The decision to use mass timber reflects consumer demand for wood’s aesthetic: calm, organic, warm, well-being, and health-conscious luxury. It is also a reflection of market demand for its sustainability, ecological and human health benefits. Architects talk about “healthy interiors” when advocating beautiful wooden building designs.
So, health and safety are a high priority for both consumers and developers alike. It is not just the safety of the structures; it is emissions too. Safety includes interior air quality and indoor emissions.
There are invisible carbon-containing organic chemicals naturally present in indoor air. They come from many sources, such as flooring, furniture, fabric, and paints. Even trees, humans, and pets emit volatile organic compounds (VOC).
Developers are painstaking in choosing low-emission flooring, paint, and other building products. As a result, VOCs are not typically present at a considerable concentration in the air of today’s buildings to be harmful or to cause sensory irritation symptoms in occupants.
Regulations, naturally, also play a role in decisions about building products that affect health and wellbeing. However, there is no global regulation approach on indoor air concentrations of VOCs emitted by adhesive formulations, specifically formaldehyde concentrations. Multiples regulations were developed over the past decades at different scales, but none have been largely adopted nor have covered multiple engineered wood products. Until 2017 when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products, based on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB), covering the whole US territory. In comparison, the European Standard EN 13986 for E1 classification only covers wood-based panels and is mandatory required in 8 countries out of total 27, and no other regulation is widely applied.
Until a common regulation emerges, there are certifications that the industry can comply with, such as Greenguard (USA), Natureplus & M1 (Europe), JAIA F**** (Japan), which have clearly defined the limits in their programs.