The effect of finishes on the moisture buffering capabilities of wood
Just as thermal mass can mitigate diurnal temperature swings by absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night, hygroscopic materials such as wood can smooth out short-term variations in humidity by absorbing water vapor when the air is wet and releasing it when the air becomes dry. This moisture buffering ability means that wood can be used as a passive strategy for maintaining human comfort inside buildings — a strategy that does not require the use of energy-intensive equipment such as fans or air conditioning units.
However, wood is seldom left exposed once construction is complete. Typically, it covered in or treated with with some other kind of material, such as paint, oil, or varnish. These materials, known as finishes, alter the physical properties of the wood to which they are applied, including its hygroscopic capabilities. How do these finishes affect wood's to absorb and release water vapor?
Nicholas is a veteran software engineer who is now pursuing masters degrees in architecture and information technology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is interested in novel applications of software tools and development methodologies to the design process and architectural practice. Nicholas expects to graduate in 2022.