Building A Better Educational Environment


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Much has been written about the impact construction can have on the environment but very little on the effect a building can have on its occupants. We have all entered a building and for some inexplicable reason, found it inviting. The influence construction materials can have on the comfort and wellbeing of end users is an area where more research is required, however evidence is now emerging about the role cross laminated timber (CLT) can play in enhancing internal environments.

Greg Cooper, Preconstruction Manager for the X-LAM Alliance, advises specifiers on the positive benefits of cross laminated timber construction – today he shares new research with Go! Public. Committed to research and innovation, the X-LAM Alliance are specialists in the design and delivery of sustainable CLT structures:

SOS – School Without Stress

The SOS school project, conducted by Holzcluster Steiermark, studied natural and healthy learning environments and whether or not they could have a positive effect on the wellbeing of pupils. SOS stands for ‘Schule ohne Stress’ which translates as ‘School without stress.’

The main objective of this project was to investigate basic scientific principles regarding the effect buildings have on the physiological, mental and psychological capabilities, especially in learning and mental stress situations.xlam2

The study compared four classes – two first grade and two second grade – of a secondary school in Haus im Ennstal with a total of 52 test students. Two of the classrooms were constructed with timber and equipped with wooden furniture and two with standard school interiors.

At the beginning of the school year the heart rate of pupils in the timber classroom was low, over the course of the year it decreased further. The difference between standard and timber built classrooms amounted to almost 10 heart beats per minute. The timber interior definitely had a positive effect on heart activity – the pupils were more relaxed in school and slept better at night. In the timber classroom pupils saved about two hours of cardiovascular activity per day – that equates to 8,600 less heart beats.

Cardiac vagal tone, the internal biological process referring to the activity of the vagus nerve, was another area of investigation. The vagus nerve is the one that protects our heart. The higher the check value, the less the risk of heart attacks.

There was an increase in vagal tone in pupils in the timber classrooms compared with a decrease in the standard classroom. The results of vagal tone in all test pupils continued through the night. An increase in vagal tone slows the heart rate and a higher vagal tone can have an effect on the emotional and social functions.

Head of the study, Maximillian Moser, said the results are ‘remarkable’ adding: “At the beginning we were a bit sceptical but the study has undoubtedly shown that wood has indeed a positive effect on our pupils.”

Positive Outcomes

  • Exposed timber
  • Creates a natural, inviting and calming environment
  • Enhances acoustic properties and dampens sound
  • Generates a peaceful space for effective teaching and learning
  • Introduces sustainability and environmental awareness to students

Protecting Future Generations

This study shows that along with its inherent benefits such as speed, sustainability and aesthetic appeal – cross laminated timber can have significant positive outcomes on the long term health and wellbeing of occupants.

Timber is the number one renewable mainstream construction material and can produce greener buildings with a lower carbon footprint. The X-LAM Alliance adopts and applies Best Practice sustainability principles through all aspects of its processes, from raw material procurement through to manufacture, offsite processes and onsite assembly. Offering only PEFC or FSC certified timber ensures clients are guaranteed of Full Chain of Custody. We are doing our bit to support future generations!

Learnings and Understanding

The X-LAM Alliance can assist at every stage of your construction journey – from pre-tender design through to onsite delivery and everything in between.

As industry specialists, the X-LAM Alliance offer one hour CPD seminars. These development sessions are tailored to meet the requirements of architects, engineers, specifiers and cover the technical and performance benefits, including an introduction to the CLT Construction Specifier, which will open the gates to value engineering and associated cost savings at a much earlier stage in the design process/procurement process.

For more information please visit: www.xlam-alliance.com

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