The positive health effects of wood as a building material

According to Professor Matti Kairi of Aalto University, in Europe there have been positive experiences about the health effects of wood construction. Wood is seen as part of good resident-centred architecture and living environments. ”Wood is considered aesthetically beautiful and calming, at its best a material that is beneficial to care work,” says Kairi. The impact of wood and forests on the human mind has been researched surprisingly extensively in different parts of the world. Japan and Norway have done thorough research, according to which it can be said that wood has a positive psychological effect. Architecturally harmonious solutions, a restful palette of colours, a pleasant living environment and wood as a building material stimulate aesthetic pleasure, increase the feeling of calmness and thus make people feel good.

In Finland, Honkarakenne has gained positive experiences of the effect of the use of massive logs on health. The natural properties of massive logs are thought to be excellent for sensitive target groups like children. ”Massive wood constructions provide a good quality of indoor air and, as a building material, are an ecologically sustainable and energy-efficient choice,” says Mikko Jaskari, Acting President and CEO of Honka. ”We believe that the use of massive logs in day care centres, for example, will increase at the same rate as increasing attention is paid to the well-being of children in present day care facilities.” Honka is currently building Finland’s largest log day care centre in Kuopio.

”We chose logs as a building material because of their ecology and the good indoor air they create.

We wanted to build using massive wood, as I believe that it is a good solution for the children and staff of the day care. We are also gaining experience of how massive wood behaves as an acoustic element that dampens noise.

The energy-efficiency of the day care building is important to us and to the user of the facilities, and so we are also closely monitoring energy costs,” says Janne Hämäläinen, the developer of the property.

In the opinion of Jukka Musakka, Honka’s Kuopio-based salesman, good indoor air and the natural properties of massive logs balance out the moisture in the air and reduce the risk of respiratory infections. ”Massive wood walls are naturally breathing, and allow water vapour to move freely from the air to the wall structure and back again. The moisture in the indoor air stays balanced, so it is easy to breathe in a building made of massive wood. If the relative humidity in the indoor air is 30-55%, the growth of adverse factors in the air such as fungal spores and bacteria is at a minimum. Because of these factors, a massive wood house is an ideal environment for people who suffer from breathing problems, allergies and asthma,” says Musakka.

A massive wood neurological clinic for Japan

Honka has delivered massive log buildings to Japan, because the fire-safety properties of log buildings and their ability to withstand earthquakes has been found to be excellent. Honka also has long experience of earthquake-proof construction in Japan.
 

The company has delivered to Gotemba in Japan the 1,400 m2 main building of the Maedan Clinic, which specialises in neurological diseases. The building has been made completely out of massive logs from Finland. Despite its homely appearance, the hospital is a highly technical, modern neurological clinic, equipped with special devices required for brain research and demanding surgery.

The choice of natural, sustainable logs as a building material was the suggestion of the clinic’s founder, Dr Maedan. According to Dr Maedan, patients who spend long periods in the hospital need a relaxing and calming atmosphere, which has a positive effect on their moods and recuperation. Thanks to the sound-dampening logs, the clinic’s facilities are pleasantly quiet and harmonious for patients recovering from brain surgery. As a result of natural massive wood, the moisture in the hospital's indoor air remains optimal from a point of view of health. A log building is ideal, particularly for people suffering from allergies and asthma.

As a research example of the effects of wood, Professor Matti Kairi mentions a comparative study carried out for the Austrian pro Holz organisation on the effect of classroom wall structures on heart rate. ”In the tests which lasted more than a year at Ennstal in Austria, researchers used two classrooms which had massive wood walls and, for comparison, two traditional classrooms,” recounts Kairi. ”The scientists of Joanneum Research measured such parameters as the pulse of students. The pulses of the young people studying in the classrooms with massive wood walls were on average 8,600 beats per day less than those of the students in the traditional classrooms. The difference was about 6 beats per minute.” (The study can be found at:  http://www.holzfachberater.at/seiten/news.php?m=12&id=2 .

Building material supports good care

One of the best model examples of the modern construction of care facilities in Finland is the Onni Well-being Centre at Pukkila. The centre, which was completed in 2007, is home to many municipal services and offers a diverse range of amenities for the elderly.

Onni has service homes for senior citizens who live alone, a unit for dementia care, traditional institutional home care, a health centre, municipal and official services, a pharmacy, café, therapy pool with saunas and sports facility and fitness room. Upon completion, the centre received recognition for its architecture, ease of access, the adaptability of the building and its multiformity. The firm of architects, L&M Sievanen Oy, was responsible for the design of the centre. L&M Sievänen is specialised in the design of public buildings and in particular projects for the care of the elderly.

”The basis of the design work was that the facilities should be as multi-purpose, flexible and adaptable as possible. Over time unforeseen needs arise, so we wanted to ensure the future good functionality of the building through adaptable solutions,” says architect Markku Sievänen. ”Adaptability means, for example, that the facilities can already now be used for different purposes.

Wood construction enables the rooms to be enlarged as needed by means of movable partitions. The second principle has been to make all the solutions to suit the least able users. The solutions designed for physically restricted people are also good for other users.”

Sievänen emphasises the homeliness of the centre. ”Because Onni is also a home for people, we have increased the feeling of homeliness and reduced the feel of an institution by means of light, colours and the choice of materials. The high ceilings, large windows and inner courtyards bring light and a feeling of space to the large frame. Warm colours and much wood have been used on surfaces.

Basically, we want to use as much wood as possible, because wood creates a homely feel and gives the elderly residents pleasure. In addition to wood, we also use many strong colours in combination. As you get older, your ability to do and see things weakens, but senses like touch and smell remain longer. As soon as you enter the building, there is a lobby and café around a large open fireplace. At the same time, this is the heart of the building, its market square, living room and the meeting place for its users,” says Sievänen.

 

Puuinfo article service/Markku Laukkanen

More information:

Matti Kairi, Professori, matti.kairi@aalto.fi

Petri Kokkonen, residential services, Sector Director, Mehiläinen, Municipal Services, +358 (0)50 310 0432

petri.kokkonen@mehilainen.fi

Markku Sievänen, architect, +358 (0)50 596 2048, markku.sievanen@ark-sievanen.fi

Johanna Kaunisto, Honkarakenne Oyj, Communications Manager , +358 (0)40 773 3023 johanna.kaunisto@honka.com

 

Images of Honka’s projects can be downloaded at: www.honka.fi -> Media -> Kuvat

Requests for images: Eila Pelkonen, tel. +358 (0)400 777 923, eila.pelkonen@honka.com