Using wood as a construction material found to have positive effects on well-being

Using wood as a construction material is drawing increased interest due to its potential effects on human well-being. Problems with indoor air, mildew and noise in buildings have increased the pressure for finding solutions to these problems as early as the building design phase. Multidisciplinary research on the factors associated with well-being is being conducted in Finland.

According to the experts, construction is still based on technical and economic factors that do not factor in well-being. The researchers aim to show that using wood for interior design, for example, increases well-being, creativity, and efficiency, which then produces measurable economic value. The aim is to increase multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary research into factors of wood that affect peoples’ health and well-being. One of the researchers believes that scientific evidence could be used to create a superwood brand for Finnish wood.

Wood is a good choice for social services and healthcare

According to Oulu architect Merja Pesonen, the discussion around wood’s impact on peoples’ well-being has grown along with the growth of wood’s share in public construction. – Problems with indoor air and mildew in schools and day-care centres have made people consider construction from a different angle in many ways. Technical and economic factors previously defined how people approached construction, now softer values around peoples’ well-being are also part of construction criteria.

– More broadly, this trend has its roots in increased consumer awareness. And, consumers are no longer willing to settle for what industrial construction produces. Even if it is sometimes difficult to measure the factors that affect peoples’ well-being, they must be taken seriously.

Photographs: Raimo Ahonen
Dentopolis Oulu, Arkkitehtitoimisto Lukkaroinen

According to Pesonen, who works at Arkkitehtitoimisto Lukkaroinen Oy, positive effects of wood on well-being are known, but they have still not been internalised in hospital construction. – We have a few examples of sheltered housing where wood works great. Wood is underused in social services and health-care buildings as there is a perception that wood makes cleaning extremely difficult. New research on wood’s antibacterial properties may break these perceptions. If the choice of material can increase the comfort and well-being of residents in sheltered housing, it is a choice worth making.

– We need more reference sites to show how well wood works in social and health care facilities. Wood is already used in lobbies, the next step could be to use wood in the patient and reception rooms.

Pesonen says that when it comes to increasing the use of wood in social services and health-care buildings, the ball is in the politicians’ court. – We need more information and research to be able to show the connection of wood to well-being to place it alongside economic issues and efficiency-oriented solutions in construction. Factors affecting well-being should be taken into account more in construction as a criterion for public procurement.

This article is part of a series by Markku Laukkanen and Mikko Viljakainen. The series presents a variety of best practices and trends in the Finnish wood industry. The aim is to spread information about best practices and solutions in the Finnish wood industry to increase its competitiveness and make Finnish expertise more widely known. The articles will be published in Finnish and in English. They will be made freely available for use as source material and for publication as they are. The articles will be distributed as Puuinfo newsletters and will also be published on the puuinfo.fi and woodproducts.fi websites. The article series is funded by the Ministry of the Environment’s Wood Construction Operational Program.