In addition to its associated health benefits, the use of responsibly sourced certified wood can have significant positive environmental outcomes and help reduce climate change.
The temperature of the earth is dependent on the balance between the amount of energy entering the planet’s system from the sun, and the amount reflected and released back into space. The natural greenhouse gas effect is where gases in the atmosphere absorb and retain heat, a natural process that is vital for life on earth. However if these greenhouse gases increase in quantity, more energy is absorbed and the earth heats up.
Current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas, are 40% higher than preindustrial levels. If the current trend in energy usage continues carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to increase by a further 20% by 203556. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other authorities have warned that emissions need to be significantly reduced by 2020 in order to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change, with the global economy reaching net zero emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. In order for this to occur emissions not only need to be reduced, but the number of carbon sinks (which remove carbon from the atmosphere) also needs to be increased.
Through the process of photosynthesis trees remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it as biomass, mostly wood. Planting more trees will therefore absorb more carbon and help reduce the impact of emissions. When responsibly sourced wood is used as a building material or to create long-lasting products those items become a carbon store – they lock carbon out of the atmosphere.
Using wood as a building material also means that the use of much more carbon intensive and non-renewable materials like concrete and steel can be reduced. One study for example identified that the total energy consumption in the manufacturing of steel beams is 2-3 times higher, and the use of fossil fuels 6-12 times higher, than manufacturing timber beams. In New Zealand it has been estimated that a 17% increase in wood usage in the building industry would result in a 20% reduction in carbon emissions from the manufacture of all building materials, 1.5% of New Zealand’s total emissions.
Furthermore innovative timber systems designed for prefabrication and disassembly allow for reuse of the timber, creating a more resource-efficient product life cycle than typical demolition and down-cycling, helping to avoid landfill waste.
With the global population growing, increasing rates of urbanization and the construction of new buildings are inevitable. If these new buildings were built with wood they would not only act as a long-term carbon store, but they would generate fewer emissions in their construction.
The use of wood in the interior of a building has clear physiological and psychological benefits that mimic the effect of spending time outside in nature. The feelings of natural warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people have the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rates, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing positive social interactions and improving corporate image.
These benefits are particularly important for environments where it is difficult to incorporate nature indoors, such as hospitals where strict health and safety guidelines may prevent the presence of plants, and office environments where views from the window are of roads and neighbouring concrete buildings.
Responsibly sourced (and certified) timber has clear health and happiness benefits, as well as being a weapon in the struggle against climate change by both storing carbon and eliminating emissions.
Wood is one of the oldest and most versatile building materials used by humanity but it also has a large part to play in the future of health and housing.
- Planet Ark
Table 1 (on the left) highlights the positive associations that wood induces in people, where an overwhelming 96% agreed that wood is ‘visually appealing’ and ‘has a natural look and feel’. Eight out of ten people also thought that wood is versatile, recyclable, renewable and long lasting. They appear to be less aware of the environmental benefits of wood, with only six out of ten survey participants understanding that wood stores carbon and creates less carbon emissions during production than steel and concrete.
The positive views of wood continue even when compared to other material types (Table 2). Wood was viewed as the material that creates a natural look and feel, warm and cosy environments, is visually appealing and is nice to touch by nine out of ten people, and as being the most environmentally friendly by seven out of ten people. By comparison the second most popular material, brick, received an average of 34% less positive feedback. Plastic was seen as the cheapest material but it also scored lowest in four out of five categories related to creating pleasant surroundings and being environmentally friendly.
These survey results provide support to the empirical evidence discussed above. Even though many people don’t understand the health and wellbeing benefits of wood they instinctively react to the feelings of warmth and comfort it creates and its natural look and feel. An increasing body of research is beginning to show that being surrounded by wood at home, work or school has positive effects on the body, the brain and the environment.
Effect of Wood on the Brain
- Anme, T. Behaviour Changes in Older Persons Caused by Using Wood Products in Assisted Living. 2, 106–109 (2012).
- Rice, J., Kozak, R., Meitner, M. J. & Cohen, D. H. Appearance of Wood Products and Psychological Well-Being. 38, 644–659 (2006).
- Bolwerk, C. A. L. Effects of relaxing music on state anxiety in myocardial infarction patients. 13, 63–72 (1990).
- McCaffrey, R. & Locsin, R. The effect of music listening on acute confusion and delirium in elders undergoing elective hip and knee surgery. 13, 91–96 (2004).
- Park, S.-H. & Mattson, R. H. Therapeutic influences of plants in hospital rooms on surgical recovery. 44, 102–105 (2009)
- Post-White, J. Therapeutic massage and healing touch improve symptons in cancer. 2, 332–344 (2003).
