SUSTAINABLE materials provider Stora Enso has teamed up with a Munich university for a study into the well-being benefits of building with wood.

Stora Enso's whitepaper, developed in partnership with the Technical University of Munich, is said to 'dissect the increasing volume of evidence that proves wood to be a stand apart building material option'.

The analysis reviews multiple areas of research, such as wood’s ability to reduce stress and boost productivity levels. For example, a study into the wooden waiting room at the National Oncology Institute in Slovakia saw participants experiencing a decrease in cortisol levels by 7.5 per cent, implying a stress-reducing effect.

Similarly, a study conducted in an Austrian school compared student experience in classrooms – one with linoleum floors and plasterboard walls, and one that was wooden. Those in the wooden classroom had significantly lower heart rates and lower perception of stress.

Hygiene is also covered, with studies showing coronaviruses (SARS-CoV-2) applied to wooden surfaces can only be replicated for 12 hours, whereas on surfaces made of plastic, stainless steel, glass and masonry, the viruses remain multipliable for up to 96 hours. Additionally, research has shown that exposure to essential tree oils can result in an increase in natural killer (NK) cells which is an indicator of a strengthened immune system.

“Building with wood has many benefits, such as lowering environmental impact – CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 75 per cent when comparing against traditional processes with concrete and steel. But often underappreciated, is how it can improve health and wellbeing,” explained Sebastian Hernandez, building concepts manager, building solutions, Stora Enso Wood Products.

“There is still a lot to learn in this field. And with the role the construction industry plays in societal impact in acute focus, we hope that our study spurs an increased interest in research in the future.”

Air humidity too is addressed in the whitepaper as research shows wood can keep the ideal range of humidity (40–70 per cent) for a longer period of time. This can help to reduce allergenic irritations as well as the spread of bacteria and viruses. For example, one study shows when comparing two identical rooms, one covered with gypsum plaster and the other with various wooden surfaces, air humidity fluctuation was reduced by up to 70 per cent in the wooden room.

“While research into the impact of wood as a building material has been ongoing for more than 20 years now, it is rarely brought together and analysed as a whole,” said Eva Bodemer, Technical University of Munich.

“This report represents a significant and in-depth review of research to provide the industry with a holistic understanding of the role wood can play, particularly regarding the all-important aspect of wellbeing.”

To view the full whitepaper, read more here.

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