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Friday, 03 August 2018
Improving our wellbeing by bringing the natural world indoors

Biophillic design boosts the moods and cognitive function of workers – Image credit: Annie Spratt

This blog is the first in a series, in which we will explore biophilia and the relevance of responsible timber sourcing

Forests have provided humans countless benefits from the beginning of time.

Which is why “father of biodiversity”, biologist E. O. Wilson, hypothesised in the 1980’s that humans have an innate psychological and emotional connection with nature; we have a desire to be around other living organisms. Wilson called this phenomenon ‘Biophilia’.

Biophilia has gone on to inspire architectural and interior design, which makes use of natural materials, green spaces and plants.

Biophilic design aims to create man-made settings that reflect our natural environment, which has contributed to our well-being throughout our evolution as a species[1].

In this series, we will explore the benefits of building and designing with wood. We will look at some examples of beautiful design using timber, and talk about how FSC certification can boost the psychological benefits of wood.

Though the Biophilia hypothesis is already a few decades old, we have only recently begun to understand that our affinity with nature and timber is deeply rooted in our psychology.

Biophilic design has gained traction in the last few years through studies that have provided encouraging signs for holistic natural settings being good for human well-being.

While it is difficult for every home and office to have green spaces, the use of wood products can bring the calming effect of nature indoors. Humans have a strong preference for wooden surfaces over non-wooden surfaces[2] because humans achieve feelings of warmth, comfort and relaxation from being near wood and natural materials[3].

Biophilic design is described as providing a number of benefits to humans, such as reducing stress, enhancing our mood, and improving our cognitive function[4].

Market research company, Pollinate, ran the first large scale study in Australia surveying 1000 office workers with very positive results. They found that workers in offices with exposed wood felt more connected with nature. Workers were more likely to experience positive associations with their work, have higher levels of well-being, and were less likely to take leave[5].

Biophilic design is riding a wave of interest and popularity and it has the benefits to back it up. Our next blog will look at case studies of buildings successfully incorporating timber from Australia, New Zealand, and around the world.

[1] Kellert, S.R. 2015.What is and is not biophilic design? Metropolis,26 October 2015. URL: […]Accessed 23 July 2018

[2] Strobel, K.,Nyrud, A. Q., & Bysheim, K. (2017). Interior wood use: linking user perceptions to physical properties. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 1-9.[3] Rice, J.,Kozak, R. A., Meitner, M. J., & Cohen, D. H. (2007). Appearance wood products and psychological well-being. Wood and Fiber Science, 38(4),644-659.
[4]Browning, W., Ryan, C. & Clancy, J. 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design:Improving Health & Well being in the Built Environment. (2014).
[5] Knox, A. & Parry-Husbands, H. (2018).Workplaces: Wellness + Wood = Productivity. on 25/07/2018.

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