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Wood for a Better World

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It is commonly accepted that the use of natural materials, such as wood provide a calming effect on people. Now psychologists agree.

“Wood has psychological effects on people and a similar stress-reducing effect to nature,” says Marjut Wallenius, a Doctor of Psychology at the University of Tampere.

The use of wood promotes the health and well-being of mind and body. Based on studies carried out in Japan, Canada, Norway and Austria, it appears that wood has a positive effects on the emotional state of people. Environments with wooden facades and structures cause a drop in blood pressure and have a calming effect.

“Now that we are very familiar with the technical properties of wood, we should carry out a cross-disciplinary research project about the psychological and physiological effects of wood,” states Wallenius. But what are the factors in wood as a building material that affect people? “Wooden surfaces make a room feel warmer and cosier and they also have a calming effect. In these properties, wood beats all other normal surface materials,” claims Wallenius.

The answer to the question ’what is a good material for people?’ is ascertained through human experience and how this experience manifests itself both physiologically and psychologically. “One answer is the naturalness of wood, which is also found in all other natural materials such as rock, linen and silk. The naturalness and natural origin of wood is also why wood is considered a warm and cosy material in construction,” states Wallenius.

According to observations made during research, touching a wooden surface provides a feeling of safety and being close to nature. “It is especially interesting that the feel of wood is softer than other materials, not only experientially but also physiologically,” says Wallenius.

In some studies touching aluminium at room temperature, cool plastic or stainless steel caused a rise in blood pressure. Touching a wooden surface did not cause such a reaction. In a comparison of different work rooms, stress level, measured as the skin’s capacity to conduct electricity, was lowest in a room with wooden furniture.

Not even plants brought into a room fitted out in white had the same effect.

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