- Ball, R. D., Killerby, S. K. & Ridoutt, B. G. First impressions of organisations and the qualities connoted by wood in interior design. 5, 30–35 (2002).
- Dementia and memory loss statistics. (2014). at https://fightdementia.org. au/about-dementia-and-memory-loss/statistics
So it is important to know that not only does it fulfill ideal building standards, it also brings its habitants an amazing environment of health and wellbeing. Here are three studies that prove the health benefits of wood on the body:
A Japanese study compared the initial physiological response of 14 people sitting in rooms with either wooden or steel wall paneling. The pulse and heart rate of each subject was measured every second for 20 seconds whilst facing the paneled wall covered by a curtain, followed by 90 seconds with the curtain removed and the wooden or steel panel visible. The study found that exposure to wooden panels significantly decreased the blood pressure of subjects, whilst exposure to steel panels significantly increased it.
Sakuragawa, S., Miyazaki, Y., Kaneko, T. & Makita, T. Influence of wood wall panels on physiological and psychological responses. 51, 136–140 (2005).
An Austrian study examined the heart rates of 30 people who slept in a Stone Pine bed for 3 weeks and compared it to their heart rates when sleeping in a wood imitation bed for 3 weeks. Sleeping in a stone pine bed reduced heart rates by 3500 beats per day compared to when subjects were sleeping in a wood imitation bed.
(Joanneum Research Institute of Non-Invasive Diagnosis)
A yearlong Austrian study examined 36 high school students aged 13-15 years old who were taught in either a classroom furbished with floors, ceilings, cupboards and wall panels made of solid wood, or a classroom equipped with a linoleum floor, plasterboard walls and chipboard cupboards. The results showed significant differences between the two groups, with students taught in the wooden classrooms having decreased heart rates and decreased perception of stress from interactions with teachers. In contrast, students taught in the control classroom had increased heart rates and had greater stress responses.
Kelz, C. & Moser, M. . (Medical University of Graz, 2011)
Wood is one of the oldest materials used by humans, including its use as a building material. Wooden furniture and funereal items have been found in the pyramids of Egypt and some structures built centuries ago are still standing today. These include the Horyuji temple in Japan built in 700 CE, Greensted Church in England built in 1053 CE and Westminster Hall in London built in 1399 CE.
Although wood has ancient roots and has been used in every culture in the world from before the Stone Age it is experiencing a revival in use. In part this is because of the newly discovered health and wellbeing benefits of exposure to wood, which produce similar effects to those created by spending time in nature.
These known benefits include:
• Increased happiness and self-esteem levels
• Increased cognitive abilities
• Decreased stress response, blood pressure, pulse rates and cholesterol levels
However, increasing urbanization rates mean that people have less access to nature in their daily lives and Americans on average now spend about 90% of their time indoors. This coincides with reports of increasing levels of obesity and many experiencing a mental health condition within their lifetime. As it is not always possible to increase our time spent outside, particularly in areas like workplaces, schools and hospitals, understanding how to incorporate the physiological and psychological benefits of nature into our indoor environments is an increasingly important area of research.
Studies have demonstrated that simply having a view of nature from a window can have significant positive effects, such as shorter postoperative hospital stays, induced feelings of relaxation in patients at rehabilitation centres and improved comfort levels of employees in offices. Not surprisingly, the presence of indoor plants has also been shown to have benefits, such as improved cognitive functioning in office environments, increased tolerance of pain in hospitals, lowered blood pressure and heart rates.
Evidence-based design (EBD) is an area of study that focuses on incorporating the results of empirical research into the quality of the built environment. Originating from the field of environmental psychology, EBD works on the notion that the design of the built environment fundamentally impacts the people within it. Of particular interest are designs of physical features that can lead to stress-reduction, productivity and general wellbeing. Since evidence shows viewing nature in both outdoor and indoor settings has health and wellbeing benefits for people, it is logical to examine whether wood, a natural material, produces similar effects.
- Waste-free Life Cycle: we are the first building system to receive GOLD in Cradle to Cradle
- Extremely low consumption of energy required compared to bricks or glued wood-based materials as Holz100 is exclusively from renewable, reusable raw materials
- We are the sole producer of structural materials that uses only solar energy and produces more energy than it uses.
- Certified by FSC and PEFC
- Responsibly sourced and certified timber is a formidable weapon in the struggle against climate change by both storing carbon and eliminating emission.
- Passive house energy and airtightness values (up to 0.6 ACH50)
- World record in thermal insulation among structural building products (λ = 0.079 W/mK)
- Up to 95% reduction in energy use
- The unique wooden-dowelled cross laminated construction results in minimal air leakage, shrinkage and thermal bridges.
