Forest Waste Put to Use
Round unmilled timber is about 50 percent stronger than milled timber—in fact, as strong as steel in tension. It can span long distances and hold significant weight, and provides an environmentally friendly option. Steel requires a great deal of fuel to extract the raw materials, process and ship it globally. Round timber’s embodied energy (the fuel required to extract and process it) is much lower by comparison, and this competitive advantage only grows as fuel prices increase.
Natural Materials as Strong as Steel
Founded in 2007, WholeTrees Architecture & Structures
developed the technology to cost-effectively take small-diameter trees removed during routine forest thinning and fabricate them into structural building systems, finding a use for timber that would otherwise be considered forest waste. The company started out with a focus on residential construction, but has since moved into the commercial construction market as well.
WholeTrees’ proprietary manufacturing process uses patent-pending structural components based on research conducted with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, and funded, in part, by more than $1 million in grants from the USDA. In 2012, the company received the Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) certification from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), making its investors eligible for a 25 percent tax credit on the amount they invest. In 2014, they received a $170,000 Technology Development Loan from WEDC to help them continue their expansion. WholeTrees was awarded the 2014 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Architecture Design Award Nomination, and Baxter’s cofounder, Roald Gundersen, was awarded the 2013 Margot Siegel Design Award, which honors designers for innovations and enhancements to quality of life.
Read an interview with WholeTrees cofounder Amelia Baxter