Conference paper Open Access
Wood modification processes improve many characteristics of wood that are appreciated among building professionals. The same modification processes also change characteristics of wood that are important to laypeople, such as wood’s visual (e.g., colour) and tactile (e.g., roughness) properties. Since these properties are crucial in people’s perception and evaluation of materials, it is necessary to study how people perceive and evaluate modified wood. To assess human perception and evaluation of modified wood compared to untreated wood and steel, we prepared six cylindrical handrail samples. They were from unmodified spruce, unmodified pine, acetylated radiata pine, thermally modified spruce, thermally modified pine or stainless steel. 50 participants aged 65 or above rated all samples in random order on a 9- item semantic differential scale, which consisted of sensory (e.g., rough-smooth) and evaluative (e.g., like-dislike) pairs of descriptors. The study consisted of a tactile only task, visual-tactile task, and ranking task. The results indicate that modified wood is perceived and evaluated similarly to untreated wood both in the tactile and the tactile-visual task, while the stainless steel was perceived as considerably different than all types of wood. Ratings of the same handrails between the tactile and the tactile-visual task were similar, which suggests that touch has an important role in perception and evaluation of materials. The two highest ranked handrail samples were both manufactured from modified wood. Taken together, the findings indicate that modified wood possesses tactile and visual features that are comparable to untreated wood and are in general liked among older adults. These findings encourage the use of wood in indoor environments.