Spaces dedicated to health and healing can benefit from wood’s inherent structural and aesthetic qualities, giving design professionals a natural economic advantage.

Herrington Recovery Center | Architect: TWP Architecture | Photo: Curtis Waltz

The healthcare sector has long looked to sustainable design as a tool for improving patient outcomes and staff efficiency. Typically, those features include a connection to the natural environment, such as through daylight, views to the outdoors, indoor vegetation and the use of materials found in nature, including wood.

Herrington Recovery Center | Architect: TWP Architecture | Photo: Curtis Waltz

Research shows that wood visible in healthcare spaces can contribute to lower stress levels, reduced perceived pain and better recovery rates among patients, as well as higher staff performance. Mass timber structural members can be specified in place of concrete and steel, and they can be left exposed for patients, staff and visitors to see. Allowing wood structural members to serve doubly as finishes with the potential to reduce costs by simplifying a project’s design.

In addition to its cost an aesthetic advantages, wood’s ability to dampen sound makes the material well-suited for spaces where privacy is required, a common need in healthcare facilities.

Learn more about wood’s acoustic attributes.

Additional characteristics make wood suitable for healthcare spaces:

  • Wood can help manage humidity levels by absorbing and releasing moisture found in the indoor air, reducing stress on the building’s HVAC system.
  • Wood can be finished with coatings that make the surface easy to clean, helping to avoid the spread of infections.
  • Wood can more easily accommodate mechanical, electrical and plumbing conduit than can steel or concrete, allowing design teams to maximize space in the building.
  • Wood can minimize the industrial look of a healthcare facility.

The following case study shows how wood is an economical, health-oriented building material for healthcare facilities.

Case Study: Herrington Recovery Center; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wood features prominently in this 21,000-square-foot, 20-bed treatment facility that overlooks a lake in Wisconsin and offers scenic views of the surrounding natural landscape. The project team chose wood for structural and aesthetic functions, including exposed cedar glue-laminated timber (glulam) structural beams, laminated veneer lumber around doors and windows, and mass timber I-joist floor framing. Using wood to frame the structure afforded cost advantages, and it helped add warmth to an inherently institutional space. Read more.

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