Living together with wood: the benefits for humans and for the environment

Living together with wood.

The benefits for humans and for the environment.

Choosing to use wood for construction and furniture is not only a mere aesthetical issue. According to the research Itlas commissioned to Italian Association of Physicians for Environment, advantages are many and different, both for the environment and for human health. First of all, using wood increases thermic insulation and energy efficiency. Then, wood helps in reducing humidity and this means improving air quality. In addition to this, we must consider its effect as natural shielding against electromagnetic radiations and its sound absorption properties.

The Association, know also as ISDE Italia, was born in 1989 from a group of Italian physicians who thought that, in order to safeguard health, practitioners should take care also of the environment we live in. It is an interface for the scientific world, the citizens and the private and public administrators - its aim is that of sharing and spreading information regarding health problems connected to environment. It is recognized by U.N. and WHO, World Health Organization.

The research underlines how one of the major benefits of wood in construction is the one that today is at the core of any government programmes all over the world – the reduction of Carbon Dioxide emissions. In fact, wood can retain carbon and stock it for long time. This is helpful for reaching the aim of zero emissions within 2050, as President Mario Draghi said to Senate on the day he made his speech.

During transformation processes wood requires a low consumption of energy, far less than that required by synthetic or composite materials. Then, if those who operate with wood as raw material chose to get it from certified forests, the final customer is guaranteed that he has an ecological material, obtained legally and thanks to programmed cutting, which are necessary to keep woods in good health.

Besides immediate and long terms benefit for the life of the planet, using wood has positive effects also on the psychophysical state of those who live with it. The survey proves that a dwelling made with wood reduces heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels, improves emotional state and the self-expression level, at the same time increasing the feeling of comfort and warmth.

“It is very hard to get people to understand the value of the psychophysical welfare inside constructions and of the factors who determine it, which are not only related to the correct thermo-hygrometric ratio” – this is what ISDE Italia physicians say, as they face also the norms regarding indoor pollution.  “From several researches and studies on biophysical interactions with materials we can see how the perception of comfort is influenced also by the quality of the materials. Tests carried out indoor – we can read in the survey – proved that people report different sensory and biophysical effects according to the materials they are exposed to, with more or less intense reactions according to personal perception, ending into the acknowledgement of the sensation experienced in front of a particular material, even if this is not openly visible”.

The test results prove that people tend to choose the material that better balance their emotional state and their character, that is to say, the one that compensates for a more or less active/reactive disposition.

After installing wood, in both men and women what emerges is an improvement of their perception of environmental comfort.

To all this we must add two pretty important issues.  First, it is a structural advantage. Wood has in itself stability and seismic protection. It is a light material, very ductile and with dissipative capacity – these features allow it to be less affected by the effects of an earthquake. For example, a wooden flooring is made by slats connected with deformable joints, which allow the floor to resist to dynamic actions.

Second, always talking about the choice of a wooden flooring, is the possibility to walk on bare feet.

In fact, as ISDE physicians say, “The best time of the day is when one comes back home and takes off his shoes. Such a feeling of freedom is so important that it should make us think about what our feet need most. Walking barefoot at home helps in recovering a correct posture, it allows muscles of legs and feet to relax preventing swelling, reactivating circulation and improving venous return, which allows the blood to flow more easily and to oxygenate itself”. Walking barefoot on a wooden flooring is a beautiful sensation because the naturalness of this material conveys comfort – warm in winter and fresh in summer. “According to surveys made by University of California Irvine, walking barefoot on wood even contributes to improving the quality of sleep, favouring the correct posture of the spine”.

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