• WisBusiness

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

GreenBiz: Construction method goes beyond just lumber to focus on 'whole trees'

By Gregg Hoffmann
After he earned his degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota in 1984, Roald Gundersen worked as a project architect on Biosphere 2, a $250 million experiment in creating a sustainable, ecological, indoor living environment and education center in Arizona.

That work had a marked influence on Gundersen, as did his love of spending time in the woods as a kid. When he returned to his native Wisconsin, Gundersen knew he wanted to find a way to spend time in the woods, make an eco-friendly living from the trees that surrounded him and contribute to the environment in the process.

Thus, Whole Trees was born. As the Whole Trees web site says, “Gundersen is an architect by profession and a forester by avocation, and he uses Whole Trees to bring those two callings together by creating healthy, sustainable buildings that create a healthier forest.”

“I work with wood, while most construction works with lumber,” said Gundersen, who is based near Stoddard. “I garden the forest for my wood rather than mine it.”

Through this approach, Gundersen has earned a reputation around the nation, getting coverage in the New York Times, Natural Homes magazine and many other media.

Through Whole Trees Architecture and Construction, he and his staff have designed and constructed more than 30 residential, commercial, greenhouse/agriculture and other buildings since the founding of the company in 1991.

These buildings are unique. As the company promotional materials read, “Whole Tree structures are timeless, deeply familiar and comforting. They are at once ancient and avant garde. Unlike conventional building materials, machined to fit rigid dimensional modules, Whole Trees are sculpturally fluid and elastically supple. Trees love curves and will produce curved structures inexpensively; whereas machines will do curves only at great cost. When we harvest you a home, we will utilize the resources of your land and community, not global construction modules.”

Gundersen said at a recent Driftless Dialogue at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve: “Whole trees, or round wood, is 50 percent stronger than an equal section of lumber. A tree’s strength is derived from tubes of fibers, growth rings, that create tension that allows the tree to resist shear forces of the wind. When we cut them into lumber, we remove the strongest fibers. The strength of any timber cut from any log will be less than a third of the original log.”

Some of the longest standing structures in the world were made of whole trees. They include structures in Egypt and Greece, Il Duomo in Florence, Italy, temples in China and others.

Whole trees also compare nicely with modern materials. They have “weight to strength rations” comparable to steel in compression and twice that of steel in tension.

Gundersen is part of a grant-seeking study with Forest Products Lab and a researcher from the Yale School of Forestry to do some of the first actual tests on the strength of trees as a whole. Observation and early testing indicate that trees are at their strongest at the intersection of branches. That allows for that gardening of the forest mentioned by Gundersen.

“Builders traditionally look for the tallest, straightest tree and take it for the trunk, which can be made into lumber,” he said. “Using the whole tree though, we look for branches, areas curved by the wind. We actually use what many traditionally would consider the waste wood in the forest.”

“Natural architecture” of whole trees also sequesters much of the CO2 given off from any functioning structure and contributes less to global warming.

In addition to using what nature has bent and shaped, Gundersen has been bending and pruning living trees into the shapes he designs. He calls this practice “biofacturing” or “topiotechture” and considers it the next frontier of “growing buildings.”

For more than a decade Gundersen did his work largely on his own. It started with his work at the Biosphere 2 project from 1988-91. “That really focused my work on designing and building structures that could be part of the environment, living structures if you want to use that term,” Gundersen said.

“It was an incredible experience. But, I knew I also wanted to concentrate on buildings that were part of everyday people’s lives. Buildings that could be built for $50 a foot rather than $500 a foot, and still be environmentally friendly.”

Gundersen returned to the Driftless Area and began his work, first from a small facility in La Crosse and later from his own farm. In 2007, he joined with Amelia Baxter to found Whole Trees Architecture and Construction. Several new staffers have joined the company as the workload has expanded.

They work out of a “whole tree” and straw bale office building and a new factory space which gives them room to work on peeling branches, making connections, storing completed piece and other fabrication work.

This home office, and Gundersen’s home, was his first whole tree and straw bale project, with its timber coming from the 140 acres he calls Driftless Farm and Solar Greenhouse.

The solar greenhouses have become one specialty of the company. One can be found at the Wellspring Retreat and Farm in West Bend. Others are part of residences and other developments around the country.

