– Of all materials, wood in particular has positive effects on people’s well-being. Wood has been proven to have a positive effect on, for example, the quality of indoor air, humidity balance, comfort and acoustics, says interior architect Heikki Lindroos.
The ‘RED with Wood’ research project at Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences is investigating factors that influence a healthy environment, and studying new applications for wood in well-being construction. According to project leader, Heikki Lindroos, the built environment’s major influences on people go unnoticed regrettably often.
– All interior choices, such as materials, lighting, colours and shapes affect people without their knowing. In all its elements, a restorative or harmonising environment aims to promote people’s physical and mental well-being and to respect nature, says Lindroos.
Wood reduces stress and promotes convalescence
The scent of a freshly felled pine log stirs the hearts of even urban Finns just as the birch leaves that explode in the spring. The utilisation of the properties of wood in an office environment or hospital architecture has been proven to reduce stress and promote convalescence.
– Wood is also an ecological material in accordance with sustainable development, which creates a multi-sensory quality in a room. Wood has positive effects on indoor air and indoor humidity balance, because its chemical compounds are good for indoor air. Wood as a growing element acts as a purifier of indoor air, says Lindroos.
The wrong choices can have negative effects and impair health. – The right kind of environment can support both physical and mental well-being. Harmonising design takes into account noise, lighting and the feel of the material, says Lindroos.
Noise that cannot be controlled is a great stress factor, be it in an academic environment, in shopping centres or in care institutions. Noise control, on the other hand, improves people’s essential social interaction. Wood as a surface material is warm and works well in relation to both light and sound.
– The physical feel of the material is also a significant part of the experience of a room or object, which can have properties that spark positive memories. In the same way, scents and smells are among our strongest memory traces, says Lindroos.
The support of architecture for health and well-being
Lindroos emphasises that, in the planning of the built environment, architecture should also support health and well-being both mentally and physically. – The significance of the beneficial properties of wood in interiors means harmonising design in many different forms. Wood’s acoustic properties have already been utilised for a long time, for example in the design of opera houses. This works quite well, even on a very small scale.
According to Lindroos, a well-designed indoor and outdoor environment supports people’s health and well-being. – It creates a feeling of having things under control and also a feeling of safety. All this can be influenced through harmonising restorative design. By way of example, Lindroos mentions Alvar Aalto, who as early as the 1930s was combining technology and art in social perspectives using the theory of architectural synthesis.
– We must continue to train architects and designers who understand ‘milieu’. Present and future students need restorative knowledge in their work assignments, whether they are designing a stool or a hospital environment, explains Lindroos.
Wood architecture makes things more pleasant
Docent Marjut Wallenius has researched residential areas and how pleasant they are from a perspective of architecture. – In my opinion, from the point of view of a residential environment it is important to build other types of soft aesthetically living buildings and milieus in addition to concrete construction. Wood as a material is important not only to interiors but also in outdoor environments because, from an environmental-psychological perspective, it is seen as something that makes things more pleasant, says Wallenius.
Markku Sievänen, the architect who designed the Onni Well-being Centre for Senior Citizens in Pukkila, emphasises the homeliness of centre, which has been achieved by using wood and warmer colours. – Because Onni is also a home for people, through the choices of lighting, colours and materials the feeling of being a home has been increased and the feeling of an institution reduced. Basically we want to use as much wood as possible, because wood creates a homely feeling and gives pleasure to the residents of homes for the elderly, says Sievänen.
Wallenius thinks that wood should be combined with other materials both indoors and out. – The use of wood, for example in health care, provides the best value in interior use. When wood is studied as part of architecture, more research is needed into what makes wood popular.
Resident satisfaction surveys have found that wood is considered natural and is popular as a material in housing for interior and external use, both in small-scale detached houses and in wooden apartment blocks.
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Additional information: Heikki Lindroos, +358 (0)44 702 8915,email@example.com
Marjut Wallenius, +358 50 327 9968, firstname.lastname@example.org
Markku Sievänen, architect, +358 (0)50 596 2048, email@example.com
A multidisciplinary group from Aalto University, the universities of Tampere and Helsinki, VTT and the National Institute for Health and Welfare has been involved in the planning of Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences’ RED with Wood project.