An underground structural system will prevent soil compaction and increase the likelihood of tree survival.
Although the exact species of trees that will replace Auburn's famed oaks has yet to be determined, the literal foundation for their survival is nearing completion at Toomer's Corner. The future oaks – scheduled for planting in early 2015 – will grow in a high-tech environment that will maximize their chances of living many years.
Construction crews have installed a modular, underground structural system known as Silva Cells, which are designed to support large tree growth while reducing soil compaction and providing stormwater management. The project in Samford Park is the first in Alabama to use Silva Cell technology.
"This system is specifically made for trees to thrive in urban environments," said Auburn campus planner Ben Burmester. "It is quite a challenge to create adequate space for the new trees so close to a major intersection, but this technology will allow for the best root growth possible."
Silva Cells, manufactured by DeepRoot, have been installed in landscaping projects around the world, including venues like New York's Lincoln Center and Green Bay's Lambeau Field.
"This approach will provide the best growing environment possible for the future trees."
— Ben Burmester, campus planner
Each cell is composed of a deck and a frame and holds about 10 cubic feet of soil. Samford Park has multiple Silva Cells surrounding the areas where both trees will be planted. The units will create a maximum containment area for lightly compacted soil. Rigid vertical posts protrude from the bottom of the frame to support hardscapes along with the weight of any load they carry, such as vehicular traffic.
Further increasing the chances of the future trees' survivability, crews will install a specially mixed soil at Toomer's Corner. The mixture of sand, clay and other substances has been specially formulated by horticultural experts well-credentialed in tree transplantation.
"This approach will provide the best growing environment possible for the future trees," Burmester said.
The first phase of the Samford Park at Toomer's Corner project is scheduled for completion in mid-August. Following the installation of the soil in early June, crews will construct a large circular seating wall and plaza.
"We are on schedule at this point," said civil engineer and project manager Buster Reese. "People will really see the park taking shape once we build the wall and install the landscaping."
A rendering of the first phase of the project can be found at http://www.auburn.edu/communications_marketing/oaks/tree_render.pdf.
— By Mary Reynolds Porter, Office of Communications and Marketing