• Alison Folwell

Timber comes out on top for sustainability - and wellbeing

Timber comes out on top in architecture and design webinar for sustainable and effective learning environments – with some surprising additional benefits

On 10th December, we attended an interesting webinar hosted by #designpopup, sponsored by Domus Tiles, on the subject of Net Zero Carbon Design & Sustainable Architecture. The format was a panel discussion between architects, educators and policy makers – and there was a clear message to take away.

The sustainability and environmental benefits of timber will not come as any surprise to many of you reading this, but it was illuminating to hear its benefits made so clear for not only construction, but also for educational environments specifically. Given the government's strategic goal of developing Net Zero Carbon buildings by 2050, urgent action is required towards decarbonising the built environment.

Lee Bennett, partner at Sheppard Robson Architects LLP and one of the four panelists, made the case for timber very clearly. His firm belief is that timber is the answer to achieving the net zero targets put in place by the government, and that designers and construction companies should maximise the use of responsibly sourced timber – particularly cross laminated and glued laminated timber.

Timber as sustainable, carbon negative material

Timber certainly ticks a lot of boxes. It not only looks great; it has low levels of embodied carbon in its usage, and continues to sequester CO2 up to maturity. As a material it is carbon negative, and of course, forestry represents one of the most important carbon sinks in the world, with positive global impact. Naturally versatile, timber also has low wastage rates and also low disruption rates in construction, working harmoniously with so many other construction materials.

So far, so good, but probably nothing new to many of you, who have been extolling the virtues of timber as a sustainable, carbon negative construction material for some time.

But some of the other benefits of timber, on user health and wellbeing, may not be so well known.

Timber as source of health and wellbeing

Back in 2009, a year-long study was carried out at the Joanneum Research Institute in Graz to ascertain the benefits of a heavily timber-based environment on students. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

It concluded that children taught in a room made of solid wood are actually healthier than children taught in a standard classroom, and that wood actively reduces stress, with heartbeats lowered by 8600 per day. Children in the study became more relaxed, with lower stress levels and higher achievement and concentration rates. And finally, student aggression fell significantly.

As a natural product, timber contributes to student wellness by bringing the natural world into the classroom. It appeals to the senses, with both beauty and visual warmth, effective acoustics, a calming scent and pleasing and natural textures, creating a calmer and more effective learning environment.

Is timber the future?

With extremely ambitious targets set by governments for sustainability and carbon neutrality, designers and construction companies must work together to overhaul methods in sourcing and use of materials to boost efficiencies and consider whole life cycle impact; not only of the composite materials and methods used, but of the buildings created too.

Of course, bodies such as the TTF, TRADA, Wood for Good and many more are wonderful sources of information about the important work happening to promote the use of timber in construction. We would encourage you to visit their websites to find out more.

If you are interested in hearing the whole webinar, visit www.domusgroup.com or click here to download it.

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