Tag: Urban Wood

Fall for ‘Felled’ This Holiday Season

Felled: A Documentary Film About Giving New Life to Fallen Urban Trees is available for on-demand viewing.

Tiny Chair Productions offers this description of its 57-minute documentary: “Felled is a story about finding worth and beauty in something most consider to be trash. The film chronicles the journey of an urban pine tree downed by a summer storm and saved from the landfill by two woodworkers who give the tree new meaning as a family dinner table. Through interviews with industry experts, sawyers, arborists, artists, and woodworkers, including both Norm Abram and Nick Offerman, the film highlights the growing urban lumber movement and explores themes of waste, craftsmanship, and redemption.

Felled is available online to rent for $1.99 or purchase for $9.00. Check out the trailer provided here.

 



Urban Wood Italian Style

By Franco Paolinelli
Silvicultura Agrocultura Paesaggio, Rome, Italy

Editor’s note: I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Franco Paolinelli since January of 2019. He initiated the conversation after finding Illinois Urban Wood in a web search. Over the last couple of years, we have shared several emails detailing our mutual interest in urban wood utilization. What follows is a paper Franco sent me about his urban forestry association’s urban wood activities in Rome. –– Rich Christianson

Logs from trees removed for an outdoor theatre were converted into benches.

OUR ORGANIZATION
Silvicultura Agrocultura Paesaggio (S.A.P.) is a small, non-profit, network of experts and firms, established in 1993 to improve urban green area management and related social and cultural services.  

The association operates mainly in Rome, a metropolitan area with lots of public and private green areas, then with huge amounts of trees to be pruned and renewed, then huge amounts of wood to be disposed.

Within this frame, in 2004 SAP launched the following project:

 URBAN TREES’ TIMBER: AN UNKNOWN RESOURCE

1) Assumptions

Wood is made by carbon polymers, produced by the plants with water and CO2, with the support of solar energy, through the photosynthesis process. The process releases oxygen in the atmosphere.

More trees equals more wood, which means more CO2 is taken away from the atmosphere and more oxygen us added, as recognized also by the Kyoto Protocol. 

Urban trees produce a huge amount of urban wood: Public and private trees, shrubs, hedges in private and public gardens provide security and support public health. They must be pruned and cyclically renewed. These processes produce urban wood.

Public-owned trees in the City of Rome Italy are estimated to be around 330,000. All trees of the city may be more then 1,000,000. An annual renewal of 1% means producing 10,000 logs that could provide at least 20.000 cubic meters of lumber.

What happens now: Generally speaking, wood companies do not appreciate urban lumber. Their manufacturing needs normally require a steady stream of very homogeneous logs that urban forests cannot provide.

As a result, most unwanted urban wood goes mainly in landfills.

In some cases, the trees are chipped then composted or sold to be used for for energy production. But most of it, particularly large logs and big branches, are just left to decay. This process may wind up converting carbon polymers into a greenhouse gas, maybe CO2 or even worse methane.

 2) TRENDS 

Urban timber quality is increasing: Modern arboriculture and greater attention to urban green resources are producing better quality urban trees. Then, at the end of their useful life cycle, better logs can be realized.

This trend also implies that there is a reduction of iron in trees in terms of nails, screws, etc. As the quantity of iron pieces embedded in urban wood decreases, damage to sawmills and sawblades will likely decrease.

Cities may express a multifunctional market: Urban areas may express increased demand for creative arts and crafts, including those with intrinsic symbolic values based on where the trees lived. There is also the potential to use more of the wood for didactic, therapeutic and training purposes.

All of possibilities may increase the appreciation for uneven logs and branches with unique shapes.

 3) PROJECT

 What could happen: The biggest challenge is changing people to view removed trees not as a waste but as a  resource.

An arborist trained on the subject will see the “resource” already on the tree, while pruning or cutting it in pieces. Then, even with a simple chainsaw, he may be able to produce a resource, in terms of pieces for crafts, art and furniture.

Beyond that,  now a days, portable mills are readily available. These machines can be used to convert logs and large branches into lumber. These operations may also take place where the tree has been removed.

A dying tree removed from a park, may return a benches, tables or playground equipment for the park itself.

Urban timber could be used to produce outdoor or indoor furniture, as well as art and design works or common use objects. Smaller branches could be made into items utilized for didactic and therapeutic activities.

