Make it more visible and improve wellbeing

There is fresh evidence that wood in hospital design supports convalescence, reduces stress and raises spirits.

According to Dr Marjut Wallenius of the University of Tampere, Finland the use of wood in service centres for the elderly and in hospital construction promotes health and well being in the mind and body.

Interior of LAF building

A positive timber vibe at the Livingstrong Foundation (formerly Lance Armstrong Foundation) cancer support centre in Austin, Texas. Photo: Frank Ooms. (Click to enlarge)

“I throw down a challenge to architects and structural designers and express the hope that wood can be left visible in interiors.”

Wallenius bases her comments on research using questionnaires in which the respondents evaluated their own experience on different scales. “The questionnaires also looked into how wood influences people’s behaviour. A study at a service centre for the elderly showed that the use of wood in interiors affected the behaviour of elderly people favourably. Wood has [positive] psychological effects on people – a similar stress-reducing effect as nature.”

An unexpected development from the study of the elderly was that staff noticed greater interaction between residents and more awareness of their surroundings when items like wooden trays were introduced in the dining room.

Good experiences

“In Japan, good experiences have also been [observed] concerning the use of wooden structures in neurological clinics. More of these behavioural studies are needed to help find solutions, for example in the care of elderly people suffering from memory disorders,” says Wallenius.

She says it has been established that Japanese patients spending long periods in hospital need the atmosphere of a relaxing and pacifying environment, which positively affects their mood and process of recuperation. “By using natural massive wood, it has been found that the humidity of indoor air in hospitals can be kept optimal from a health perspective, particularly for those suffering from allergies and asthma.”

Pills on wooden spoons

Elderly patients react positively to wooden items. Photo: ©123rf

While Wallenius agrees the research to date is not sufficiently systematic or comprehensive, observations clearly show that people react to wood in interiors both psychologically and physiologically, and that the reaction is usually positive. “Wood can also be considered a material that supports health and recovery, although it is not yet known precisely what the positive effects of wood are based on.”

Most harmonised

The health effects of wood in a hospital environment have been studied in many countries, including Norway, Austria, Japan, Canada and Denmark. A study by the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology established that a room in which one of the four walls had a window and another was completely wood paneled was the most harmonised type of room for patients. The use of wood is also particularly favoured in facilities where people spend a long time, such as offices, hospitals and health centres, waiting rooms, schools and day care centres.

Less fatigue

The favourable psycho-physiological effects of wood have also been proven in schools. According to Wallenius, in classrooms with whole-wood interiors, the morning stress peak – measured as a variation in pulse rate – subsided soon after arriving at school and did not rise again. In a normal classroom, a mild level of stress in pupils continued throughout the day.

“But the favourable effects of wood cannot be duplicated with imitation wood. Physiological measurements have shown that the quality of sleep and recovery from stress are better in a room with wood than one with imitation wood.”

Edited from original material supplied by http://www.woodarchitecture.fi/


  1. sue@archisoul.com.au'
    Sue Connor November 24, 2014 at 6:44 am #

    How wonderful the health benefits of using such a beautiful natural material is acknowledged.

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