Great added value with wood as a material choice

Wood as a building material has been booming in recent years. Partly for climate reasons, partly for aesthetics, but also because wood has been shown to have positive effects on our health. We interviewed two of our wood experts, Daniel Asp and Pär Andreasson, to find out more about the health benefits of wood and how wood is used and functions in healthcare environments.

In our part of the world, we spend about 90% of our time indoors. This makes it particularly important to design indoor environments that promote our health. When we think of wood as a building material, we think of the environmental aspects, but the benefits of wood also include good health aspects. A growing body of research shows that wood can contribute to well-being, both physically and psychologically.

In the WRL report Wood and Health, White explores how wood can affect our well-being. It shows that people can experience a range of health benefits by spending time in nature or surrounding themselves with natural elements such as wood. It is a living material that helps to reduce our stress levels and makes us more productive and creative.

Wood also contributes to better indoor acoustics and air quality, as it can equalize humidity and temperature and influence particulate matter and emissions in the air.
Daniel Asp, Architet and Structural Engineer at White

It’s not for nothing that wood has become an attractive material choice for healthcare environments. Pär Andréasson is a structural engineer at White and has worked extensively on the design of the Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital, where wood has been used extensively in the interior.

People come to healthcare when they are sick, nervous and worried, so it is very important for the healthcare system to create a safe and comfortable environment for the patient as well as relatives and staff. That it is not perceived as a cold and sterile institution. With wooden interiors, the care environment can be associated with home and nature, which has a calming effect.
Pär Andréasson, Structural Engineer at White
White promotes the increased use of wood as a fixed interior in hospitals and care environments. You don’t have to build new hospitals to get more wood into the interior. It is perfectly possible to renovate and transform to incorporate more visible wood.

– Each piece of wood is unique in its pattern and colour. There is something new to discover in every square metre. But you don’t always have to have wood colour either. Sometimes it’s enough to see the texture behind it and that it feels like wood and not plastic or composite to experience the connection to nature, says Pär Andréasson.
However, it is not easy to use wood in hospital environments, where hygiene requirements are very high and it is considered difficult to maintain. All surfaces must be disinfected with 70% ethanol, which places tough demands on the wood. It must be surface coated, scratch resistant and fire resistant.
Hospitals are the most difficult environment to get wood into. There are methods to meet the high hygiene requirements, but the methods currently available are not entirely environmentally friendly and can only be applied in a factory. This means that the wood is likely to have to be replaced if there is any damage to it, as it cannot be refinished in the hospital.
Pär Andréasson

Queen Silvia Children's Hospital. Photo: James Silverman

Nevertheless, for Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital and several other healthcare projects, wood has been chosen over other materials because of its positive effects on people’s well-being. And new finishes for wood in healthcare environments are under development. Research is underway to develop methods that are environmentally friendly even during application and that can be used in the hospital in case of damage. With experience in complex healthcare buildings and buildings made of wood, White is involved in one of the research projects – the international research project, WOOD for HEALTH, which aims to develop antimicrobial coatings as well as safe hygiene concepts and useful guidelines for wood in healthcare environments.

By investigating requirements, the research team will develop wood products with and without coatings that meet the right technical, environmental and economic aspects. Wood has natural antibacterial properties, in particular oak, pine and ash, and research is also being carried out in this area.
Daniel Asp

But despite the challenges of using wood in hospitals, both Pär and Daniel believe that wood interiors will become increasingly common in healthcare environments.

– There is a lot of money to be saved both in operation and shorter healing process with wood as the material of choice. Shorter care times are first and foremost good for the patient, but there are also socio-economic benefits. And when you start to see the actual health effects and even more research results on reduced stress levels and medication and faster recovery, it will clearly make sense to use wood in these environments, concludes Pär Andréasson and Daniel Asp

Contact Person

Daniel Asp

Daniel Asp

Methodology specialist, Head of Development Wood, Architect

Oslo

+47 476 281 68

Please share!