FPL Partner WholeTrees Wins Business Concept Challenge: Concept helps create new markets for small-diameter logs from forest restoration

Long-time Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) partner WholeTrees Architecture and Structures was named the winner of the 2015 Barrett Foundation Business Concept Challenge by the National Forest Foundation and awarded a $75,000 prize. This unique business plan competition awards the best entrepreneurial approaches that address the challenges facing America’s 193-million-acre National Forest System.

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Whole Trees installed support beams and trusses in a Festival Foods grocery store under construction in Madison, Wisconsin.

“It’s an honor to have our company recognized by a business luminary like Dr. Barrett,” says WholeTrees co-founder Amelia Baxter.  “We provide an incentive for healthy forest management by taking what would otherwise be forest waste and transforming it into a highly valued construction material.  It’s a delight to see this approach honored on a national stage.”

WholeTrees applies 21st Century tools and know-how to the task of designing, engineering and manufacturing innovative round timber structural systems for commercial and residential buildings. By using cutting edge fastening techniques and patented technologies, WholeTrees allows builders to use entire small-diameter trees as a cost-effective, sustainable replacement for steel and milled lumber in numerous building applications.

Small-diameter trees are a low-value by-product of forest management and developing markets for this by-product has been a challenge for land managers and businesses. WholeTrees advances the use of these products and creates a market for this material, while creating local jobs, improving forest management and storing carbon.

First runner-up and winner of $25,000, Klickitat Community Forest Products, is building a new model for processing small-diameter timber that produces efficiencies and results in increased profits and restoration of National Forests. Using high-efficiency, low-impact, cut-to-length logging systems, logs are merchandised in the field and delivered, unsorted, to Klickitat’s transportable manufacturing facility at a central location. Logs are then graded for four end products: variable-width pine and fir flooring, 1-2” non-graded S4S lumber, bundled and bulk firewood, and fence posts and agricultural poles.

By vertically and horizontally integrating lumber operations and capitalizing on efficiencies gained through this integration, Klickitat Community Forest Products will improve the end market for small-diameter timber, providing a critical incentive for increased forest restoration.

“Both teams demonstrate a unique approach to removing a major barrier preventing more restoration work on our National Forests” says Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System. “By creating markets for small diameter trees, the winning teams help create new opportunities for the Forest Service to achieve healthier forests and stimulate local economies. These are exactly the types of ideas we need to be nurturing across the country.”

WholeTrees Lifts Roundwood to New Heights: Commercial Installation Complete in Madison

WholeTrees LLC, a long-time partner of the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), has completed the installation of structural columns and trusses made from- you guessed it- whole trees, in a Festival Foods grocery store currently under construction in Madison, Wisconsin.

New grocery store features WholeTrees technology. Photo credit: Heartland Images Photography

The new grocery store features WholeTrees technology. Photo credit: Heartland Images Photography

For the project, which broke ground last fall, WholeTrees worked closely with Tri-North, Gebhardt Development, and the City of Madison to re-purpose ash trees for use as structural columns in the store. The trees had previously been removed due to emerald ash borer disease .

WholeTrees also provided 88 structural trusses made with local red pine. The WholeTrees Wing Truss spans 30′ to 60′ with design loads of over 350 pounds per linear foot, and over 10 pounds of carbon stored per square foot.

Similar trusses were recently tested at FPL as the latest in a collaborative effort to demonstrate the technical feasibility of using tree stems in their original form as structural building components.

WholeTrees’ website features a great slideshow following the trees from harvest to installation that’s worth a look.

For more information on the project, see this feature story from Isthmus on WholeTrees’ involvement in the Festival Foods development.