Five reasons why offsite timber construction could make you happier and healthier

Five reasons why offsite timber construction could make you happier and healthier

Evidence suggests having walls made of wood could be almost as good for your health as a walk in the forest. Building in timber is also better for the environment, easier to manufacture offsite and easier to assemble than concrete.

If you do it right.

Cross laminated timber (CLT) panels – or ‘2D elements’ – consist of three to nine layers of timber, each glued perpendicular to the one below.The finished element can be between 60-300mm thick, and up to 3m wide and up to 16m long. The denser the panels – the more wood there is – the more powerful the health benefits.

These 2D elements work like concrete, but are quicker, easier and safer to manufacture offsite and prefabricate. Design it well, make the wood dense, cut it in a factory using a computer numerical control (CNC) saw – and timber is a joy to assemble.

Using wood for tall buildings is increasingly possible – this month the Mjøstårnet building in Norway became the world’s tallest timber tower, at 85.4m. But offsite timber construction promises powerful benefits for a range of buildings, from homes to hospitals.

How can offsite timber construction make you happier and healthier?

1. Timber allows your building to breathe.

To really understand what’s great about wooden buildings, you’ll need exposed wooden walls inside. The wood naturally absorbs humidity, buffering it. This has the effect of regulating the indoor relative humidity to a comfortable level between 30-70%, for a healthier indoor climate. It helps reduce the spread of bacteria in humid weather, and viruses when it’s dry and cold. And, because there’s less dust than with concrete, building with wood can also ease human respiratory issues, such as asthma.

“The wood naturally absorbs humidity, buffering it. This has the effect of regulating the indoor relative humidity to a comfortable level between 30-70%, for a healthier indoor climate.”

2. Wood is easier to work with on site

No subcontractor I’ve spoken to who has built in wood wants to go back to concrete. A Swedish article reported that, when a major construction company began working with wood, the construction team were happier and less tired, with fewer aches and pains at the end of their working day.

Wood is easier to handle. It’s warmer, smells nice. There’s no drilling, you assemble with screws. This makes the construction process quieter, and cleaner, for everyone.

The elements are lighter and easier to move – ideal for offsite modular construction. You can lift up to five or six elements at a time to concrete’s one, using a smaller crane. And you’re less exposed to the elements, as you build the roof first and then assemble the offsite building components underneath.

3. Offsite timber construction is better for the environment.

Wood is naturally fantastic at storing carbon – great for the environment, and your carbon footprint.

You can fit 30 timber elements in a truck from factory to construction site, compared to three to five concrete elements.  That means 60-70% fewer trucks coming onto a construction site – so you can reduce carbon emissions and limit disruption to the project and surrounding area.

Timber is also one of the only renewable building materials. In Sweden, where around 70% of our land mass is forest, it takes just five mins to grow enough wood for an eight-story building.  And, when we cut down one tree we plant two or three.

“Using timber means 60-70% fewer trucks coming onto a construction site.”

4. Standing in a large timber building just makes you feel good

It’s almost as good as taking a woodland stroll – the body reacts in the same way. We feel calmer, better, and recover more easily from physical or mental stress.

In a research project by Wood2New , at a hospital over 200 patients were randomly assigned rooms with three different interiors: one with exposed wood surfaces, one with a landscape photograph on the wall and another with a work of art. The results showed the patients’ pain – and to some extent stress – decreased faster in the wood room.

This has interesting implications for hospitals, and also businesses, which might see reduced sickness absence and increased productivity from happier, healthier workers.

5. It might even save you money in the long-term

Some say it´s more expensive to build in wood, but we should consider this alongside the benefits of using offsite construction techniques, and the implications of having happier, healthier construction teams and end users. Time is also a major issue when it comes to construction (the faster the better) and using wood can make some types of construction 30-50% faster than if traditional materials are used.

To bring the cost down, we need more people to use timber for offsite construction. That means growing expertise in all areas across the industry. Which is where we come in – we can guide clients through each step of offsite timber construction.

Personally, I’m going to build my own house all in exposed wood. To practice what I preach – but also, because interior wood is almost as good as a walk in the forest and can literally change your life for the better. Like magic …. almost.