Evidence-based research has long shown that exposure to natural environments impacts human health and well-being in a positive way – both physically and psychologically. Biophilic design takes our natural attraction to the outdoors and applies it to building practices. It’s an innovative way of designing the buildings where we live, work and learn.
Using natural elements in construction can lead to lower blood pressure and reduced levels of cortisol (stress hormone.) Increasingly, those same benefits are being attributed to wood visible in the built environment, such as in exposed mass timber structural systems and finishes.
Designing for Health in Mind
Portland, Oregon based architecture firm, Ankrom Moisan believes in this design practice. Their own office was designed and built on the principles of creating an environment that promotes health by incorporating natural elements like exposed wood beams and stone materials. The company says the use of materials found in nature reflects the firm’s sustainable values while promoting its creative culture.
“The natural wood elements in the exposed structure and interior design not only provide warmth, texture and visual appeal, but the space fosters collaboration and enables us to thrive as a firm and as a community,” said Murray Jenkins, executive vice president at Ankrom Moisan. He continued by saying “we wanted our founding office to inspire, support and nurture the creativity of occupants working and living in the new building,”
Evidence-based design practices such as this have also been used in such facilities as schools, healthcare facilities, and retail establishments.
A recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors. With such an alarmingly high percentage of time spent inside, it’s essential that indoor environments foster positive emotional and physical wellbeing.
Healthy Wood Buildings
Green-building efforts further promote occupant health as well as environmental sustainability. The positive environmental and human health impacts make it an economical and advantageous building material selection. Research continues to support the idea that the visual presence of wood indoors can significantly reduce stress levels among building occupants.
Stress can have devastating consequences to the body – blood pressure and heart rate, weakens the immune system and causes irritability and a lack of focus are just a few. Suffering from any of these conditions can lead to a decline in health and work performance.
Evidence-based research continues to support wood’s health benefits like:
•Lower stress levels
• Improved attention and focus
• Greater creativity
• Quicker recovery
• Reduced pain perception
Through biophilic design, wood continues to lend itself to healing, longevity, and wellbeing. Its use in such a wide variety of environments shows us that the desire to bring the outdoors inside is good for the mind, body, and soul.
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