Scanning Trees for Sustainable Architecture

Here at Mandli, we’re involved with quite a few different projects. We often receive unique and unusual requests, and we’re never afraid to try something new.

About four months ago, we received one of these unique requests, and met with WholeTrees to discuss their needs. WholeTrees is a local Wisconsin company that engineers cost-efficient, sustainable structural systems for commercial and residential buildings using whole trees, which are low or no-value cullings of sustainably managed forests.

WholeTrees approached us about using the Maverick’s 3D LiDAR technology to scan trees in Tenney Park for use in the construction of Festival Foods on East Washington Avenue (Madison). The target trees in Tenney Park were urban ash trees that needed to be removed due to the Emerald Ash Borer.

The Emerald Ash Borer is an exotic and destructive beetle from Asia that feeds on the spongy layer of tissue just beneath the bark of ash trees. Their feeding destroys the tree’s tissue and the ability to move nutrients back and forth from the roots to the rest of the tree. Once infected by the Emerald Ash Borer, the tree starves and eventually dies.

The City of Madison targeted the trees needing to be cut down due to the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. Instead of destroying infected trees, WholeTrees provided a solution: use them in the construction of a new building. Using the entire tree, rather than it being chopped up or mulched, retains the tree’s natural strength (50% stronger than a comparably sized milled timber). WholeTrees, Mandli Communications, and Festival Foods teamed up to make this vision a reality.

As you can imagine, finding a tree that will fit perfectly inside your carefully crafted engineering plans is no easy task. In the past, WholeTrees has had to cut down each tree they were interested in, bring them to their warehouse, and scan each tree. Instead, we were able to drive a vehicle equipped with Maverick down the park trails and collect an interactive 3D point cloud, which allowed WholeTrees to easily identify which trees fit the needs of their project. This process proved to be much more time efficient and cost effective than the previous method. Eventually, WholeTrees and Mandli hope to create an inventory of trees that can be harvested as needed. According to WholeTrees co-founder, Roald Gundersen, “We’re developing an online catalogue of trees, from urban and rural forests, which can be pre-engineered, and made available to foresters for posting trees for sale, and building professionals as a new structural design medium.”

Festival Foods will be the first grocer to use round-timber columns, beams, and trusses as an engineered structural system. The 57,000 square foot structure will use 30 to 40 tons of urban ash trees saved from the City of Madison.

Mandli Communications

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