Debating building materials for a new house? A whole, unmilled tree can support 50 percent more weight than the largest piece of lumber milled from the same tree, and also sequesters carbon. Architect Roald Gundersen shapes live small-diameter trees– passed over by loggers as too small- into gorgeous building frames. A combination of arched trees and trunks of larger trees felled by wind, disease or insects provide naturally strong housing structures, claims Gunther and his business partner Amelia Baxter.
Pulling small trees from a high-density forest allows remaining trees and undergrowth to receive more light, air and nutrients. Their firm, Whole Tree Architecture and Construction, works in coordination with a USDA-supported community forest project that sustainably harvests lumber, firewood, herbs and mushrooms and manages a living inventory of the area.
Why synthetically design when nature already provides the answers? The strength and flexibility of tree crooks and arches “have been time-tested by environmental conditions for 200 million years”, Gunther states. Whole Trees can keep construction costs as low as $100 a square foot, and the resources used are renewable, with careful stewardship of surrounding forests.