Thus, just leaves, small branches and sawdust would be left for composting or used for energy.

4) URBAN WOOD UTILIZATION IMPLIES POSITIVE EFFECTS

Cultural and social effects:

  • Involving people in urban timber work may help to deliver important environmental messages. For instance: Wood is a sustainable carbon stock. Its use may help in controlling greenhouse gases.
  • Urban wood manipulation may help us, mainly our youngsters, to limit the drift within the “virtual world.” In fact, wood, the first matter humanity manipulated, will help us to remember that we have hands capable to do lots of things in the real world.
  • Several jobs within this field may be implemented by disadvantaged people, providing an inclusive effect.

 

 Environmental effects:

  • Carbon sink: Wood is the carbon that trees assimilate. Preserving wood, as art works or furniture for example, increases carbon sequestration. Its quantity may be defined. 
  • Sustainable energy production: Leaves and other leftovers may be utilized for this purpose.
  • New plantings: Urban timber markets may generate economic resources and motivations to plant more trees at both the public and private scale.
  • Improved maintenance: The urban timber market may motivate better care for trees. A full circle urban Forestry approach may take place. 
  • The availability of valuable urban timber may decrease the demand for tropical tree use. That may provide some help in saving environmentally relevant forests and in reducing import expenses.

Socio-economic effects: Urban timber production and transformation, within a multifunctional urban market, may develop through small and medium enterprises. These businesses can create jobs, along the whole supply chain from the grounded tree to timber production, design, art, didactic, social therapy and so on.

Why urban timber production may be convenient:

  • As urbanized areas grow, then the number of trees, planted and wild, must grow as well. Their required maintenance ultimately implies the production of urban wood. A great part of that may be converted into valuable urban timber. A multifunctional urban market may give a value even to species under-appreciated by the wood industry. 

  • Urban timber may have certified symbolic values based on the site where it comes from. Timber materials may, then become: “Rome trees’ timber,” “Central Park trees’ timber,” Tivoli Park trees’ timber” etc. In a multifunctional market, a board or an object with a certified origin may have an added value.
      
  • Based on CO2 sequestration a professional certification may be associated with a board or an object. Then, for instance, an owner may buy an urban timber dinner table and state to his hosts, “My dinner table is a 25kg carbon sink.”
  • Urban Forests and their timber may become relevant CO2 sinks that a city may include in its carbon balance in line with the Kyoto treaty.
  • New tools are available to produce timber from urban logs.
  • Timber transformation may be multi functional: production of objects, education, social services, therapy, environment, etc.

5) ACTIONS TAKEN

Since 2004 S.A.P. has taken logs and large branches of trees removed in private and public gardens, for safety and health reasons, to produce simple furniture pieces, as well as materials to conduct workshops with children and socially disadvantaged people.

Most furniture piece produced have been accompanied with a certificate stating their origin and a rough estimation of their carbon content.

In 2006 S.A.P. requested the Vatican administration to take the St. Peter Square Christmas tree at the end of the exposition period. S.A.P. used St. Peter Christmas tree logs and branches in experimental productions and workshops. 

In 2016 S.A.P. proposals on urban timber were joined by “A Roma Insieme”, an association focused on jail population support. A training activity was, then, arranged for inmates in Regina Coeli Institute, in 2017 and 2018.

5) PILOT PROJECT

In 2018 an interesting pilot project took place within the Leopardi elementary school of Rome to use trees removed on its land for an outdoor theatre project.

Steps: S.A.P., in the winter 2018 had some meetings with Mr. Giovanni Figà Talamanca, in charge for “Educational Politics” in the I’ Municipality of Rome, presenting him the project “Urban Timber from the Trees of Rome.”

The Giacomo Leopardi school lays in a large garden, rich in Pinus tress. School and Municipality Administration were already on the way to have 12 Pinus (Pinus pinea and P. halepensis) removed to increase garden safety.

Mr. Talamanca was able to link our project and the Pinus planned removal. The School administrations approved our proposal to convert some logs in outdoor furniture and a contract was signed.

The arboricultural firm in charge of the job was able to cut the trees, preserving several logs. The alumni parents’ association was involved to express proposals. The idea of the outdoor theatre was launched and approved. Project guidelines were defined and approved by the school direction.

