Campus trees live on in new buildings

Published: June 30, 2021

Article body

As entrepreneur Seth Godin said, “The art of moving forward lies in understanding what to leave behind.”

Education is rooted in moving forward. From curriculum changes to enhancements in educational practices to new technology replacing older standbys, change in both learning and teaching is constant and measured.

With the coming completion of the Central Dining Hall and the Academic Classroom and Laboratory Complex, Auburn University will receive a serious upgrade in the way we can provide critical services to students and staff. There is always a cost, however.

Before the demolition of Allison Laboratory and the infrastructure work necessary to complement the two new structures, numerous trees, including some campus Heritage Trees, were removed from the lawn area south of Allison Laboratory and Parker Hall.

“We realized early on that the ACLC and Central Dining buildings were going to require the removal of some large specimen pine trees,” Campus Architect Brad Prater said. “After discussing with the Tree Preservation Committee, we decided that we needed to do something to recognize the impact these projects would have on the campus tree inventory.”

To memorialize the trees, the cut wood was recycled into more than 22,000 board feet of lumber to be utilized around the columns near the front doors on the first and second floors of Central Dining. They will also be used as wall and ceiling material inside ACLC in the student study areas, faculty offices and lecture halls, as well as projects and productions within the industrial design and theatre departments.

“The decision to remove the Heritage Trees was not easy for anyone,” University Arborist Alex Hedgepath said. “However, I am thankful that the project was willing and able to repurpose the wood right back in the same space where the trees were previously growing.”

Tree canopy mitigation funds were budgeted for the project to help balance the removal of so many trees from the campus canopy. Included in the project and accepted by the Tree Preservation Committee was the planting of more than 89 new trees on the project site along with installing rainwater harvesting systems for irrigation, the funding of specialized tree maintenance across campus and the installation of green infrastructure for other trees in the vicinity.

Part of the funding already has gone toward tree replacement at the Tiger Transit loop on Heisman Drive in the replacement of six Chinese elms with a Natchez crape myrtle, with the remainder of the elms to be replaced, due to limited soil space and poor health, by eight Laurel Oaks with Silva Cell deep root structures.

“In addition to the common practices of diverting construction waste from landfills, utilizing low-VOC materials throughout the buildings and designing the buildings to maximize the energy use savings, we are also implementing some more unique features,” Prater said, “like a 25,000-gallon cistern underneath the Central Dining lower courtyard that will harvest rainwater and supplement the irrigation needs for the landscape around the ACLC and Central Dining.”

Both buildings are expected to receive a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification, which requires significant extra planning and careful use of materials during construction to make a more environmentally friendly structure. A LEED certification is received by utilizing a combination of ecologically sound practices like conserving water and electricity, general building ventilation and efficiency and choosing sustainable sites.

Along with that, finding new and innovative ways to use trees removed from campus will continue to play an important role going forward.

The ACLC and Central Dining buildings will transform campus in new and exciting ways as obvious benefits to campus as a whole. Some sacrifices needed to be made, but the part of the campus’ past should live well into the future through their designs.

“No one wants to see trees removed, especially those of sentimental value,” Hedgepath said, “but when we can find a way to display their unique structural design and aesthetic interest, I think it promotes good stewardship and makes folks aware of tree care in general.

“That’s a win every day in my book.”

Submitted by: Casper Wood