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
An increasing number of health-care facilities are incorporating wood to provide patients and visitors with a warm, natural aesthetic, and a calm, stress-reducing connection to nature.
Research begins to show the biophilic benefits of wood, which suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature. Study results show students who spent time in rooms featuring natural wood exhibited lower stress reactivity. During all three periods of the study, stress, as measured by sympathetic nervous system activation, was measurably lower on average in the rooms featuring wood than in the non-wood office.
The bold, striking use of wood throughout the space — uncommon in such health-care settings— softens the hospital’s institutional feel and creates a calm, stress-reducing connection to nature, while standing up to weather, wear and tear, and rigorous maintenance. As the research on biophilic benefits of wood continues to grow, one of B.C.’s busiest hospitals leads the way in offering patients a comforting, supportive, and healing environment.
For architect and timber advocate Peter Busby, wood is one of nature’s greatest innovations
B.C. forest products are a predominant structural and finishing material for a wide range of transit infrastructure throughout the province, including airports, bus exchanges and SkyTrain stations. Learn more about the use of wood in transportation projects.
Learn about the latest wood design and construction trends within these four building applications while earning Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) recognized continuing learning units towards professional development.
With its wide-ranging use of different wood species, the Prince George Airport demonstrates how a high-traffic building can benefit from the resilience, versatility, durability, and thermal characteristics of wood. These were important considerations for this northern city, situated at the confluence of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers, which is prone to cold, harsh winters.
An effective insulator with a warm aesthetic, wood is particularly well suited to the demanding atmospheres of swimming pools — as well as ice rinks in arenas. Wood tolerates high levels of humidity, offers acoustic and thermal benefits, and absorbs and releases water vapour without compromising its structural integrity. Indoor pool design has evolved to include ample use of natural light and bold, innovative uses of B.C. wood from sustainably managed forests.
Interview with Darryl Condon, Managing Principal of HCMA Architecture + Design, who has embraced and often pioneered the use of wood and mass timber in community, civic, and recreational aquatic facilities throughout British Columbia and Canada. He shares why wood is often an integral material in the buildings they design, and how they’ve pushed the boundaries of what is possible with wood.
Located in John Hendry Park in east Vancouver, this ice rink was the first phase in the replacement of an aging community centre facility. The rink served as a practice facility for competitors who participated in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and opened for public use after the Games.