S.A.P. experts, with a “Granberg” frame mounted on a Stihl machine saw milled 30 logs producing flattened ones, boards and short sections.

A volunteering parents’ group, named for the occasion “log rollers,” participated in locating the logs in the theatre selected site, in assembling the benches, in smoothing and in painting them.

The Theatre: The following furniture pieces were produced and placed:

  • N. 6 big round logs 2m long;
  • N. 19 flattened logs to be used as benches;
  • N. 8 benches assembled with boards on orthogonal sections 30cm high; and
  • N. 20 orthogonal sections sits.

Results:

 1 – For the school and the administration::

  • Reduced costs to obtain the theatre; and
  • Project administrative process definition.

2 – For the parent volunteers:

  • School garden improvement; and
  • Participation, ability acquisition.

 3 – For S.A.P.:

  • Working days;
  • Project administrative process definition; and
  • Urban Timber idea promotion.

4 – For the Environment:

  • Landfill prevented: 5 tons — 30% of the total biomass produced; and
  • Estimated carbon stock in the logs’ theatre: 2,5 tons.

5- For Local Economies:

  • Investment in local businesses.

6 – Development Programs:

  • Interest expressed by local institutions, mainly in the artistic environment, is increasing.

 



Atlantic Fine Woods: From African Exotics to Georgian Urban Wood

 

Atlantic Fine Hardwoods (AFH) business model is far different today than the one upon which it was founded by the brother-and-sister duo Joe and Laura Sissoko.

According to the company’s website, AFH started as an importer of hardwood logs sustainably sourced from the tropical forest of the Congo Basin. 

An article in the spring 2020 issues of Atlanta Home magazine offers more details about the company’s origins and why it shifted to urban woods.

“When siblings Laura and Joe Sissoko decided to start milling wood in 2012, it wasn’t for furniture, but rather for fine guitars and other musical instruments. At first, the pair called the company African Figurative Woods and supplied exotic woods primarily to the niche world of fine guitars and other instruments. But in 2014, political strife and sectarian violence in the Central African Republic prevented exports from the country. That’s when the Sissokos turned to domestic woods — specifically local domestic wood. Aside from the exotic species, all of the wood they mill comes from downed trees in the metro Atlanta area, which they dub ‘urban wood.'” 

In addition to milling, AHF has a large-scale kiln to dry maple, pecan, walnut, hackberry and other woods salvaged from the greater Atlanta-area’s urban forest. To find suitable logs, AHF works with private tree care services. The company’s customer base is primarily woodworkers looking for something unique for their custom projects.

AFH’s website describes some of  the distinctions between urban wood and tradition forest products.  

“The process of milling urban trees is much more labor-intensive and time-consuming than what you find in the traditional forest products process. The processes are similar to the difference between handmade artisan work and what happens on a large-scale, industrial assembly line. Urban trees are collected in small quantities, cut to appropriate sizes, scanned for metal or other defects, and processed in small batches where the character and unique quality of the wood can be carefully brought to its full potential. We believe the defects in the wood — dynamic live edges, knots, cracks and voids — are what brings it character and beauty, and we try to maximize the potential of each log we mill.​”

As urban wood became a larger focus, the Sissokos rechristened their business Atlantic Fine Hardwoods. While AFH no longer imports logs, it still maintains an inventory of exotic woods. from the Central African Republic. “We want to start doing the milling and processing there,” Joe told Atlanta magazine. “That way we’d leave more work and more jobs in that country.”

 



Penn State Developing Tech that Destroys Pests in Wood

Penn State scientists validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of radio frequency technology for pallet sanitation during a commercial trial held at University Park. Image: Penn State

A technology that uses dielectric heating and radio frequency energy to destroy destructive pests lurking within wood products is closer to reaching the marketplace after a commercial trial at Penn State’s University Park campus.

The Dec. 17 demonstration, which was observed by regulatory and wood products industry professionals from the U.S. and Canada, validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the radio frequency, or RF, technology for pallet sanitation.

The treatment offers enhanced ability to terminate wood insect and nematode pests compared to conventional heat practices, noted Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneur and Innovation Faculty Scholar in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“This innovation has the potential to be transformative in required international trade wood-sanitation treatment,” said Gagnon, who has been instrumental in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program since its inception, encouraging entrepreneurship across the college.

