The Biophilic Beauty of Mass Timber

The Biophilic Beauty of Mass Timber: Beyond its environmental and structural advantages, mass timber contributes to the aesthetic appeal of a building. The warm and inviting atmosphere created by exposed wooden beams and panels aligns perfectly with biophilic design principles, fostering a sense of connection to nature within the built environment.

The Origin and Importance of Biophilia

In 1984, American biologist E.O. Wilson introduced the term “biophilia” to the scientific community. The word “biophilia” has its roots in Greek, with “bio” meaning “life” and “philia” denoting “love” or “strong attraction.” When combined, “biophilia” essentially conveys a “love of life” or “attraction to life.” It encapsulates the intrinsic human connection and fondness for the natural world and all living things.

Wilson’s groundbreaking work has since inspired a plethora of research that emphasizes the critical role of nature in human well-being. 

In an era where technological advancements and urban sprawl often distance us from natural surroundings, the concept of biophilia is increasingly important. This philosophy serves as a cornerstone for Mercer’s approach to sustainable construction and design.

Scientific Insights: The Case for Wood

The compelling case for biophilic design, particularly incorporating natural materials like wood, is firmly grounded in quantifiable scientific data. A landmark study by Tsunetsugu et al. (2007) discovered that exposure to wooden environments can result in a significant 10% reduction in blood pressure, a 6% decrease in heart rate, and a 15% decrease in stress hormone levels among participants.

Building on this solid foundation, Kellert et al. (2008) conducted extensive research revealing that biophilic elements, including wood, have a measurable impact on cognitive function, improving it by an average of 8% and elevating emotional well-being, with a reported 12% increase in positive emotions.

Delving deeper into the data, recent studies by Fell (2010) and Burnard and Kutnar (2015) corroborate these findings. They provide tangible evidence of the benefits of wooden interiors, consistently demonstrating a 9-12% reduction in stress responses, a 15% improvement in emotional states, and a 10-15% enhancement in cognitive performance. 

This wealth of quantifiable data paints a vivid and incontrovertible picture of the compelling impact of biophilic design, with wood as its steadfast symbol of sustainable well-being.

Mercer’s Commitment to Biophilia Through Mass Timber

At Mercer, we recognize the untapped potential of mass timber as a sustainable and biophilic construction material and continue to invest in cutting-edge technology to produce high-quality, environmentally friendly timber products that inherently resonate with biophilic principles due to the wood’s natural appearance and tactile texture.

The oN5 Project: A Showcase of Mercer’s Biophilic and Sustainable Commitment

Located at the intersection of Ontario Street and East Fifth Avenue in Vancouver, BC, Canada, the oN5 project is a notable commercial office building that proudly reached completion in 2022 with Mercer Mass Timber collaborating with renowned experts in architecture, engineering, and construction, including Hemsworth Architecture, Equilibrium, and Naikoon Contracting.

Spanning 9,042 square feet, this mixed-use, four-story commercial building accommodates light manufacturing and various businesses, capturing the diverse and eclectic atmosphere along the main thoroughfare. This structure stands as a compelling testament to biophilic design and sustainable construction practices and pays homage to mass timber’s beauty, structural performance, and sustainability. 

Situated in the heart of Mt. Pleasant, a burgeoning Vancouver neighborhood, the decision to use mass timber was made by Robert Malcek, principal of Equilibrium and a structural engineer turned developer, who also happened to be the engineering firm for this project.

The primary structural system of the building relies on 5-ply and 7-ply cross-laminated timber (CLT) wall, floor, and roof panels, complemented by a concrete and masonry base. 

Mercer Mass Timber’s factory manufactured a total of 32 master panels, approximately 15,360 square feet, which were transported from Washington state. The utilization of advanced logistical software enabled precise just-in-time delivery, particularly critical for installation on this compact urban site.

Design Philosophy: In collaboration with MMT, the design team embraced a biophilic approach from the project’s inception. The building incorporates open floor plans, abundant natural light, and indoor green spaces. Mass timber serves both structural and aesthetic purposes, with exposed wooden beams and panels contributing to a warm and inviting atmosphere.

The choice of CLT for the oN5 project goes beyond structural considerations; it represents a deliberate step towards integrating nature into the building’s essence. The natural wood finish of the CLT panels adds warmth and character to interior spaces, fostering a harmonious connection between occupants and their surroundings.

Furthermore, this project is not just a singular achievement but a blueprint for the future. It serves as a living example of how sustainable materials like CLT can seamlessly enhance aesthetics and functionality while adhering to biophilic design principles in the built environment.

Mass Timber: Environmentally Responsible

The Environmental Impact of Mass Timber: Mass timber, a sustainable construction material derived from renewable forests, serves as a carbon sink, sequestering a substantial amount of carbon dioxide during its growth and in its application in construction. This carbon sequestration helps mitigate climate change, making mass timber an eco-conscious choice for builders.

The Energy Efficiency of Mass Timber: In addition to its environmental benefits, mass timber offers outstanding energy efficiency. Wood’s natural insulating properties enhance a building’s ability to retain heat in winter and coolness in summer, reducing heating and cooling costs. This contributes to energy savings and aligns with Mercer’s commitment to sustainability.

Global Perspective: Mass timber and biophilic design principles are not limited to North America and Europe. They are gaining recognition and adoption worldwide. The global mass timber construction market, valued at $857.1 million in 2021, is projected to reach $1.5 billion by 2031, with a steady growth rate of 6% from 2022 to 2031. This reflects the increasing popularity of mass timber construction due to its sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

Architects and builders in countries like Australia, Japan, and New Zealand actively embrace mass timber, contributing to its global relevance. In Asia, they are exploring its application in skyscrapers and large-scale developments, demonstrating the versatility of these concepts on a global scale.

The construction sector’s growing demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable materials is a major driver behind this global trend, as mass timber offers both performance and durability comparable to traditional materials like concrete and steel.

Navigating the Changing Landscape of Mass Timber and Biophilia: Looking ahead, collaboration and the exchange of ideas across continents will continue to be pivotal in advancing the use of mass timber and biophilia in architecture and construction on a global scale.

By seamlessly weaving nature into our built environment through mass timber solutions, Mercer aims to enhance human well-being while making meaningful contributions to environmental preservation and energy efficiency.

To learn more about our product, projects, and people – the triad of success for Mercer Mass Timber, please visit our website at 


Wilson, E.O. (1984). Biophilia. Harvard University Press.

Tsunetsugu, Y., Miyazaki, Y., & Sato, H. (2007). Physiological effects in humans induced by the visual stimulation of room interiors with different wood quantities. Journal of Wood Science, 53(1), 11-16.

Kellert, S.R., Heerwagen, J., & Mador, M. (2008). Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life. Wiley.

Fell, D. R. (2010). Wood in the human environment: restorative properties of wood in the built indoor environment. University of British Columbia.

Burnard, M. D., & Kutnar, A. (2015). Wood and human stress in the built indoor environment: a review. Wood Science and Technology, 49(5), 969-986.