Wellness Benefits with Wood

UBC Forest Sciences Centre, Vancouver, B.C. | Photo: Don Erhardt
Research begins to show the biophilic benefits of wood

Built over twenty years ago, the Forest Sciences Centre at the University of British Columbia —with its soaring, timber-framed atrium and tree-like wood columns supporting a massive skylight—is the closest thing you’ll find to an indoor forest canopy. David Fell, former research leader at FPInnovations, sees this building designed by DGBK Architects as “the ultimate relaxed environment, where people come from all over the campus to study.”

The popularity of the almost entirely wood space, filled with natural light and finished with Douglas-fir and bigleaf maple veneer, inspired Fell to dig a little deeper. In 2010, he launched a study to investigate the health benefits of wood in the built indoor environment. In the last few decades, studies have shown that exposure to nature can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels, while cognitive performance, concentration skills, and even creativity are seen to improve. Nonetheless, Canadians spend as little as 6 percent of their time outdoors.

We compensate by bringing plants and greenery into our homes and workplaces. Research reveals that the presence of nature indoors can reduce the human perception of pain, as well as thermal discomfort. For Fell, this measurable influence of natural elements like indoor plants on human well-being suggests that exposed natural wood might also provide the same benefits.

“People don’t notice changes in temperature if there are plants in the room. If we can prove this for wood in interior applications, it could have profound implications for sustainability by reducing the carbon load of the operation of a building.”

-David Fell, former Research Leader, FPInnovations

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