“RF treatment is more efficient and uses fewer resources than conventional kilns and chemical drying methods, and that is not only better for a company’s bottom line, but it is also better for the environment.”

Developed by Penn State scientists John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Kelli Hoover, professor of entomology, the patent-pending, wood-treatment system heats wood in a unique configuration by using electromagnetic wave penetration, similar to that of a microwave oven.

It heats wood from the inside out, first causing the core temperature to elevate rapidly, making it an ideal method to destroy pests that have burrowed within, noted Hoover.

“Invasive pests cause about $120 billion a year in damage to our valuable forests, ecosystems and agricultural crops, and they continue to be a problem due to increased world trade,” she said, pointing to the emerald ash borer and Asian long horned beetle as examples. Both pests found their way to the U.S. in untreated pallets shipped from China in the early 2000s; the emerald ash borer alone has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in 30 states.

Mark Hamelin, RF Kiln Technology, center, adjusts the power input for a dielectric heating cycle. He is shown with John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Karolina Szymona, postdoctoral researcher.
IMAGE: Penn State

Ensuring that wood used in international trade is pest-free is not just an ethical business practice, but it is a legal requirement, according to Janowiak. Wood packaging materials, including pallets, crates and chips, must be debarked, treated and inspected per international regulations. Adhering to these standards is especially crucial for the U.S. wood industry as 40 percent of its logs are processed into wooden shipping pallets.

For years, wood-products manufacturers have had two options to deal with wood-boring insects — traditional heat-treatment or fumigation. RF technology is poised to offer the industry another choice, one that the scientists say is faster and more streamlined than the use of conventional kilns and that can help decrease energy costs. In addition, the cost to treat wood using RF technology potentially is lower than current pallet heat-treatment practices, set at 5 cents for a standard 48-by-40-inch shipping pallet.

“Our technology has a huge economic potential that can provide long-term savings for companies,” said Karolina Szymona, a postdoctoral researcher on the project. “While saving money is important, to me the real value is that it saves energy, which means saving our natural resources and reducing the carbon footprint.”

RF technology also can replace the process of fumigating wood with methyl bromide — a chemical that is being phased out — and help the U.S. wood products industry to retain export markets while moving away from chemically-treated wood.

“There has been a real demand to develop suitable alternatives to replace methyl bromide, which is an ozone-depleting chemical,” said Ron Mack, commodity treatment specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Dielectric treatment is one of the leading alternatives to replace it.”

While the technology has undergone numerous tests and has received a stamp of approval from industry boards as well as the International Plant Protection Convention of the UN — the board that oversees wood packaging trade standards — the research team needs third-party validation and assistance with developing operational protocols to make its innovation “mill ready.”

To that end, the scientists are working on a bilateral agreement with the U.S. and Canadian lumber standard accreditation committees, both of which had representatives on-site for the trial in Penn State’s Forest Resources Laboratory.

“This is a safe, stable and proven technology,” said Chuck Dentelbeck, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Lumber Standards Accreditation Board. “But introducing any new technology is like being in a marathon; you have to bring them [pallet manufacturers] to the starting line and let them decide if it makes sense for them. Once they know the benefits, I believe many will run with it.”

Sharing his enthusiasm is project collaborator Mark Hamelin of RF Kiln Technology, of Midland, Ontario, Canada, who deemed the commercial trial a success. “This was a pretty big day, having these agencies witness how efficiently and effectively our process works,” he said. “There are challenges ahead, the biggest one will be convincing people in the industry who have been using a different technology for 50 years that we have a better mousetrap.”

The project has received state and federal appropriations, including continuous funding since 2003 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Methyl Bromide Transitions Program. It also received financial support from the college’s Research Applications for INnovation program, which provides funding for researchers who are ready to move toward commercializing their research.

More information about RF technology and project collaborators is available online at https://abe.psu.edu/research/bio-based-products/wood-packaging/about-research. Further, the USDA and industry partner Mark Hamelin of RF Kiln Technology are part of a formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Penn State to advance RF technology.



