MADISON, WI - WholeTrees Architecture & Structures has developed a proprietary manufacturing process to cost effectively manufacture structural wood components from the small, unwanted portion of trees removed from routine forest thinning, such as diseased or invasive trees.

Currently there is no market for the small diameter round timber, as it is known, due to low market values for small trees. The development of the process, used to make interior, exterior and structural beams, is based on research conducted with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory and funded in part by the USDA Small Business Innovation and Research grant program. WholeTrees was also awarded a grant by the State of Wisconsin.

“Our proprietary production process and grading technologies add value to this surplus resource. WholeTrees creates a profitable relationship with trees and encourages healthy forest management,” says Amelia Baxter, president and co-founder. Baxter's firm is also pending in status for a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise certification.

Baxter says creating a market for the trees establishes an economic incentive for healthy forest management by taking what would otherwise be forest waste and transforming it into a highly valued construction material. WholeTrees products also store carbon while displacing the pollution and carbon from the use of steel and concrete, she says.

Life-cycle assessment studies indicate that wood outperforms fossil fuel-intensive materials such as steel and concrete on all measures, including embodied energy; air and water pollution; and global warming. Small diameter round-timer is 50 percent stronger than heavy milled timber and as strong as steel, according to the USDA Forest Products Laboratory. Wood structures also have lower, more stable material and construction costs than steel or concrete.

An estimated 56 million acres of national forests are critically under-managed according to the Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service. Without management of natural waste such as fallen timbers too small to be milled, forests risk insect and disease infestation and high concentrations of fuel buildup or fire. 

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