Renowned for its versatility and unique varieties, timber has been utilised in Australian architecture for years. Aside from its aesthetic appeal, timber is recognised to improve wellbeing by connecting inhabitants with nature inside the confines of their homes. Here, Tegan Lyon discusses the beneficial properties of timber and its positive influence on our mental health.
In the past twenty years, numerous studies have emerged on the correlation between our built environment and our emotional and physical wellbeing. This concept is known as neuroarchitecture, a scientific discipline that evaluates the way architectural spaces can foster better mental health. The use of timber is at the forefront of these discussions as a natural material that cultivates an enriched environment.
PRODUCTS OF OUR ENVIRONMENT
Being in nature has proven to be a restorative process, and since the average Australian will spend 90 percent of their life indoors, your home should have the same effect on your psyche. As humans, we have a biological need to connect to nature; incorporating timber into the design of your home establishes this connection on a daily basis. Biophilic design is not a new idea, but its beneficial influence on our wellbeing has only begun to gain traction with architects and neuroscientists in recent years. Being a natural material, timber has a variety of textures, colours and scents that our bodies respond to instinctively. Timber allows us to feel connected to nature. Timber introduces warmth into our homes and adds softness to architectural designs. Even as the modern home design evolves, timber continues to be synonymous with Australian architecture and our climate. Built environments that feature timber have been known to facilitate creativity and productivity, lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels. As our homes are the dominating environment in which we live our lives, these are the spaces where we should feel most at ease.
FREEDOM IN YOUR DESIGN
The versatile nature of timber lends itself to both classic and contemporary-style homes. As timber can be transformed to represent almost any shape, there are countless ways it can be utilised to create character in the interior and exterior of your abode. Timber can be modified to suit any style of home and aesthetic. Timber can be bold and striking, it can be warm and playful, it can bounce off of light. The possibilities are endless.
Timber can be used to inject personality into your home and create unique points of interest both indoors and externally. The use of timber for outdoor decking, window shutters, stairways, wall panelling, and flooring is well-documented and timeless, but readers can challenge themselves to think outside of these confines. Timber ceilings, feature walls and alcoves can be used to create soft and light spaces within the living area. Timber can also be introduced into your bathroom and kitchen with joinery, cabinetry and vanities. The various species of timber allow for alternative textures and colours that will complement different aspects of your kitchen and bathroom. Exposed structural elements such as columns or trusses can also be incorporated into your design to enhance the overall feel and appearance of your home.
A RENEWABLE LIFESTYLE
As a non-toxic and 100 percent renewable material, timber is one of the few natural building options available to us. Providing natural storage for carbon, timber contributes to the long-term reduction of carbon emissions and uses less fossil fuel energy during its manufacturing process compared to other common building materials like steel, concrete and aluminium. Moreover, timber is a natural insulator, and a home populated with timber requires less energy to heat and cool; greatly reducing your carbon footprint. Readers should be wary of the source of their timber supply and ensure that it has been harvested responsibly. Your timber supplier should be able to advise if your timber has come from a certified sustainable forest that replants every tree that is harvested to build a new home.
PRESERVING THE INTEGRITY OF YOUR HOME
Timber is a firm favourite among builders and homeowners for its availability, lower cost and construction time. However, even with its numerous benefits, building with timber does present its own set of challenges that should be addressed before, and after you build. Timber is an undeniably beautiful material but there are many external factors that can hinder its durability and integrity, including exposure to sun, rain, saltwater, moisture, pests and fire.
As a natural product that changes with climate, timber is prone to mould, pests and fungi. Before construction, it is vital to choose the correct type of timber according to the climate of your building location. Certain species will retain moisture for longer periods, damaging the long-term integrity of the wood. Whether your timber is exposed, covered or concealed, providing adequate ventilation is essential in preserving the structural integrity of your property. The ability to dry timber quickly or prevent extended periods of condensation will help avoid mould, pests and fungi. This is aided by good construction detailing and selecting timber that comes with a pre-applied pest control product. As timber ages naturally, it can be known to shrink, swell, crack and fade over time. These concerns should be addressed with your builder before construction to ensure your home will remain in good condition. Each species of timber has very unique properties, so find a builder who is well-versed in these variables. If external factors are considered during the design phase and timber products receive periodic maintenance, the life of a home can be extended by decades.
With its warm aesthetic appeal and various design capabilities, timber is a worthy fixture in any Australian home. Incorporating timber within a home design establishes a tangible connection to nature, enhancing our emotional and physical health.
Images courtesy of Mondo Exclusive Homes, Kre8 Constructions, and Averna Homes.