Video: Fabled 600-Year-Old Oak Stars in Documentary

By Rich Christianson

Not many trees have a feature-length documentary made about their life. Nor do many trees have a website dedicated to them. But the massive white oak that once stood guard over the cemetery next to the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church was no ordinary tree. It died in 2017 at the ripe old age of 619. At the time of its demise it was the oldest known white oak in America.

I first became aware of the landmark tree from a March 12 article clipped from the Star Ledger newspaper, a souvenir from my wife’s trip to Basking Ridge, NJ, to visit her sister. The headline immediately caught my urban wood eye: “Everyone wants a piece of the oak.” 

The lead sentence put an exclamation point on my interest, “Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church officials will wait to see the quality of wood remaining from the iconic 600-year-old white oak tree that will be cut down during the week of April 24 before deciding how to preserve portions of the tree for its historic significance, said John Kippel, a member of the church’s planning council.”

The article further noted that a number of local artists, woodworkers, schools and other groups interested in getting pieces of the tree.

Milling the tree, however, would be anything but easy because of the extraordinary efforts that were taken to save the it from literally rotting to death in 1924.

According to information compiled by Forged In Wood, at the time the tree was 93 feet tall, with a 126-foot spread and 23-foot-diameter trunk. Tons of concrete were painstakingly poured into 72 cavities, 165 feet of threaded rod  was installed to brace the tree and concrete and 1,150 feet of steel cable were anchored to support the weight of the tree’s branches. The total price of this unique tree surgery performed under the auspices of Davey Tree Company was $2,393.08.

Having recently unearthed the article from in my files, I  searched the web to see what became of the tree and its wood. Plenty as it turns out, including:

-^- Frank Pollaro of Pollaro Custom Furniture reportedly went through 120 blades, including three diamond blades, ti create boards from the tree, some of which he used to make communion tables for the church. Pollaro and other researchers used a magnifying lens to count the tree’s rings. They arrived at an estimated birth year of 1398 – 319 years before the original Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church was built.

^-^ A 5-foot tall, 8,400-pound chunk from the trunk was donated as a memorial to Rose Farms of Basking Ridge for public viewing.

-^- Last year, singer-songwriter Alan Grant performed at the site of the removed tree playing an electric guitar made from the legendary oak. More than 30 people who fought in the revolutionary war are buried there. 

Example of “merch” made from the legendary Basking Ridge white oak.

^-^ A variety of wood gifts and novelties including serving boards, blocks of decorative wood, pens, ornaments, candle centerpieces and pendant necklaces.

-^- Forgedinwood.net is a website that memorialized the tree’s long history and bonds with the community.

^-^ “Under the Great Oak,” is a feature-length documentary produced by local screenwriter Michael Reynolds. 

-^- A 16-year-old oak that grew from an acorn of the landmark oak tree at Union County College has been transplanted to where its famous “father” once stood.

Stay tuned for my 2620 update!



Urban Lumber Business Strategies Theme of May 13 UWN Webinar

The Urban Wood Network (UWN) will present part three of its Future Visioning webinar series on May 13 with “Urban Lumber Business.”  UWN invites municipalities, arborists, sawyers, woodworkers, advocates and all others interested in advancing the urban wood movement to participate in this 75-minute webinar.

The Urban Lumber Business webinar will highlight proven strategies for scaling up and marketing an urban wood business. It will include how to use the new urban wood industry standard and chain-of-custody certification to simplify a business’s processes. The presentation will also walk participants through some of the bottlenecks that exist in urban lumber processes and how to overcome them.

This webinar has been approved for 1.25 CEUs through ISA: BCMA Management, Certified Arborist, and Municipal Specialist.

UWN Future Visioning Webinar Schedule
March 11: The Urban Wood Network: Future Visioning
WATCH ON DEMAND

April 8: Urban Lumber Standards
AVAILABLE ON DEMAND SOON

May 13: Urban Lumber Business

June 10: What to Do with the Rest of the Tree(s)

July 8: Forming a State Organization: Nebraska Urban Wood
REGISTER NOW FOR ANY OR ALL WEBINARS



At-risk Youth Learn About Urban Wood

Editor’s note: The following article was written by Lekas & Levine Public Relations.

That buzzing sound recently heard throughout Allendale’s Lake Villa campus was the sound of transformation at work.

Literally, it was a large hydraulic sawmill cutting fallen trees into slabs, the first step to turning those dying white oaks into timeless handcrafted furniture.

