Humans have an innate affinity with the natural world. Now that we are spending more of our time at home due to COVID-19, the environment that we surround ourselves with is more important than ever. In recent years research has shown that design features within the built environment that reconnect people with nature (Biophilic design) can have a positive effect on wellbeing. Biophilic design can reduce stress and improve your emotional state. The bottom line is that nature makes us feel good – and we can all use a little of that right now.
The Australian not-for-profit organization for environmental change Planet Ark, has released a comprehensive report examining the benefits of biophilic design.
Wood for Wellness
With the change in how we interact with nature in our modern world the importance of bringing the outside in is more important than ever. Windows with views of nature or indoor plants are great options for biophilic design, but we don’t all have access to views or living greenery. Planet Ark’s extensive research now sheds light on the positive benefits and outcomes of using wood in design. In many situations, the presence of wood becomes essential to support biophilic design theory.
According to Planet Ark, wood plays a vital role in supporting the principles behind biophilia, as well as having added environmental benefits. Planet Ark highlight four physiological, psychological and environmental benefits behind nature-centric design and the use of timber:
- improvements to a person’s emotional state and level of self-expression
- reduced blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels
- improved air quality through humidity moderation
- its use as a long-term store of carbon, helping to fight climate change
Designing with Timber for Positive Change
By incorporating timber into design, lives have the opportunity to be positively impacted. In a time where poor health outcomes like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart rates are on the rise, wood may not heal, but it most certainly offers hope.
It’s no surprise that some of Australia’s leading architectural firms are using timber across their projects more and more. Partner Paul Reidy from Fitzpatrick + Partners in Sydney shares his thoughts on using timber across the firms’ work. “Wellness is becoming a very big thing and certainly a big focus in our commercial work. What can the building do to help those inside it as well as the planet? I think that overlay brings timber to the fore and the sustainability overlay brings timber to the fore as well,” explains Reidy. “We almost ask ourselves the questions, ‘do we have to use another material?’. [Timber] brings a lot of calmness with it,” says Reidy.
Planet Ark encourage the use of certified timber across Australian building and design. While timber is a popular choice as a building material for biophilic design, not all timber is created equal. Planet Ark urges consumers to use a wood that comes from a certified forest that has been managed with environmental, social and economic consideration. With two major global certification bodies recognized in Australia, all Tasmanian Timber suppliers tick this box, only sourcing timber from forests that are sustainably managed, independently audited and certified to this internationally acclaimed standard.
Forestry expert Andrew Morgan, Director of SFM Environmental Solutions, a national forest management company explains Tasmania’s certification practices are held in very high regard.
“The main certification scheme held in Tasmania is Responsible Wood, and Tasmanian Timber has Chain of Custody certification. Tasmania has a very high level of rigour and a world-class forest practices system that is held with very high regard internationally,” explains Morgan. “When purchasing Tasmanian Timber, consumers can be confident that they’re getting a piece of timber from a forest that is certified sustainable – and its local,” says Morgan
Healthy for Us and Healthy for the Planet
Using timber is not only healthy for us, it’s healthy for the planet. Building with timber is a natural carbon store – up to 50% of its dry weight is carbon. Timber and timber products that have been responsibly sourced, store the carbon that growing trees have removed from the air. This renewable resource is a great low carbon building material and can help in the fight against climate change.
For Planet Ark’s full update on Nature Inspired Design, click here. Established in 1992, Planet Ark has worked to help people, governments and businesses reduce their impact on the environment through a range of methods.