Whole Tree Architecture and Construction, the organization that is designing and building our house, received a major honor last November. They participated in a competition called Cleantech Open.

Because our world runs on business, Clean Tech is looking for those businesses where creativity is being applied to the standard business model with an eye to addressing urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges we are facing.  The Clean Tech Open works to select and support businesses that are trying to make a difference as well as a profit.

I suspect there is a certain amount of hot air and hoopla in any organization such as this, but it is good to see corporations joining together to promote environmental awareness.  They hold a competition every year since since 2006 and provide mentoring, business training and other services to growing green businesses.

Anything that gives green business a leg up sounds good to me.

Whole Treesplaced first in the green building category “for a business model that incentivizes proper and profitable forest management.”  That’s a mouthful that basically means using whole tree timbers culled from the woods that create both a green building and a healthier woodlot in the process.

whole Tree house, Tussen Tak, under construction

According to World Architecture News.com  Roald Gundersen has “developed a new use for managed forest thinnings as an affordable, renewable building material for agricultural, residential and commercial applications. For the past 16 years, Roald has been empirically testing the feasibility of using whole tree technology to construct beautiful, strong, economical and extremely green buildings.”

When asked what is the biggest thing an architect can do to stabilize the environment, Roald said, “We should be designing buildings which produce more renewable energy than they consume, recycle their own wastes, and sequester more CO2 than they produce. They should also enhance the local community, economy and environment in their production and operation. That’s a tall order. We know that biologically active buildings, like the solar greenhouses we build, and whole tree structures offer some real solutions to these challenges.

Interior of Kara Woods, a Whole Tree house.

“Whole trees require less than a 10% the energy of milling and 2% that of recycled steel to produce and transport. Our whole tree buildings sequester over ten metric ton of CO2 for every hundred square meters of building (more than what four Americans produce in a year).

“If you look at a project’s resulting forest management stimulated by the building, the long-term effects could be twenty or even thirty tons of CO2 per ten square meters. If you displace the use of imported steel and/or concrete that number could double again. Our reliance on industrial-age materials relies heavily on material and energy mining from around the globe making it vulnerable to fluctuating global commodity prices, and all the political, social and environmental problems mining brings.

Roald Gundersen

“As with food, by localizing and using highly abundant and renewable materials for the primary stuff of our buildings we can overdesign the structures, create high-mass solar passive interiors requiring little heating or cooling while sequestering billions of tons of CO2. We invest in local jobs in forest gardening and whole tree bio-facturing and construction. Our projects recycle 70-80% of project dollars back into local paychecks, which is nearly twice the industry standard.”

It’s not too hard to see how Whole Trees snagged first place in its category at the Cleantech Open last November.

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