- Save time and cost with prefabricated components; can build as fast as up to 1,500 sq.ft / day
- The speed of construction is a huge benefit in wet and cold climates and drastically reduces the cost through savings in labor, maintenance, and interior finishes
- Highly versatile & customizable – limited only by your imagination
- Designed according to customized individual plans and customers’ requirements
- Fulfills various needs from a private house with modern low energy consumption levels to commercial buildings for innovative and cost-conscious businesses
- Build the most efficient mobile, passive, and off-grid homes with Holz100
- The international Holz100 patent is a guarantee that we offer original goods under the Holz100 brand. The true original materials come straight from the inventor.
- All product properties of Holz100 have been certified and countless awards have been granted to Holz100 by renowned institutions and public authorities in the fields of innovation, ecology, business efficiency and social engagement.
Architecture in the Cycle of Nature
Thoma Holz100 was founded in 1990 by a forester who wanted to build the healthiest house for his children. Today the company is famous around the world for its environmentally friendly approach to business.
From a Single Source
Valuing Creation with Wood
Over 1,000 Healthy Homes Around the World
'I am working in the building and real estate industry and a few years ago, I built a house for my wife and me. This house had external wood cladding which was painted with some wood preservatives as was usual then. Two years later, my wife gave birth to our first child which is now physically and mentally disabled. We never tried to prove a connection between the wood treatment and the disability of our child; it couldn't make our child healthy either. However I do know now that treating the external cladding of our house was the biggest mistake I ever made.'"
Why Toxic Wood is a Concern
Synthetic paints, chemical treatments and large-scale wood lamination turn wood into a mix of different materials and compounds. Their effect upon humans is mostly unknown and it is impossible for the average consumer to correctly gauge the risk they are taking with these products.
Here is an excerpt from the 'Salzburger Nachrichten' back in the year 1993:
"Wood preservatives, two parole sentences"
Frankfurt Main (SN, APA). On Tuesday the Frankfurt "Wood Preservative Trial" sentenced both accused men to one year suspended prison term each and a total fine of 1.7 million Schillings, payable to several joint plaintiffs.The executive directors of the company XYZ, 64 year old XY and 62 XY were both sentenced guilty of negligent bodily harm, concomitance, the negligent release of toxins and selling toxic goods while being well aware of the danger they are posing."
Please, allow me now to tell you about my own personal motivation and why our family started taking toxic chemicals seriously.
Nobody was suspecting that building materials were going to cause serious harm to anyone's health. Our family was perfectly healthy until suddenly two of our children started coughing and having breathing difficulties.
First without fever, later with a slight temperature rise, followed by asthma attacks, fear of going to sleep and cries for help at night: "Mama, Papa, why can't I breathe anymore?" The first doctor didn't have a diagnosis but prescribed a dose of penicillin. The next doctor didn't have any idea either as to why this condition was persisting. He prescribed cortisone for our children and elaborated in their presence, how they would have to carry a puffer with them for the rest of their lives.
We needed a third doctor before we realized we couldn't expect any help from conventional medicine in this matter. This third doctor tested for allergies. Holding our boy's arm he exclaimed: "Oh my God, this boy is allergic to just about everything!"
Our commonsense told us that those medical reckonings couldn't be correct. Our children grew up in the Alps with goats, chickens, dogs and cats. There were no allergies or any other symptoms. Our son in particular spent a fair amount of time in the company of our Billy goat.
Apart from the goatish scent, we never noticed anything having a negative impact on him. The health symptoms had appeared just after we moved into our new house. We thought maybe something in our new environment was having this effect on our children's quality of life.
When looking closer at our new surroundings, we soon realized the house was playing a big part. The brick work was not insulated and therefore there were no dust or microfibers from mineral wool or emissions from plastic insulation. The wood cladding was not treated either and we ruled that out as a possible cause as well.
However, the floors were a different story all together. All the rooms had particle-board floors covered with carpets and vinyl. Particle boards are nothing more than wood shavings mixed with synthetic glues and pressed into boards.
Shortly thereafter, our children were back to their normal healthy selves. What a relief! Like the man who made the biggest mistake. We too couldn't find a 'scientific diagnosis' for the disease of our children. The most important thing for us was the result: Our children have their health back.
I remember the times when he was ill in bed and I told him that every illness has a reason and how faith can move mountains. We all believed strongly that one day he would be running again like a deer in the forest.
The question: "Mama, why can't I breathe anymore?" cannot stay unanswered.
Just think about how it could have ended if we had taken the advice of any of the doctors, if we were prepared to settle for an asthma puffer and not changed the floors of our home at all! Just now, while I am writing these lines, our eldest son has come home from school and told us that he was the fastest runner today.
Holz100 is 100% free of toxic building chemicals. But it gets even better - with Holz100, you're surround by solid wood; just like second skin. Free of harmful off-gassing, and instead it provides its inhabitants of invigoration and healing. The Holz100 house is the best foundation for deep, healthy sleep and an active, dynamic life full of strength and tranquility.
