The time to harness opportunities is now

27 August 2018

The time is ripe for the timber industry to harness the opportunities presented by a growing interest in health and wellbeing, argues Christiane Lellig, campaign director for Wood for Good

In recent years, the link between the indoor environment and health and wellbeing has shifted firmly into the mainstream. Numerous studies have highlighted the health benefits of building with wood, whether for the home, school, work or healthcare environment.

Meanwhile, every day we are learning more about the damaging effects of plastics in our oceans, the devastating impact of indoor and outdoor air pollution on respiratory health and the increasing problem of our growing waste mountains, calling into question how we produce, use and dispose of products in our global economy.

As a natural product timber has many health benefits in addition to acting as a carbon store. With most people now spending 90% of their time indoors, wooden interiors and indoor plants can significantly improve indoor air quality through effective humidity regulation and the removal of CO2 from the air.

However, the timber industry cannot be complacent. The call for low VOC (volatile organic compound) and formaldehyde-free products is at the heart of the healthy building agenda. Some timber products have been found to emit higher levels of VOCs, which contribute to air pollution. One feature of the emerging WELL Building Standard is that the VOC rating of all materials used must be within a specific target, which presents a major challenge for specifiers.

Standards such as WELL and the Fitwel Certification System are driving the agenda for the commercial sector and we would expect the residential sector to follow. Google has raised the bar by investing in its own healthy buildings programme, which has the Portico database at its centre. This provides information about healthy building products admissible for specification in any Google-related construction.

Meanwhile, homeowners are often willing to pay a premium for a healthier home. In a survey conducted by Saint-Gobain, 85% of respondents who are willing to pay more for an environmentally-friendly home would also pay more for a healthy home.

This shift in consumer and business demand towards sustainable and healthy building materials presents the timber industry with both a tremendous challenge and opportunity. With heightened consumer consciousness around waste and the use of plastics in our environment, and a timber industry offering an array of sustainable products for construction and interiors, the time has never been better.

Join us at Wood for Good’s Marketing Summit on September 20 where we’ll assess the market potential for healthy building products and discuss new approaches and best practice marketing for the health and wellbeing agenda.

Christiane Lellig