Archive for April 26, 2011


I just had an article published in Odyssey Magazine this month.   This is a very cool, science magazine for middle school kids that I have loved for a long time.  Each issue has a theme, and April’s theme is trees.   I wrote a piece about how whole tree building can protect our forests.  Here is how it starts:

.. Whole tree building means building with "weed" trees and improving, rather than clear-cutting the forest.

If all of the trees on Earth were divided equally among all of the planet’s people, we would each have a piece of forest about the size of a football field. But your personal patch of trees is shrinking. Studies by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization show that each year the world loses 35,000 square miles of forest. That’s enough to cover the state of Indiana.

..Here is the same cozy house from the outside.

Roald Gundersen, architect and CEO of Whole Trees Architecture and Construction based in Stoddard, Wisconsin, thinks he has found a way to harvest trees that does not harm the forest. His preferred building material comes from what many people would call weed trees.

Clearcutting is the way most trees are harvested: All the trees in an area are cut at the same time, and those that are too small or scrubby are piled up and burned.

Rivers running through areas that are clearcut lose their shade, and the water gets warmer. Adding even a few degrees can make the water too warm for native fish, amphibians, and plants.

Without the trees, rain turns into muddy runoff as nutrient-rich top-soil gets washed downstream. Valuable soil nutrients are flushed out to sea, where they; harm aquatic life.

..Doug and I worked on this very house in a 6-day strawbale workshop last summer. (me on the left, Doug 3rd from left)

But we can’t stop cutting trees. Trees give us some of our best building materials. According to Doug Rammer, a research engineer at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Products Laboratory, wood has a greater strength-to-weight ratio than steel. His lab wants to find even more ways we can use wood.

You can read the rest of the article (plus many other cool things)


April 26, 2011 at 12:02 am 6 comments

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