Wood in Biophilic Design: Creating Healthier Indoor Environments

Wood in Biophilic Design: Creating Healthier Indoor Environments

Ah, the great indoors – where we spend the majority of our time these days. From our workplaces to our homes, the built environment has become our primary habitat. But you know what they say, “you can take the human out of nature, but you can’t take nature out of the human.” And that’s where biophilic design comes in to save the day!

The Biophilia Effect: Connecting People to Nature

Let’s start with the basics – what exactly is biophilic design? In simple terms, it’s the practice of incorporating elements of the natural world into the built environment. We’re talking about things like natural lighting, exposed wood, indoor greenery, and water features. The goal? To satisfy our innate human need to connect with nature.

You see, we humans have this little thing called “biophilia” – a term that literally translates to “love of living things.” It’s a phenomenon that was first identified by psychologist Erich Fromm and later popularized by biologist Edward O. Wilson. Essentially, biophilia is the inherent affinity we feel towards the natural world. And research has shown that deliberately designing spaces to nurture this connection can have profound impacts on our health and well-being.

Studies have found that the biophilia effect can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity, and even boost productivity and mood. It’s all about creating that harmonious balance between the natural and the manmade. And let me tell you, when you get that recipe right, the results are nothing short of magical.

Biophilic Design in the Workplace

Take the office, for example. Numerous studies have connected increased productivity and morale with the presence of biophilic elements like daylight, plants, and reclaimed wood paneling. It’s why biophilic design is at the core of many of the world’s top offices.

But the benefits of biophilia don’t stop at boosted productivity. It can also satisfy several of our innate human needs, bringing a whole host of additional benefits. Three of these needs that biophilia meets are socialization, collaboration, and physical activity. Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these, shall we?


The human need to connect and socialize with others is a powerful driving force. It’s what ties civilizations together and creates relationships. And as it turns out, biophilia and socialization are intertwined. Studies have found that the biophilia effect can encourage social interaction, as people feel more relaxed and open up in biophilic spaces. In fact, one study even reported that the use of wood products significantly increased social interaction among a group of elderly individuals.

It makes sense when you think about it. Biophilic design helps people reach a more native state of well-being, which in turn fosters those positive social connections we crave. And we all know the benefits of social interaction – from the release of mood-boosting oxytocin to reduced depression and anxiety.


Biophilic design can also bolster collaboration in the workplace. The ideal workspace for productivity accomplishes a few key goals: helping workers feel healthier, facilitating productivity through its design, and naturally encouraging collaboration. And biophilic design can help achieve all of these.

By reducing stress and enhancing wellness, biophilic elements create the perfect environment for all types of collaboration. Plus, when you have a variety of seating options, adequate workspace for groups, and spots for meeting and lounging, you’re setting the stage for those spontaneous “aha!” moments to occur. It’s no wonder biophilic offices are in such high demand these days!

Physical Activity

And let’s not forget the importance of physical exercise in a healthy built environment. Providing opportunities for occupants to work out can magnify the numerous benefits of biophilic design and introduce completely new benefits. Think about it – a biophilic gym with natural materials and a tree-lined walking path can do wonders for both physical and mental well-being.

So whether it’s the office, a hotel, or even a hospital, incorporating biophilic design elements that encourage movement and activity can be a game-changer. It’s all about creating spaces that empower people to be the best versions of themselves.

Sustainable Design Meets Biophilic Design

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Okay, this biophilic design stuff sounds great, but what about sustainability?” Well, my friends, the good news is that these two design philosophies go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly.

Sustainable design often crosses paths with biophilic design, as both involve utilizing natural elements within the built environment. And the results are nothing short of inspiring. Take the Bullitt Center in Seattle, for example – it’s a six-story office space that’s been billed as the “Greenest Commercial Building.” Not only does it boast an impressive array of sustainable features like solar panels and a ground-source heat exchange system, but it also exhibits many biophilic elements like reclaimed wood and large windows that connect occupants to nature.

And the trend toward combining sustainability and biophilia doesn’t stop there. Certifications like LEED, Living Building Challenge, and WELL are encouraging designers to go above and beyond when it comes to creating healthy, nature-inspired spaces. It’s all about finding that perfect balance between environmental responsibility and human-centric design.

But the benefits of this dynamic duo don’t end there. Sustainable and biophilic design are also essential in helping our built environments adapt to the effects of climate change. By reducing energy consumption, promoting green building materials, and positively affecting the local environment, these design approaches are instrumental in mitigating the impacts of a changing climate. And when you throw in the use of resilient materials like reclaimed wood, you’ve got a winning combination that can truly stand the test of time.

The Power of Wood in Biophilic Design

Now, when it comes to biophilic design, there’s one material that really steals the show – wood. Studies have shown that the presence of wood can have a profound impact on our health and well-being. From reducing stress and improving cognitive function to boosting productivity and fostering social interaction, wood is truly a superstar in the world of biophilic design.

But what is it about wood that makes it so special? Well, it all comes down to that innate human connection we have with the natural world. Exposure to wood is correlated with a drop in cortisol, the primary hormone linked to the negative impacts of stress. And when you combine wood with other biophilic elements like natural light and greenery, the benefits are amplified exponentially.

Wood also has some pretty impressive practical benefits that make it a perfect fit for biophilic design. Its porous nature helps regulate indoor humidity, and its relatively low thermal conductivity means it feels warmer to the touch than other materials. Plus, let’s not forget about the aesthetic appeal – the natural warmth and character of wood can transform any space into a cozy, nature-inspired sanctuary.

Bringing Biophilic Design to Life

So, how can you incorporate the power of wood into your biophilic design? The possibilities are truly endless! From bold, expressive wood structures to cozy wood furnishings and fixtures, the opportunities for biophilic bliss are limitless.

Take the Tskwaylaxw Cultural and Community Health Centre, for example. The expansive use of exposed mass timber in the construction of this building helps create a strong connection to nature, all while offering aesthetic, structural, and environmental benefits. And over at the Surrey Memorial Hospital, visitors are greeted by tree-like wood columns that extend from floor to ceiling, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that’s perfect for a healthcare setting.

But it’s not just about the big, bold wood features. Even the smaller touches, like wood furniture and finishes, can have a significant impact on the overall biophilic experience. Just imagine how a cozy wood-clad lounge or a reclaimed wood reception desk could transform the vibe of a space.

And let’s not forget about the importance of balancing all the different biophilic elements. Lighting, air quality, and views of nature all need to work together to optimize the built environment and truly harness the power of biophilia. It’s all about creating that perfect harmony between the natural and the manmade.

Biophilic Design: The Future of Healthier, Happier Spaces

At the end of the day, biophilic design is all about putting people first. It’s about creating spaces that nurture our innate connection to the natural world and empower us to be our best selves. And when you throw in the sustainable and aesthetic benefits of wood, well, it’s a recipe for design success that’s tough to beat.

So, whether you’re designing a workspace, a healthcare facility, or even a cozy cabin in the woods, I encourage you to embrace the power of biophilic design and let the healing magic of nature work its wonders. After all, as the old saying goes, “the trees are always the best part of town.” And with timber building and woodworking, we can bring that natural wonder into our built environments like never before.


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