Healthy living with construction material of the 21st century

Healthy living with construction material of the 21st century

Nowadays, people spend as much as 80% of their time indoors, which is why it is very important for our health to choose the right materials to surround us.

  • timber and healthy living
  • nowadays, people spend as much as 80% of their time indoors
  • technical properties of timber
  • solid timber construction
  • from cross-laminated (Xlam) panels

 

More and more frequently, people succumb to illnesses related to the unhealthy contemporary residential construction, such as skin conditions, allergies, breathing problems, and psychological conditions due to the mesh reinforcements in concrete and the resulting disturbances to the Earth's magnetic field. These problems can be solved by means of bio-construction and suitable structures. Studies conducted in Germany estimate that nearly a third of the German population suffers from illnesses caused by "improper construction". Owing to the unsuccessful long-term medical therapies, medicine consumption and absence from work the economic damage is reaching amounts worth billions.

 

Timber and healthy living

Timber is a renewable natural raw material that contains no substances harmful to people and has been used as a construction material for thousands of years. Its solidness and low weight render it suitable even for larger, multi-storey buildings, now even more so due to the new technology of cross lamination of timber construction panels. Even when felled, a tree retains some of the characteristics normally found in living organisms. Timber walls and ceilings function as skin as they breathe, receive and transmit moisture, thus regulating its levels. Since timber constantly exchanges the air in rooms, it contributes to the well-being and health of the inhabitants. Unpleasant odours never linger in rooms with large surfaces of natural timber. Breathing and absorption are two of timber's natural functions. According to immunotherapist Stefan Schimpf, M.D., the air filled with bacteria and viruses is purified through timber pores and then returns to the room. The air cleansed in this way has a beneficent effect on the immune system and contributes to the maintaining of lasting health.

The universe, the earth and the construction materials emit radiation. Prof. Sievert, Director of the Institute of Radiophysics in Stockholm, Sweden, ascertained that the average natural radiation load amounts to app. 0.8 mSv per year, which is how much a human being absorbs. In a timber house, the amount of 0.8 mSv per year was measured, whereas this value rose to as much as 2.04 mSv per year in a concrete building. Sievert believes that, in comparison with other construction materials, only timber is irreproachable and suitable as protection against health injuries arising from radiation. At the Joanneum Research Forschungsgesellschaft in Graz, Austria, the influence of timber on people and their well-being was studied, the project being co-founded by the EU. It was established that, upon lengthier stays in rooms enveloped in timber, the heart rate decreased by 3,500 beats per day, which means the heart rested for an hour a day. What is more, the well-being improved, people became more open and slept more soundly. The scent and colour of timber create an atmosphere in which we feel safe and comfortable.

 

Technical properties of timber

Timber handles tensile and pressure loads very well, and exhibits high specific load-bearing capacity. Timber structures, especially those made of cross-laminated panels, are also very seismically safe. Solid timber is hard to ignite, especially if the fire progresses only along one plane. Solid timber panels handle fire loads very well, retain their load-bearing capacity for a long time and don't lose their shape. Compared with concrete or steel, they can handle even greater loads, with the structure remaining stable for a very long time as the fire spreads. A 12 cm thick Xlam panel reaches fire resistance of over 60 minutes, with a charred layer created during burning, impeding it. What is more, timber is a good insulator; the mechanical properties of a solid timber wall with thickness ranging between 9.4 and 12 centimetres, correspond to a 38 centimetre thick brick wall. In rooms made of timber, the temperature levels out naturally, which means that a solid timber building will take longer to cool in the winter and longer to heat up in the summer. Timber is porous, which is why the timber surfaces are in a stable and physiologically pleasant thermal balance with the temperature of the rooms. If one of the rooms in your home remains empty for a few days, it will not require much heating. In most care homes for the elderly and other solid timber facilities, the need for air conditioning is eliminated, which brings an additional advantage since most seniors are sensitive to forced ventilation systems.

 

Solid timber construction from cross-laminated (Xlam) panels

Fifteen years ago, cross-laminated (Xlam) panels were developed, enabling the construction of multi-storey buildings and larger timber structures. The panels come in various thicknesses, ranging from 6 to over 30 centimetres, while lengths can exceed 16 metres. For the purposes of adhesion, polyurethane adhesive is used, while the timber moisture acts as the second component in the process of glue bonding. The product was developed by Bayer and has no harmful effects. The building wall thickness normally ranges between 9 and 12 centimetres, while mid-floor structures usually range between 14 and 18 centimetres, depending on the spans and loads on floors. Smaller wall thickness enables around 5% of additional living space, i.e. greater net floor surface of the building with the same external dimensions in comparison with other types of structures, which is of great advantage for the investor. What is more, the price of the RC foundation structure/basement is lower as well because the loads on the foundation are up to five times lower than with traditional construction. The areas north of Slovenia have identified the advantages of timber construction. In view of the fact that the positive sides of living in timber buildings are obvious, foreign investors frequently decide to build care homes for the elderly from timber. The CLT panels were used in Austria to build several care homes for the elderly as the structure meets the highest eco standards, for which all the necessary supporting documents have been obtained. Furthermore, structures made of CLT panels can be awarded a higher score when it comes to environmental subsidies.

Another important advantage in addition to the beneficial effects on health and positive properties of timber as a construction material is the speed of construction which is all the more important to investors bound to concessions. Since such facilities are more energy-efficient, lower consumption is also evident in monthly invoices received by care home inhabitants, as well as in the lowering of costs throughout the entire time of staying at the care home.


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