In a deeper sense, it echoed Allendale Association’s mission of helping youth who have experienced various forms of trauma and adversity find their strength and capacity, transforming over time into healthy, independent adults.

The new, repurposed wood program is a collaboration between Allendale — a not-for-profit facility for kids with serious emotional, mental and behavioral challenges — and Jeff Clark, owner of Old School Timber Works Company in Libertyville. Clark is passionate about repurposing Illinois’ urban hardwood, as well as teaching life skills to at-risk youth.

Woodworking has long been a part of Allendale’s Career and Technical Education Program, which helps students develop vocational skills. Its wood shop instructor, Rob Serdar, a third-generation carpenter, was seeking ways to develop the program when the opportunity arose.

“Our hope is to expand our students’ imaginations and capabilities,” Serdar said, “while providing locally-sourced, high-quality wood pieces that will bring exposure to Allendale and give students a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In addition, Clark — whose company provides on-site milling services, sells repurposed lumber and creates custom wood pieces — believes students will benefit from a better understanding of responsibly sourcing their lumber.

The process is known as Tree to Table; i.e., repurposing fallen lumber into furniture and goods rather than dumping and chipping it.

“Over a billion board feet of quality urban hardwood is wasted every year in the U.S.,” Clark said.

“These kids were part of a sustainable process in which they created beautiful, white oak lumber, saving and repurposing a worthy asset. Maybe that’s a life lesson that goes beyond milling lumber.”

One day in December, Clark brought his sawmill to Allendale’s 120-acre, wooded campus. He cut several downed white oaks into slabs, while the wood shop students cleaned, transported and stacked the slabs in preparation for the next step: curing them in Allendale’s new kiln.

The kiln, a large space filled with fans and dehumidifiers that dry out the wood, was funded through a grant provided by the Grace Bersted Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee. The grant also provided for initial supplies needed to get the program running.

Days after the event, students were still talking about it and itching to get their hands on the wood. Since then, they’ve used it to make several pieces of furniture and decorative home signs. Clark is slated to share tips and techniques in upcoming classes.

As the students’ skills advance, Serdar said, they’ll start building more elaborate tables, shelving and benches, as well as cutting boards, Charcuturie platters and decorative wood signs.

Some of the benches will be placed around campus and donated to the village of Lake Villa. In addition, creations will be sold at Allendale’s community craft and floral sales, perhaps as early as spring.

The proceeds will not only fund the purchase of ongoing supplies, but benefit the students’ vocational stipends. Meanwhile, as salvaged wood products become increasingly popular, the kids are gaining the skills to secure a place in this growing field, along with an appreciation for the environment and a lifelong passion that will serve them well.



Oh No! Coronavirus!

The unsettling uncertainty gripping the world, alternatively known as the coronavirus pandemic or COVID-19 crisis, has paused life as we know it.

On a personal level, my wife and I have – sadly – gotten use to taking “no” for an answer, as plans we eagerly looked forward to have been cancelled or at the very least postponed indefinitely. Just a short list:

  • No commencement for our daughter finishing her senior year at the University of Illinois.
  • No annual progressive dinner party with neighbors.
  • No birthday celebrations with family, In fact, no family get-togethers at all as we collectively practice social distancing to stall the spread of COVID-19.
  • Rescheduling of our oldest daughter’s wedding from June 27 of this year to July 10 of next.
One “no” that we were happy to accept was when our middle daughter tested negative for COVID-19.

I know that each of you reading this post can rattle off a personal list of inconveniences created by the crisis, including possibly graver life and death matters. (I hope not.)

Just as major sporting events like March Madness and Major League Baseball have been cancelled or delayed, so have events tied to urban forestry, including, for example, Wisconsin Urban Wood’s March 25 membership meeting, the April 4 volunteer tree planting in Atlanta and April 30 Vermont Arbor Day Conference. 

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I don’t know when, but I know we will get through this and be stronger for it. The optimist in me says I will keep my date to walk my daughter down the aisle. It’s with that same resolve of moving forward that I am working with the Urban Wood Network to organize the third urban wood seminar on August 26 at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. 

As I hunker down with my family to ride out the COVID-19 chaos, I see that the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. Better days lie ahead.

