Wood and Wellness – Biophilic Design

Wood has been used as a building material for millennia, but it has only been quite recently that the physical and psychological benefits of incorporating natural elements like wood into our buildings have been studied, quantified, and better understood.

What researchers are discovering is that the materials we use to build the places where we live, work, learn, and play can contribute significantly to the well-being of building occupants.

We have all heard of sick building syndrome. We understand the devastating health effects of black mould in housing. We worry about volatile organic compounds, off-gassing from synthetic materials, and hidden carcinogens like asbestos in older buildings. Obviously, buildings that cause harm are unacceptable. But we as we build for the future, now that we know more about what is possible, we need to do more than think about illness prevention. It is time to change our expectations for buildings and commit to buildings that enhance occupant health and lift the spirit.

Think for a moment about how you feel when you step into a forest or other natural setting. Tension starts to melt, it is a little easier to breathe, the things that matter come into clearer focus, and you feel more connected to the world around you.

We believe it is possible to recreate those feelings and positive health outcomes in a building. People are inherently drawn to nature and automatically relax when they are surrounded by elements from the natural world.  The term ‘biophilia’ that we see so often these days literally means ‘the love of living things’ in ancient Greek. Biophilic design is an antidote to humanity’s growing disconnection from nature, and the negative human health impacts that have resulted from increasing urbanization.

By incorporating wood, other natural materials, and biophilic design into our buildings, we have the power to have a significant, positive impact on occupant health and well-being.

For additional insight into wood and wellness, we invite you to view a recorded presentation given by Tye Farrow, Senior Partner at Farrow Partners Architects and a prominent advocate for buildings that cause health. The free session is hosted online by the Canadian Wood Council on their Wood WORKS! eLearning site, available here:


Another great resource on this topic is from ThinkWood which can be found here: