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Interior spaces and indoor air quality significantly affect our physical and mental well-being and comfort, especially in healthcare and living environments. The qualitative performance of buildings depends on several factors.
Temperature and moisture are central characteristics of interior spaces and research suggests that these can be affected by the choice of surface materials. Wood’s propensity to interact with moisture can be put to good effect in helping to mediate the interior environment of buildings. As the humidity level rises, wood adsorbs moisture from the surrounding air and, when the humidity drops, the stored moisture is released back into the environment. Associated with adsorption there is a release of heat which can raise the surface temperature of wood; conversely heat is required during desorption. These processes combined with the other thermal properties of wood give rise to the concept of ‘hygrothermal mass’, which may have the potential to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. These attributes are gradually being recognized.
Interior air quality is affected by, for example, volatile organic compounds (VOC), formaldehyde, air-borne particles and microbes, as well as other factors. The sources of chemical compounds and particulates include human activity, structures, surfaces, furnishings, and the air itself. Reference values for various chemical compounds and particles are defined, and values lower than these usually result from normal use and do not pose a risk to human health. The amount of formaldehyde in wood products has been nationally regulated since 1980, and in 2004 the European Standard EN 13986 established formaldehyde classes E1 and E2 for use in construction. To further the development of indoor air quality regulations, it is now important to quantify the VOCs released from materials, including wood. The odor of wood is widely recognized and used in, for example, air fresheners. However, the amount and long-term development of VOCs released by wood material in a living environment have not yet been clearly identified.
The importance of interior comfort grows with increasingly energy-efficient building. From January 2021 onwards all new buildings within the European Union are to be built to nearly zero energy standards (nZEB). In various pilot projects, wood has so far been used sparingly, even if the characteristics of wood materials support the creation of a pleasant space. Empirical studies have shown that wood is perceived to be a pleasant, warm, breathing, and timeless material. Europe is also aging; future social sustainability requires accessibility and comfort in our living and care environments. Basic requirements concern design for all, good acoustics and good interior air quality. Wood also supports the feeling of a homely environment; it is a familiar material, and the warm surface increases comfort.
Materials and products with environmentally, socially and economically sound values should have an advantage if they can deliver competitive performance. The aim of Wood2New was to reinforce and improve the competitiveness of wood-based interior products and systems based on these values. This report is a collaborative effort between project partners.
Editor: Yrsa Cronhjort
Proofreading: Mark Hughes
Layout: Tomi Tulamo
In Espoo, Finland 03.02.2017
The research leading to these results has received funding from the WoodWisdom-Net Research Programme which is a transnational R&D programme jointly funded by national funding organisations within the framework of the ERA-NET Plus Action WoodWisdom-Net+.