As ‘sustainability’ as a buzzword lost some its novelty and has become business as usual for all responsible organisations, attention now focuses on topics such as indoor air quality, natural daylight, thermal comfort, acoustics, biophilia and the impact on our physical and psychological wellbeing of the materials we use on the inside of buildings.
Interest in health and wellbeing in buildings has really risen in recent years.
You’ll have heard the big statistic. We spend 90% of our time indoors. It comes from a US study conducted in 2001, funded by the US Environmental Protection Association, and that study has influenced a lot of public policy on pollution, health and productivity ever since.
One of the things it has led to is a greater understanding of the health benefits of living with wood, and the environmental benefits, comfort and aesthetic improvements you can achieve by choosing timber doors, windows, floors and staircases. Studies have shown joinery products can improve emotional state, reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress and improve sleep patterns. Timber interiors also add warmth and character to a home.
Wood delivers on innovative design, speed, cost and resource efficiency, and offers a path to a low carbon economy. By specifying the right timber species and products for the right uses, architects and building users can be assured that those timber products will last for a long time and will continue to make us feel better about our buildings.
Internal and external timber doors are great to look at, and to touch. They provide excellent acoustic and thermal properties. As with all interior joinery products, they contribute to indoor air quality through effective humidity regulation.
For dwellings that need fire doors, such as blocks of flats and other types of shared accommodation, or homes with a loft conversion or where there’s an internal door between a garage and the home, timber fire doors are the perfect solution. Third-party certificated doors and doorsets provide proven performance against fire and smoke, protecting lives and property.
Timber framed windows, combined with double or triple glazing, save energy, carbon dioxide emissions and money. They can be manufactured in a variety of styles so are ideal for all types of homes. The wood can be painted and treated so can be a statement element to a home. Treatment can be reapplied after 10 years, and in 7 year intervals after that, making them a long-lasting product.
“While PVC-u windows - originally hailed as ‘the future’ for durability and ease and a new, cheaper option - were installed in their thousands in the 70s, 80s and 90s, today we’re seeing new questions arising. A growing recognition among environmentally aware millennials that wood really is good,” says the Wood Window Alliance (WWA).
Read the WWA’s report on the life cycle analysis of timber windows here.
Read Chris Herring's blog on why timber windows are not as simple as they seem here.
Timber flooring can come in softwood such as pine, hardwood such as oak, and engineered boards. The latter is best for homes opting for underfloor heating.
As with all timber joinery products, timber flooring brings a wide range of health benefits. For allergy sufferers, hardwood flooring is often cited as the best solution. It doesn’t hold on to dust mites, mould or mildew. It’s also much easier to keep clean.
Timber flooring is another way to add character to a home. It is hardwearing and will last longer than carpet.
The stair is the centrepiece of any building, and tiny details can make the mundane magical in terms of the architectural styling of the stair surroundings.
Timber stairs are often chosen for their high-performance characteristics, extensive and varied range of finishes and the sheer natural beauty of timber as a material.
The BWF Stair Scheme has produced design and installation guides to assist architects and contractors in making the most of timber stairs. A staircase can and should be beautiful and safe.
On 21 November, the Wood Awards will celebrate how timber has been used and crafted to produce some striking designs. Take a look at the shortlist for examples of timber doors, windows, flooring, stairs and other joinery features that have been used.
If you’d like to know more about using timber in buildings, the ASBP is holding a conference on 14 February 2018. This annual event is an unmissable learning opportunity for construction clients, landlords, designers and anyone with an interest in how buildings impact on human health and wellbeing.
In January 2017, the BWF Interiors group was launched with an event that included presentations from Oliver Heath, sustainable architecture and interior design expert, and Ed Suttie, BRE research director for sustainable products. Both were keen to talk about materials health and biophilic design.
Sources: US Environmental Protection Association; British Woodworking Federation; Wood Window Alliance; Wood Campus; Fire Door Safety Week; British Woodworking Federation Stair Scheme; Heriot Watt University; NHS; Allergy Store; Wood Awards; ASBP