Here is an article I wrote recently for Isthmus, Madison’s weekly newspaper.

Many in Madison are sad to see the city cutting down thousands of ash trees as an invasive Asian insect decimates the urban forest. But they might be heartened to learn that a few will remain intact and become part of the new Skogen’s Festival Foods grocery store, now under construction on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue.

The trees aren’t just decorative, but are being used to support the building’s roof, a job typically performed by steel.

A rendering of what the project will be like when completed.

A rendering of what the project will be like when completed.

“We are always looking for ways to do things green,” says Roger P. Schlomann, Festival Foods construction/facilities manager. “We wanted a different look for this store, and learned about a Madison company that was harvesting ash trees and making structural components.”

WholeTrees Architecture and Structures turns small-diameter trees into something the construction industry can use in place of steel. The company began by building homes with unmilled, branching timbers — including this reporter’s home west of Madison — and are now expanding into commercial construction.

“The Festival Food project is the first of its kind,” says Amelia Baxter, WholeTrees president. “These are the heaviest load-bearing columns and the longest spans of trusses that we have engineered…. We are developing our technology in wonderful ways.”

“We founded our company to bring the beauty and strength of low-value trees to the construction market,” Baxter adds. “This project is compelling, not just aesthetically, but in terms of technological and engineering development.”

Working with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison has put WholeTrees in the vanguard of this new field.

– Read the rest HERE

3 replies

  1. Great Job Denise-I had read it in the Isthmus and was glad you could do this-especially since the company was the same as involved with your house.

    • Thanks, Cheryl. Thanks for alerting me to this cool building project in the first place.
      I do believe that using the readily available trees in their unmilled state is a great way to build green, but it’s not on most people’s radar yet.

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