Wood is good for you

What many within the building industry already knew has now been scientifically proven: wood used in buildings, furniture and walls promotes health and well-being. The three-year research project Wood2New has just ended. 

Vi mår bra av trä

Vi mår bra av trä, forskningsrapport 2017Researchers working in the project have concluded that wood has high strength relative to its weight, is easy to work with, is a renewable resource, and is available in large quantities. Building with wood is rapid, ensures a good work environment on the building site, is flexible, and allows the designer considerable freedom. Wood binds and sequesters carbon dioxide, ensures an even indoor humidity, and can be recycled.

“Increased use of wood has a large positive effect on both health and the environment. We have also looked at developments within the area of design, and at profitability,” says Tomas Nord, senior lecturer in the Division of Industrial Economics at LiU, who has also led a couple of subprojects within “Wood2New, Competitive wood-based interior materials and systems for modern wood construction”.

The project recently held its concluding seminar in Linköping, with invited participants from the construction industry and from wood and furniture manufacturers.

Ed Suttie, researcher at the Building Research Establishment in Great Britain, concluded that regulations are roughly the same in European countries.

“Nothing in the regulations gives a special advantage to wood, but there’s nothing that undermines it either,” he said. “It’s true that wood is used significantly more often indoors in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria than other countries, but that depends on availability and tradition,” he believes.

Wood absorbs moisture

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland and the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology have shown how wood absorbs and emits moisture, contributing in this way to a better indoor environment. The humidity increases when we take a shower or cook something on the hob, and the wood absorbs the extra moisture. It emits it subsequently when the air becomes dry again. The researchers have studied these processes using heat cameras and shown that heat is produced to heat the room when the moisture is absorbed by the wood.

The practical result of this can be seen in newly built homes in Sundbyberg, Stockholm (the Strandparken housing development) where it had been calculated that annually 74.6 kWh per square metre would be needed for heating purposes. After people had moved in, the actual annual requirement turned out to be 49.2 kWh per square metre.

TräinredningTräinredning“One reason for the low consumption may be integral properties of the wood, retaining energy through the day,” says Kristine Nore from the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology.

“Wood contributes not only to keeping the humidity at a level that is comfortable for people, but also to reducing the energy consumption,” concludes Tomas Nord.

Studies into the effects of the use of wood on energy consumption continue, at Moholt in Trondheim, for example, where five large buildings for student accommodation are being built completely of wood.

Tactile aspects

Researchers in the Wood2New project have also investigated the tactile aspects of using wood, and discovered that wood is felt to be pleasant to touch and walk on. Further, we experience a wooden surface as warmer than a corresponding surface of other materials. Another subproject has studied emissions from different types of wood and has not found any harmful levels of, for example, volatile organic compounds. Furthermore, those living in wood-based accommodation experience the indoor climate to be excellent.

The researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology have studied patients in a hospital who have white walls to look at, and compared these with patients who have trees outside a window. Preliminary results suggest that patients who are able to look at trees are discharged from hospital more rapidly. The researchers have some even more interesting results, but these have not yet been published in a scientific journal.

Wood in the healthcare system has also been studied in Finland.

“Wood is considered to be natural, and people appreciate wooden furniture more. The calming properties of wood, its better acoustic properties and the better air quality it ensures all contribute to this. Around 90% of those questioned recommend the use of wood in care-giving settings, but it is important to avoid joints that collect dust. From an architectural point of view, we can also use the contrasts present in wooden surfaces and colours,” says Yrsa Cronhjort, architect and coordinator for Wood2New at Aalto University in Finland.

Tomas Nord has examined the commercial potential of using wood in construction.

“The positive results from the other research areas, of course, mean that the potential for commercialisation is large. What has been crucial in the examples we have studied has been the existence of a ‘champion’, a person or function in the company who has been charged with working with sustainability. The champion must work in all parts of the company, from customer management to production and procurement. In this way, sustainability becomes a part of the business model of the company, and something that can create competitive advantage,” he says.

In summary, the results suggest that using wood in indoor applications influences not only the environmental footprint of the building but also the well-being of those living in it.


The Wood2New project, “Competitive wood-based interior materials and systems for modern wood construction”, started in March 2014 and has just concluded.

The project is coordinated by Yrsa Cronhjort, the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at Aalto University.

Around fifteen partners from six countries are involved in the project, including researchers from the Building Research Establishment, BRE, in Great Britain; Holzforschung Austria - Austrian Forest Products Research Society, Austria; the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology; Aalto University, Finland; and Linköping University, Sweden. The project was financed by the WoodWisdom-Net research programme, together with national finance within the framework of ERA-NET plus Action WoodWisdom-Net+.

All results from the project are presented at www.wood2new.org.

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