure to wooden furniture and fittings has real and measurable health and wellbeing benefits.
These benefits are outlined in a new report launched by Planet Ark's Make it Wood campaign in the lead up to World Wood Day.
The report titled Wood - Housing, Health, Humanity examines the growing body of research showing the range of health and wellbeing benefits of living, working and learning in environments rich in wooden furnishing and fixtures.
Some of the findings include:
Residents in aged care facilities interact more with each other when surrounded by wood,
Students in classrooms that feature more wood have lower heart rates and stress responses than students in classrooms featuring plastic and metal and
Two out of three workers prefer offices with wooden chairs, desks and blinds over the same office with those items made from plastic.
The studies examining the effects of wooden rooms and furnishings clearly demonstrate that the presence of wood has positive physiological and psychological benefits that mimic the effect of spending time outside in nature. The feelings of natural warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rates, reducing stress and anxiety and increasing positive social interactions. Wood products within a room have also been shown to improve indoor air quality by moderating humidity.
When asked 96% of Australians said they thought wood was ‘visually appealing' and had a ‘warm look and feel', however, less than one in every two people realised wood also has health and wellbeing benefits.
From a professional perspective, however, the body of knowledge about these benefits is growing rapidly to the point that a number of architects and designers are specifically designing schools and health care facilities with significant amounts of exposed wood. The award winning Dandenong Mental Health Centre is a case in point. The facilities designers specifically chose wood, both new and recycled, to provide warmth, texture, patterning, tactility and a non-institutional feel to the facility.