We knew green building materials were the way forward. But we now know they’ll have the most impact when used in green spaces — thanks to The Book of Wilding. Here we look at the health benefits of green space in urban environments and how Streif UK sustainable building systems support this.

What’s The Book of Wilding?

Climate change and biodiversity loss can leave us feeling overwhelmed. But Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell know first-hand how amazingly nature can bounce back, given the chance.

And what comes isn’t just wildlife in super-abundance, but solutions to other environmental crises. The book, heralded as a practical guide-cum-Haynes Manual of rewilding, has grown out of the authors’ mission to help rewild Britain and beyond. They share knowledge from their pioneering project at Knepp in West Sussex. Close to Streif UK’s Chichester office, this is a project we’ve enjoyed seeing blossom.


Benefits of urban trees

According to The Book of Wilding, trees bring the following benefits to our urban areas:

Increasing cooling effects

As temperatures rise from climate change — and heat radiates from roads, pavements and buildings — trees cool us. Tree cover of 40% or more can lower the daytime temperature in towns and cities by as much as 5.5 °C. The lowering of street temperatures reduces the need for air conditioning, reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses. One mature tree can give off up to 450 litres of moisture a day. That’s the cooling equivalent of five room-sized air conditioners left on for 19 hours!

Reducing air pollution

Trees with bigger canopies and larger leaves are better at trapping the pollutants generated by fossil fuel burning vehicles, tire dust, factories and construction sites. Rough, rugged and hairy leaves act as the best filters. Globally, 8.9 million deaths a year are thought to be attributable to the inhalation of fine particulates.

While the government has promised to plant more trees in our urban areas, many mature trees are still being cut down. It’s worth considering that big trees:

  • Sequester more carbon
  • Trap more pollution
  • Provide greater flood protection
  • Further reduce noise pollution
  • Give more shade, moisture and temperature control
  • Produce more pollen and nectar as forage for insects

Green facades (climbing plants), living walls (vertical growing) and living rooves, introduced everywhere from London skyscrapers to Brighton bus stops, also provide green benefits for our urban areas.

They not only extend green spaces upwards but provide more habitat options for wildlife and wellbeing benefits for us. Another benefit is thermoregulation for building walls. In the UK, green walls reduce the temperature of external walls by as much as 12 °C in the hottest months.Hurstpierpoint College boarding house built using green building materials with a surrounding of trees

Benefits of biophilic design

“We need not think of trees simply at ground level and in conventional green space, buildings themselves can create the greenery. Architects and builders across the world are now thinking in terms of biophilic design… Green buildings can replace the green space that has been lost because of them” — Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell, The Book of Wilding.

Referring to the human love of living things and need to associate with nature, biophilic design increases the use of trees inside and outside to aid this connection. This is where using Streif’s sustainable building systems, crafted from 100% PEFC-certified timber, becomes important for future proofing built environments. We use the ultimate green building materials.

Here are the main benefits of biophilic design, which Streif’s advanced closed timber panel construction systems can help you achieve:

Provided eco-system servicesAir cooling, air purification and water storage are all enhanced with biophilic design. Achieving near Passivehaus Standard, Streif UK building systems are good at maintaining a comfortable air temperature that reduces the need for air conditioning and heating.

Increased wellbeing —  Research shows that humans relax when surrounded by elements from the natural world. The use of wood and plants in an office environment has been found particularly calming. While a study that compared the outcomes of surgery patients found those with views of nature were better than those with views of a brick wall. In line with this, Streif timber framed building systems have been incorporated in the biophilic design of healthcare facilities such as Southborough Hub in Kent.

Increased productivity — It’s becoming clear wood, like that used in our sustainable building systems, can make people perform better too. When Forest & Wood Products Australia surveyed 1,000 Australian workers they found a link between the use of green building materials (wood) and employees’ overall satisfaction at work, lower absenteeism, higher levels of concentration, and improved productivity.

Though biophilic design isn’t just about the use of trees and wood to help occupants feel part of a wider living landscape. It also includes:

  • Enhancing natural light
  • Increasing natural ventilation
  • Allowing for views — surrounding green spaces
  • Adding vegetation — house plants and cut flowers
  • Featuring natural forms and shapes

St Pauls School wrapped externally in Siberian Larch vertical cladding

Streif’s green building materials don’t cost the earth

We’re involved in the offsite manufacturing and onsite installation of many schools in Sussex, Surrey and Kent. The benefits of green building and sustainability — reduced running costs, increased wellbeing and boosted productivity — are particularly important for these clients.

Last year, we worked with Morgan Sindall to build a new three-story learning environment for Hailsham Community College Academy Trust. The sustainable educational building achieved a BREEAM Very Good rating and calculated carbon savings of 1164 tonnes. Not only that but high on East Sussex County Council’s agenda was a building that enhanced the wellbeing of students.

The project involved the use of green building materials — our advanced closed panel timber system — and allowance for plenty of natural light. Although the school was in an area surrounded by mature trees, the build was completed with the planting of a new green space right outside.

Got your own biophilic building design in mind and interested in how our green building materials can make your sustainable vision come true? Contact us for more information.

Ariel view of Hailsham Community College showing flood-lit all-weather pitch and surrounding area