Wood for good – project studies wooden materials’ effect on indoor air quality and persons’ well-being in working environments. Large research by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and Tampere University covers ao. indoor air quality measurements and an experimental research of the participants’ experienced well-being. Senior Scientist Riina Muilu-Mäkelä presented preliminary results of the project at a Wood and Well-being seminar on the 19th of November.
The experimental study setting of the Wood for good project is interesting. Two identical offices were decorated with different materials. In the other rooms the walls and floor were wooden, in the other of synthetic materials. 60 participants were invited to work in the rooms three times. The amount of measurements was significant, a similar setting in research studies of wooden materials has not been realized before.
What measurement methods were used
At the planning phase of the study it was decided that physiological measurements will be used in collecting the measurement data. Electrodermal activity and heart rate variability were the signals that were decided to be recorded.
’We wanted to have a broad view on the autonomic nervous system responses. Electrodermal activity tells about the sympathetic nervous system activation. Heart rate variability parameters describe activation of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Electrodermal activity appears to better indicate emotional reactions. Due to these differences between these two signals we wanted to include them both.’
Riina Muilu-Mäkelä mentions an earlier study where fluctuations in electrodermal activity were detected in a room with wooden furniture (Fell 2010). This is covered in an article by Burnard and Kutnar 2019. There is additionally some earlier international research on the topic.
The Moodmetric smart ring was selected as the electrodermal activity measurement device
The researcher had seen the Moodmetric smart ring demo at the Tampere University of Technology already some years prior.
’We got to know several measurement devices which are available in the market. Applying the Moodmetric smart ring in the project was a natural choice. It is a good and unnoticeable device that we could give to the participants to wear for a longer time and to collect data in the long term. To measure heart rate variability we selected the Bittium Faros ECG – device.
In addition to short term measurement we were keen to measure the participants’ psychological load during the two week period that we conducted the experiments. The participants wore the Moodmetric smartrings 24/7, so we could record both long term data and short term data from the duration of working in the office (1 h). Being able to keep the ring for the 2-week period made recruiting participants easier: The persons found the fun to have the measurement device for their own use.’, continues Riina Muilu-Mäkelä.
Questionnaires were used to collect subjective data
In addition to the physiological measurements conducted in the offices, the participants responded to questionnaires. These were standardized sets of questions used by psychologists. After working in the offices the participants were additionally asked how how the session had affected their mood.
Why to study well-being effects of wood?
According to the researcher there is still little scientific evidence on the well-being effects of wood, although at least all the Finns could give examples on personal positive experiences. For wood industry it would be important to get more evidence to enhance use of wood in construction and further strengthen the positive image of wood products. Especially physiological measurement devices have been used very little and therefore Wood for good can be called a pioneer project.
’It is possible that wood affects a persons in such a way that negative emotions diminish. At least earlier international research studies support this idea.’
Dematte et al. 2018, Zhang et al. 2016.
Riina Muilu-Mäkelä also mentions the Slovenian Wood Science Center with the Innorenew -concept that studies the well-being effects of wood and the possible applications.
Although there is not yet much scientific evidence, the findings are promising. Therefore this topic needs more research, to be able to collect more concrete evidence on well-being effects of wood materials.
What further studies could follow?
Riina Muilu-Mäkelä already has a longer term perspective and ponders what further research there could be around wood materials. ‘We created here a good and solid study setting. It would be great to further develop this setting and to do longer term measurements. We would also be keen to measure in different kinds of environments.’
Other interesting aspects to study would be how the evaporating compounds affect us. These so called VOC-compounds can easily be detected in the smell of wood that is generally considered pleasant. For instance limonene is widely used in cosmetics and home cleaners.
Senior scientist, Dr. Riina Muilu-Mäkelä works in Natural Resources Institute Finland in Tampere unit. She is a plant molecular biologist and works in a Biomass characterization and properties group, where new business potential is searched from the forest side streams and different bio-masses.
References in the text:
Burnard and Kutnar 2019: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09613218.2019.1660609
Dematte et al. 2018: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00107-018-1315-y
Zhang et al. 2016: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360132316303547?via%3Dihub
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