Other Whole Tree completed works can be found at the Chrysalis Farm near Avalanche, Wisconsin, at the Driftless Café in Viroqua, the Ott Spott Cabin in Three Lakes, the Angelic Organics Learning Center in Rockford, Illinois, the Native American Heritage Center in Iowa, the Christine Center at a Franciscan retreat in Willard, Wisconsin, and elsewhere around the Midwest.

The company has been part of Maharishi University’s Sustainable Living Building. That project is in Fairfield, Iowa, and is part of the university’s sustainable living program.

Gundersen also worked on the Punta Vista building in Costa Rica. Whole Trees has attracted more international attention after a story on it appeared in the New York Times. An article ran in La Repubblica, an Italian publication, and a Norwegian online publication called www.oftenposten.no.

Baxter and Gundersen also have started the Driftless Farm Community Supported Forestry program. Its purpose is to “support a new model of forest economy where a healthy forest provides both land owner and members abundance, and preserves that which sustains us ... Trees.”

Members get selective access to whole tree timber, sustainably milled lumber, use of garden plots and greenhouse greens, as well as unlimited access to fresh spring water and a variety of other forest products and activities. The goal is to establish ways of using the forest that also contribute to its health.

The model being used is somewhat similar to that used by CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs.

“Movements like those in food, and what we are trying to do, keep the work and revenue local, as well as provide healthy food and products from local sources,” Gundersen said.

“Our efforts are to create sustainable lifestyles,” he added. “The question we ask is ’how can we clean the environment by building buildings?”

-- Hoffmann has written many columns and features for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com over the years. He writes the GreenBiz column monthly.


Comments: 19

At January 3, 2014 at 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can suggest my own personal point of view on this problem or find a good one at Papersmart.net custom essay writing service for me and other students. Some information nevertheless remains an open question for me as well as for lots of distant learners of our country.

At December 6, 2016 at 4:27 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Through Whole Trees Architecture and Construction, he and his staff have designed and constructed more than 30 residential, commercial, greenhouse/agriculture and other buildings since the founding of the company in 1991. Express Grass

At December 6, 2016 at 4:28 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Members get selective access to whole tree timber, sustainably milled lumber, use of garden plots and greenhouse greens, as well as unlimited access to fresh spring water and a variety of other forest products and activities. Artificial Grass Birmingham

At March 10, 2017 at 3:45 AM, Blogger Happy said...

happy easter 2017
Easter Sunday 2017 QuotesEaster Bunny Pictures
Easter Bunny Images

At May 13, 2017 at 3:36 AM, Blogger Akshay said...

Mother’s Day is celebrated for our family most special person our mother. Mother is a god gift for all people in the world. Every son/daughter is celebrated Mother’s Day for their mother; they express their feelings, love, and joy with their mom. Mother’s Day is celebrated in all over the world on different days; Happy Mothers Day Poems it means Mothers Day Date is not same in all over the world. In most countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated second Sunday of month May. Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

At May 14, 2017 at 3:05 AM, Blogger Nancy Garero said...

I admired your helpful words. Top class contribution. I really hope you’ll write more. I'll continue looking for.Refer to This Site for Additional Information

At August 6, 2017 at 9:32 AM, Blogger lee hala bol said...

The names that top the list of contestants in the 11th season of Bigg Boss add the following: YouTube sensation Dhinchak Pooja, 'Jamai Raja' actress Nia Sharma, popularly known for portraying Shah Rukh Khan's daughter Anjali in Kuch Kuch Hotai Hai - Sana Saeed, popular TV and theatre actress Achint Kaur, 'Nagarjuna' actor Pearl Puri and Saath Nibhana Saathiya actress Devoleena Bhatacharjee among others. Now, who among these will actually make it to your controversial reality show is yet to be tried.
Bigg Boss 11 Contestants Name List
Bigg Boss 11 Audition Process

At September 7, 2017 at 11:59 PM, Blogger kajol sharma said...

The official dates are yet to be out, and all official data identified with Bigg Boss 11 Details, Entry, Audition and Contestants will be refreshed on the authority sit of Colors, under the tab of Bigg Boss. Be watchful for the most recent news and trust no other source that the official one. On the off chance that you are anticipating apply, don't miss on the due dates.
Bigg Boss 11 Contestants SMS Code
bigg boss 11 promo live streaming
Watch Bigg Boss 11 Full Episodes Online
Bigg Boss 11 contestants list

At September 18, 2017 at 4:02 AM, Blogger alan morris said...

