In this blog series, we will cover the different ways the design of your home can make a difference in your health and well-being. Our topic this week is about using natural materials. (Title photo of a Saharchitects designed home in Dondelange. Photo by Steve Troes Fotodesign)
Using sustainable and renewable timber to construct your home will give you peace of mind knowing how environmentally friendly this option is. When quarried properly, natural stone is also ecological due to it’s longevity and biodegradability. These materials, amongst others, are also very healthy due to the lack of chemicals and toxins.
But do the advantages of natural materials stop there?
There is growing evidence that these materials offer us far more. In a study done in 2007, it was shown that the amount of wood on the walls of an interior space led to different physical responses. With a moderate amount of wood covering the walls (45%), blood pressure decreased significantly and pulse rate increased significantly.1 An increase in pulse rate typically happens when someone is excited and their adrenaline is rising.
Interestingly, when the walls were almost completely covered by wood (90%), the researchers saw a decrease in brain activity.1 So this would be a sensible amount of wood for a spa where complete relaxation is desired, but not the best solution for parts of a home or office. Breaking up the wood with other materials or large openings keeps us more awake and active while reducing stress.
Natural patterns and textures that we grow up with give us a sense of familiarity. However, according to a study by Nikos Salingaros, our attraction to natural materials is not just learned. He states that the patterns in nature, down to the microscopic scale, mitigate physical stress.2 These patterns are called fractals. This means that similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales like in a snowflake.
He explains, “In such fractal environments, our body automatically dampens its response to stress…This implies that particular fractal environments are healing, or at least buffer us from life’s stresses…Altogether, we have here the beginnings of a new way of interpreting how the visual environment affects our health.”2
Our response to these patterns in natural materials is very sensitive. We can tell the difference between natural materials and synthetic ones, and we tend to not react well to the synthetic materials when they dominate. It is therefore important to integrate at least a moderate level of natural materials in a building whenever possible.
Saharchitects is experienced in understanding how to design with natural materials. If you are considering a renovation or building a new home, please contact us or reserve a project feasibility call with our principal architect, Sahar Azari.
1. 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, 2014, Terrapin Bright Green
2. Fractal Art and Architecture Reduce Physiological Stress, 2012, Nikos A. Salingaros, University of Texas, Department of Mathematics
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