Search Articles:

Architect Builds Homes With Whole Trees

By Doug Dalsing
August/September 2011
print  Print         

photo of Tim Kelly testing vegetable oil
Roald Gundersen built this home in 1993 using whole, unmilled trees as structural elements. He founded Stoddard, Wis.-based Whole Trees Architecture & Structures in 2007 along with his partner, Amelia Swan Baxter.

Roald Gundersen is a forester/architect with a background in environmental design, and the New York Times has said he "may revolutionize the building industry." The reason? At Whole Trees Architecture & Structures, Gundersen is charting new territory in architecture by using whole trees as structural elements in his residential and agricultural buildings. That's right, no milling—just a little bending, debarking, trimming, and cutting to fit, which he says results in roundwood that is stronger than sawn wood. Speaking to millennia of natural selection, Gundersen says, "Trees have an engineering structure developed over a very long time, so we have a lot we can learn from them." He's not just waxing philosophical—his ideas are backed by science. According to research conducted by the USDA's Forest Products Lab in Madison, Wis., a whole, unmilled tree can support 50 percent more weight than the largest piece of lumber milled from the same tree. "A tree is very different from wood," Gundersen says, waxing a little metaphysical. He practices sustainable forestry on a tract of land near Stoddard, Wis., from which he harvests his building materials. In the end, he holds a view on forestry that any eco-conscious and business-minded individual can appreciate. By culling thinner trees for his structures, "we're increasing the stand" and giving the forest value, he says. "Our forest is more like a garden than a mine."

Doug Dalsing is a former associate editor at Hardwood Floors.



Job Title:
Email (not published):
(maximum 2,000 characters)  

Related Articles: Green

Up the Green Mountain: Talking About LEED and Green Globes (August/September 2014 - Andrew Averill)
The debate between the two largest green building rating systems, at least for the men and women who work in this business, comes down to wood.

CoastEcoTimber is Reclaiming a Billion Sunken Board Feet (August/September 2014 - Andrew Averill)
There are hundreds of millions, maybe even a billion, board feet at the bottom of Lake Bayano in Panama, and CoastEcoTimber owner Alana Husby is surfacing as many trees as she can in the greenest, most sustainable ways possible.

This Camera Device Can ID Wood in Two Seconds (August/September 2014 - Andrew Averill)
A team from the Forest Products Laboratory is developing a game changer—a camera device that can identify wood in a flash and help customs agents catch illegally logged products.

Geneticists Plan to Create Glowing Trees (December 2013/January 2014 - Karly McMillan)
Trees have plenty of uses beyond wood flooring, and now one company is working to...

Wood Watch Maker Plants a Tree for Every Sale (October/November 2013 - Karly McMillan)
Wood flooring brings style and class to homes, and now, with WeWood watches, it can...

Biodegradable Urn Plants Tree with Ashes (October/November 2013 - Karly McMillan)
End-of-life planning isn’t the cheeriest of subjects, but Spanish designer Gerard Moline has...

How One Contractor Handles the RRP Rules & Sanding Lead (August/September 2013 - Jay Daniel Moore)
I grew up in rural New Kent County on a farm, which my grandfather bought in the Tidewater region of Virginia back in the 1940s. On...

Design Student Makes Paper into Wood (August/September 2013 - Karly McMillan)
Man has been turning wood into paper since 105 A.D.; now a company in the...

Wood Floor Maker Helps Orchard Clean Up After Natural Disasters (June/July 2013 - Karly McMillan)
Dixon’s Apple Orchard had a rough year in 2011, starting with a late frost that...

Vintage Moments: Carpet = Plague? (October/November 2012 - Doug Dalsing)
"It was a woman who threw a skin she had cured with her own hands on the floor of the rude tent to cover the stain of blood on the pounded...