The objectives of sustainable design are broader than just environmental effects, having come to embrace issues of human health and performance. The use of wood products can also improve indoor air quality by moderating humidity. Wood is a natural humidity regulator: its moisture content always matches the ambient air, providing natural humidity stabilization and regulation.
Wood itself is considered to be hypoallergenic; its smooth surfaces are easy to clean and prevent the buildup of particles that are common in soft finishes like carpet. Solid wood products, particularly flooring, are often specified in environments where the occupants are known to have allergies to dust or other particulates. And the vast majority of North American wood product manufacturers produce low-VOC-emitting materials, which are used around the world.
A positive human response to wood is increasingly being proven by research and occupant experience. A study by the University of British Columbia and FPInnovations established a link between wood and wellness. The joint research project found that the visual presence of wood in a room lowers sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation in occupants. The SNS is responsible for physiological stress responses in humans.
An increasing number of healthcare facilities are making use of natural daylight, views of nature and exposed wood to create a warm, natural aesthetic that supports their healing objectives. These same techniques are also being used in schools and offices to improve performance, productivity and occupant well-being.