Stay safe! Stay strong!
Rich Christianson

 



CHICAGO FURNITURE MAKER DIGS THE VIBE OF URBAN WOOD


Brian Keith Ellison’s passion for design steered him away from a career in real estate development and toward launching BKE Designs to manufacture one-of-a-kind furniture pieces. Many of the pieces he fabricates at his Chicago studio incorporate urban wood reclaimed from greater Chicagoland’s urban forests.

Ellison said he has been using urban wood in some of his projects for about 10 years. Two recent examples of custom furniture BKE Designs designed and fabricated with urban wood are shown here. In each case the wood was milled by Horigan Urban Forest Proctus of Skokie, IL.

The first is a conference table for which Ellison book matched a pair of 11-foot by 24-inch live-edge white oak planks. 

The second is a custom console/entertainment unit which Ellison said was fabricated using an approximately 5-foot black walnut live-edge piece.

Ellison explained why he chose to use urban wod for each of the pieces created for separate clients. “The aesthetic goal of the designs made this material most appropriate.”

Ellison, who holds a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois-Chicago, honed his woodworking skills in high school. After 15 years in the real estate development industry, Ellison made a dramatic life changing move to Amsterdam to focus on woodworking and design full time. There he collaborated with the late Dutch designer Faas van Dijk for two years.

In addition to running BKE Designs, Ellison creates public art and volunteers his time to conduct woodworking workshops including for local youth and the Safer Foundation, a non-profit provider of services designed exclusively for people with criminal records.

for Learn more about BKE Designs.



Chicago Plans to Inventory Urban Forest Canopy in 2020

Photo: Morton Arboretum

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation plans to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the city’s urban forest canopy next year.

While the stated objective of the audit is to help create a more effective tree trimming schedule, information gathered should also be of great interest to arborists and tree care professionals, as well as businesses dedicated to urban wood utilization.

In a Sept. 27 letter to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, John Tully, DOS commissioner, writes, “To continue to improve tree trimming operations, in the upcoming 2020 budget year, the Bureau of Forestry will work to develop a comprehensive tree inventory of the entire City canopy, which currently does not exist. This will provide valuable information regarding the number and location of trees as well as size and species. It will also provide information about electric wire interference within the canopy helping to inform the daily scheduling process for tree trimming and removals as well as the Department’s response to weather-related events.”

In an Oct. 30 press release, Ferguson called the tree canopy inventory a “step in the direction.” He added, however, “But (this) is only a starting point for an urgently needed generational re-assessment of the management of the City’s dwindling urban forest whose canopy is substantially smaller than many cities nationally. We strongly encourage DSS to re-evaluate the Monitor Group report the City invested in a decade ago, and work towards seriously implementing the recommendations for a grid-based approach to tree trimming. The benefits of more horticulturally precise and cost-effective tree trimming are substantial for the City and its potential for cost savings, optimized use of taxpayer-funded resources, and preventable liabilities. A thriving and healthy urban forest is critical to mitigating ever-mounting climate change concerns like the urban heat island effect and excessive storm water runoff, and recent studies have revealed stark differences across City neighborhoods that generally correlate with tree canopy percentages.”The Monitor Group report referenced by Ferguson found that DSS has largely used a reactive 311 caller request-based approach to identify trees for trimming. As a result of scheduling tree trimming on a case-by-case basis, city crews spend an inordinate amount of their time traveling to tree trimming sites, resulting in backlogs, allowing for many trees to go untrimmed for than a decade and some wards of the city receiving less tree trimming service than others.

According to the press release, OIG recommended that DSS employ suggestions found in Monitor Group’s report, which details the benefits of switching from the current reactive request system to a grid-based approach. This new approach (previously used by the City and commonplace for most municipal urban forestry programs) would make the Bureau of Forestry much more efficient, reducing the average crew’s travel time by 35% and the average cost per tree trim by 60%. It would also result in arborists determining how best to manage the urban forest rather than safety-driven resident calls, which constitutes an important added level of input to proper holistic management. In response, DSS stated that it will work to develop a comprehensive tree inventory of the entire City canopy within the next year, which will provide valuable information regarding the number and location of trees as well as size and species. However, DSS did not commit to switching to a grid-based approach, stating that it would require 15-20 additional crews to transition to this system, on a cycle of 7-10 years.