It's trick-or-treat time so collect the goblins, conjure up some creative halloween costumes and prepare intimidating, also keep in mind about your computer systems. In this article we present amazing assortment of Scary Halloween wallpapers related to spirits, witches, rituals, haunted properties and, obviously, a lot of pumpkins and candle lights.
Happy Halloween 2017
Happy Halloween 2017
Halloween coloring pages
female Halloween costumes

At October 2, 2017 at 9:59 AM, Blogger kajal sharma said...

Veteran's Day is one of ten elected occasions perceived across the nation by the United States Government. All unnecessary central government workplaces are shut on Veteran's Day, and every single elected worker are paid regardless of the possibility that they get the three day weekend. Numerous private-segment workers will likewise get paid time off or exceptional occasion pay on Veteran's Day.
veterans day poems
Veterans Day Speech Talking Points
Funny Veterans Day Meme Images
Veterans Day Clipart 2017 Images

At October 26, 2017 at 2:38 AM, Blogger Kajal Sharma said...

looking for birthday wishes for your family or friend you should visit once time.

At October 31, 2018 at 2:10 AM, Blogger Jatin said...

Wifikill apk download

At March 25, 2019 at 12:56 AM, Blogger tattoosdesigns said...

Excellent article and I think the post that touchs readers's concerns always rock. More at Libra Tattoos

At April 5, 2019 at 9:32 AM, Blogger gohard1337 said...

To become a good businessman, you need to study well; for this purpose, I offer you our service for the implementation of Uk Essay Writing and assignments for students.

At April 11, 2019 at 12:05 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Jetstar is an award-winning low-cost airline from Australia Established in 2003 and Operating in the Asia-Pacific region, the company specializes in Domestic Australian and international flights. JETSTAR CUSTOMER SERVICE

At April 15, 2019 at 12:13 AM, Blogger William Russ said...

Applebees Survey sponsored by Applebee’s is an American company which develops, franchises, and operates the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar restaurant chain. This Survey aim is to get valuable feedback from their customers, which guide them to improve the quality of the system and provide better services to the customers.

At April 17, 2019 at 12:49 AM, Blogger pthomson said...

Marriott International is an American multinational diversified hospitality company that manages and franchises a broad portfolio of hotels and related lodging facilities.

At April 20, 2019 at 5:34 AM, Blogger The Men Style said...

Thanks in favor of sharing such a nice thinking, article is pleasant, thats why i have read it entirely. More at Usher Haircut For Men

At April 23, 2019 at 11:21 PM, Blogger Aiden said...

There’s certainly a great deal to know about this topic. I like all the points you’ve made. Visit Florence Mall, Shopping center in Kentucky


Post a Comment

Back to BizOpinion main page

: See newer blog items : : See older blog items :

BizOpinion site feed

wisbusiness.com Social News

Follow Us

Site Sponsors


· January 2009
· February 2009
· March 2009
· April 2009
· May 2009
· June 2009
· July 2009
· August 2009
· September 2009
· October 2009
· November 2009
· December 2009
· January 2010
· February 2010
· March 2010
· April 2010
· May 2010
· June 2010
· July 2010
· August 2010
· September 2010
· October 2010
· November 2010
· December 2010
· January 2011
· February 2011
· March 2011
· April 2011
· May 2011
· June 2011
· July 2011
· August 2011
· September 2011
· October 2011
· November 2011
· December 2011
· January 2012
· February 2012
· March 2012
· April 2012
· May 2012
· June 2012
· July 2012
· August 2012
· September 2012
· October 2012
· November 2012
· December 2012
· January 2013
· February 2013
· March 2013
· April 2013
· May 2013
· June 2013
· July 2013
· August 2013
· September 2013
· October 2013
· November 2013
· December 2013
· January 2014
· February 2014
· March 2014
· April 2014
· May 2014
· June 2014
· July 2014
· August 2014
· September 2014
· October 2014
· November 2014
· December 2014
· January 2015
· February 2015
· March 2015
· April 2015
· May 2015
· June 2015
· July 2015
· August 2015
· September 2015
· October 2015
· November 2015
· December 2015
· January 2016
· February 2016
· March 2016
· April 2016
· May 2016
· July 2016
· August 2016
· October 2016
· December 2016
Copyright ©2013 WisBusiness.com All rights reserved. | WisOpinion.com | WisPolitics.com  |  Website development by wisnet.com LLC  | Website design by Makin’ Hey Communications