Wood-Based Biophilic Design and Emerging Economic Opportunities In the Built Environment
Timber-based construction projects are not always considered representative of the industry’s cutting edge. In fact, a common misconception is that building with wood can often introduce challenges for certain project types, including higher material budget costs or limitations on building height.
In reality, these views represent outdated misperceptions, thanks to the development of mass timber technology. As mass timber continues to mature and grow as a mainstream structural material, awareness of the many benefits of building with wood grows as well, along with successful project case studies.
Biophilia, translating to “love of life”, was first defined by Edward O. Wilson as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” A growing body of research is deepening our understanding of biophilia and linking natural environments to improved physiological and psychological conditions in humans, including work productivity, social connection, classroom learning, emotional wellness, and more.
These long-term residual benefits to occupants translate into an opportunity for many sectors to leverage wood-based design into the built environment as a tool to operate more efficiently and improve profits. Detailed in this paper are many potential applications unique to different market sectors, but th several high-level implications span multiple market sectors:
- Increased Density: People are more relaxed in wood environments, suggesting that similar or increased levels of comfort can be achieved in smaller spaces. Builders can attain smaller units in residential and hospitality settings, closer work stations in office environments, and smaller space requirements for retailers, resulting in higher net rentable square feet and ROI overall.
- Increased Design Longevity: Visible wear and aging can be seen as a positive factor in wood materials. The implications for building owners are reduced long-term CapEx and OpEx expenditures stemming from fewer renovations, upgrades, redesigns, and adaptive reuse.
- Increased Market Demand: As general awareness grows about the inherent benefits of biophilic design for wellness and productivity, demand for spaces finished with wood materials continues to grow. A mounting body of evidence shows that savvy businesses, residents, and institutions are seeking out wood-based design for their projects and, in many cases, willing to invest more for the additional benefits.