For many, the dream of owning a house in the countryside is linked to the desire for health and exposure to nature. The choice of the main building material, one which does not burden the health, is particularly important.
The development of new building materials has progressed rapidly since the 1970s, and today everything seems technically feasible. But there is also a steadily rising number of health complaints, the causes of which could be traceable to the immediate living environment. Residual poisons found in some building materials and furniture can release polluting substances for years. They are considered as possible causes of allergies and other diseases as well. The health effects of evaporating plastics, foils of all kinds, solvents, adhesives and other construction chemicals are always posing new challenges.
The key point for a sustainable preventative measure of such avoidable diseases lies in the conscious decision for building with biologically harmless materials. For this reason, builders increasingly demand from planners, property developers or suppliers a full declaration of the processed material from resource, harvesting, and manufacturing. For Holz100, this list of declarations is short: wood. Holz100 is made entirely and exclusively of high quality wood.
With Holz100, not only does it surround its inhabitants with a completely unadulterated building material, Holz100 also strengthens your immune system, calms your vital nervous systems and helps you to live longer. Wooden rooms are so reassuring to our body systems that every night (proven scientifically), we save ourselves an hour of heartbeats each day.
These and other new research results on the health-promoting effects of wood are presented in many, various ways - such as Planet Ark's "Make it Wood" campaign.
After about 20 years of fighting against the stereotypes of prejudice and discrediting attempts from wood and chemical industries, Dr. Thoma succeeded - as he says - in accomplishing technically everything. However, throughout the 20 years, he failed to scientifically explain and prove the positive impacts of wood on the wellbeing of people. As he says: “Intuition doesn’t lie, and the human body doesn’t lie either. Why, then, do I feel so great in the old, wooden house, whereas in a modern building my eyes tear up and my throat becomes scratchy?”. There must be a way to prove the positive impact of wood on people by using academic and scientific methods.
He tried with doctors and with medicine-related professionals, but he didn't get anywhere. A few years ago, he was invited to a wood industry symposium. Many scientists and well-known people participated in the symposium. Dr. Thoma noticed one strange, older man, with Einstein-like hair. It turned out to be Professor Max Moser, who was the department chair at the medical university in Graz. At a meal, Dr. Thoma jokingly asked him what he was doing at such a symposium full of tree huggers. The professor replied that he had participated in the AUSTROMIR program a few years earlier and together with his team, had created the medical research equipment for the Mir international space station. Max Moser is one of the most renowned scientists in Austria, and he was selected for the space program. “But what does this have to do with wood?”, asked Dr. Thoma.
The task of the professor, when it came to the space station, was to study all semiochemical substances that would affect the health or wellbeing of the cosmonauts. The space station has a closed air circuit and ventilation is impossible; hence, the effect of semiochemistry on humans is particularly strong. Semiochemical substances are chemical compounds, such as pheromones, produced by animals and plants that are used to carry information and exert a certain determined influence on the environment. However, the fumes of certain substances and plastics also affect humans. For this purpose, the professor developed a unique apparatus that can measure the effect of secreted substances on the autonomic nervous system of people. Dr. Thoma dropped his spoon from his hand and cried out, “professor, I have been looking for you for 20 years! If you can measure such impacts on humans, we must carry out a joint research project”. The professor replied that if he managed to fund such a project it wouldn’t be a problem, but - for a project like this - a six-digit sum might not be enough. Dr. Thoma had a lot of experience in organizing funding for research projects, and after a year he had a confirmation of the seven-digit sum for the research sitting on his table. Therefore, a large-scale research project was organized, and its results left no doubt whatsoever.
Two identical rooms were built for the project. One was constructed of solid wood, while the other was constructed of laminated particle boards. The result of the experiment was somewhat of a surprise. It turned out that 10 minutes after a man walked from the laminated particleboard to the solid wood room, his biological functions would completely change. His heart would relax, stabilize and slow down. The semiochemical substances released by the wood immediately informed the body that it could feel safe and was out of danger.
Ninety percent of Western Europeans die from three main causes: cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia or Alzheimer's disease. These three risks are exactly the ones minimized by wood. During sleep, the heart rate slows down so that a person saves 1 hour of heartbeat overnight or 3000 strokes. As the number of heartbeats in one’s lifetime is limited to about 2 billion, one can say that in a wooden room people live 1 hour longer per day, and the sleep is deeper and more regenerating. People who suffer from sleep problems all the time, suddenly fall asleep easily in a wooden room. A walk in the forest has a similar effect on people.
Holz100 Canada Inc.
Forests & Energy
Trees & Wood
What To Avoid