‘Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life’ - Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte
Trees are often referred to as the ‘Lungs of the earth’, reflecting their intrinsic role for the earth and humans. Trees are more like humans than one would first imagine. Trees, like humans, consist mostly of water, their capillaries transport water and nutrients from their roots to grow and evaporate through their leaves. Our relationship with trees is symbiotic, our breath depends on their precious oxygen and their continued existence depends on our care of use.
Trees hold energy. Studies show that an energetic aura with different levels of frequency can be measured from trees. Three decades of extensive research in Damanhur, Italy has revealed that trees can create their own music evidenced by recordings with specialist technology . Author Peter Wohllebe in in his newly released book ‘The hidden Life of Trees’ revealed his discovery that trees communicate with one another and live in social groups.
Natural materials generally have a higher energetic ‘vibration’ and we naturally respond to this, evidenced by our instinctive reaction to timber. Timber is a material that we all feel at home with. It warms a space with its colour, texture, smell and feel, grounding us. People are drawn to buildings that have timber in or on the façade. People who work in a building with timber will feel naturally happier, opposed to a more disconnected and isolated feeling in a building with no natural materials.
The positive psychological and physiological effects of timber were researched by Marjut Wallenius, a Doctor of Psychology at the University of Tampere, Finland. Wallenius stated: “Wood has [positive] psychological effects on people – a similar stress-reducing effect as nature”. According to Wallenius this effect is felt is due to the natural origin of wood, which makes it a warm and comforting material in construction. The health effects of wood in a hospital environment have been studied in many countries, including Norway, Austria, Japan, Canada and Denmark. These studies verified that environments with wooden structures elicited a “drop in blood pressure and pulse” and improved the process of recuperation.
Natural wood has also been shown to keep the humidity of indoor areas optimal from a health perspective, particularly for those suffering from allergies and asthma. The tangible effects of natural wood have also been observed in classrooms. According to Wallenius, the use of wood interiors and furniture in these areas minimise stress, increasing student’s productivity. It is clear that the use of timber in built environments promotes health, recovery and minimises stress, through a connection to nature.
Australians typically love the outdoors, and intuitively gravitate to natural materials in their interiors and as part of their homes. The popularity of interiors that feature natural materials such as salvaged and recycled timber has increased in recent years. This has prompted a movement away from minimalistic interiors that feature hard, shiny surfaces and finishes. Timber cladding and finishes create a greater sense of ‘home’ with its warmth and soft tactile, textural finish. Cafes, restaurants and pubs have all embraced this aesthetic knowing patrons will feel more at ease and comfortable surrounded by natural timber.
Developers, homeowners, specifiers and builders should carefully consider their options when selecting external and internal finishes. Sustainably grown timber with a non-toxic finish is better for both our own heath and the health of the planet. Manmade composites contain materials such as PVC, toxic glues and volatile compounds that may affect our health (by either sensitivities, allergic reaction or damage to our cells). PVC products often contains toxic ingredients and carcinogenic dioxins that migrate into the environment during its production, use and disposal, whilst naturally oiled timber gives back to the earth and ultimately nourishes the soil.
Trees and timber are integral to our lives, the natural unique beauty of individual pieces of timber goes beyond aesthetics, it ensures the health of the planet and ourselves is nurtured and supported. Open your mind to the healing power of trees and timber and notice how much happier you feel.
 Singing Plants at Damanhur. (2011, October 24). Retrieved from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZaokNmQ4eY
 Timber + Design. (2014, July 7). Wood Psychology. Retrieved from Timber + Design : http://www.timberdesignmag.com/articles/wood-psychology/