Biophilic design enhances occupant connectivity to the natural environment and continues to influence commercial architecture and interior design. Biophilia, the idea that humans innately seek connections to nature, can be reflected in a broad range of elements when it comes to design; daylighting, views of nature, and the use of organic patterns are examples of ways to include biophilic design in a space. A designer may also incorporate the careful use of natural materials such as wood products, stones, and leathers. This design aesthetic’s proven effects on building occupants’ wellbeing is evident in reduced stress for office workers, faster healing times for healthcare patients, and higher test scores for students.

A recent study on the impact of wood on the quality of interior ambiance explored these physical benefits, emphasizing the importance of natural materials to enhance mental and physical health and overall wellbeing. Particularly in colder, overcast climates where daylight is dull and uniform, wood surfaces were found to bring warmth and brightness to a space. A prior study from Japan also found physiological and psychological benefits from wood, concluding that the blood pressure of its test subjects decreased significantly in rooms where wood made up more surface area. The study also concluded that a room with 45 percent wood coverage across all surfaces (including walls and ceilings) was most preferred by participants and most likely to be labeled “comfortable.”

Marble, granite, limestone, onyx, and other stone – similarly to the effects of wood – can also add to a biophilic design by incorporating large swaths of natural material. Especially for commercial spaces and surfaces that see heavy public use, from atria to hospitality spaces, and waiting rooms to countertops, these materials may be desirable for their aesthetic and biophilic properties. However, the high cost and heavy weight of natural stone products preclude them from many projects. It can also be difficult to match colors, patterns, and veining as they vary greatly from piece to piece and slab to slab.

While there is no denying the broad appeal of natural materials, designers who create with wood, stone, and leather know nature has its limits. These products can be inconsistent in look and texture and unpredictable in their performance, and their beauty is often easily damaged by regular exposure to cleaners, chemicals, and high traffic. In addition, raw cost and installation expenses can often eliminate natural materials from a project, leaving the specifier to find a lower-cost alternative that may compromise the aesthetics or performance of a design.

As is often the case, limitations can spur groundbreaking innovations in the interest of solving a problem. In the building products industry, this has led to new materials that improve on nature and expand design potential and performance where natural materials fall short. This allows designers to still achieve the aesthetics they desire and building occupants to still gain the biophilic benefits associated with natural materials, without any of the associated additional challenges. This spirit of innovation has already led to such creative man-made materials as composite decking, quartz countertops, bio-leathers, and now a new type of engineered wood veneer.

New Leaf Performance Veneers is an entirely new category of engineered wood surfaces, designed specifically to overcome the challenges of traditional wood veneers. Developed for use in commercial applications including furniture, architectural doors, wall panels, and case goods, New Leaf Performance Veneers replicate the depth and dimension of natural woodgrain, plus added consistency and performance compared to traditional veneers.

By using state-of-the-art printing technology, each New Leaf Performance Veneer is an exact replica of an authentic natural species. An advanced protective performance layer is applied to the top of the pre-finished engineered veneer and integrated throughout its layers to protect against sunlight, water, impact, and other elements that cause traditional veneers to age quickly. This revolutionary topcoat makes New Leaf Performance Veneers three times more fade resistant, four times more scratch and wear resistant, eight times more dent resistant, and 14 times more impact resistant than traditional veneers.