“Forestry precedes written history. It’s said that when the Goths built a cathedral, they’d plant oaks ten miles upriver, because they knew it would take 250 years to finish the building. Over time they’d log them and float them downriver for use. That’s the kind of foresight we need today. Trees are extraordinarily multipurpose, environmentally beneficial and 100% sustainable. Progress is going to continue, and our society is going to need wood in 50, 100, 200 years. We must take steps to meet future needs.”
This is how Damon Barron, a nationally recognized leader in responsible urban forestry and environmental management, approaches managing the lifecycle of trees.
Six years ago, Barron launched TreeCycle America and its sister company, Carolina Urban Lumber, to reduce the amount of lumber in landfills and ensure that urban trees are used to their full potential. When Grubb Properties went looking for a partner with expertise, innovative thinking and knowledge of best practices for managing the trees in Glen Lennox, Barron was the obvious choice.
“The trees at Glen Lennox are part of what makes it a special place, and we’re committed to treating them as special,” says Grubb Properties’ Emily Ethridge. “Our maintenance and management programs have always focused on individual tree health and monitored the overall tree life cycle. When we discovered Damon and learned about his philosophy and techniques, we knew we had found the perfect partner. His vision will continue to teach us and inspire us about how we think about sustainability company-wide.”
Barron has built a career in lumber sales and sound forestry management, and he advocates passionately for more proactive, far-sighted efforts to encourage and sustain forest growth for future generations. Barron lobbies cities to grow and maintain about 25 species of trees for future lumber use, and to “plant with intention.” His advocacy and expertise have made him a frequent speaker on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service on issues of sustainability.
Barron’s philosophy fits with Grubb Properties’ commitment to responsibly managing the treescape of Glen Lennox for generations to come, recognizing that it is an essential part of the landmark property’s character and culture. Grubb Properties CEO Clay Grubb and his team are embracing an emerging trend in sustainable lumber practices, which is to “upcycle” a property’s lumber, rather than hauling it to a landfill.
These philosophies are being put into action at Glen Lennox, where the first stage of a major redevelopment is getting underway. While some trees must necessarily be removed as part of the Phase 1 redevelopment efforts, Barron and Carolina Urban Lumber identified trees that can be transformed into furniture and other design elements and live on at Glen Lennox in a different form. Phase 1 might not be a cathedral built by Goths, but it is important to both Grubb Properties and the community to responsibly manage these trees while honoring the character of the property. Grubb Properties hopes other developments around the community and state will take a similar approach.
In Barron’s system, urban trees tagged for removal are numbered, certified and tracked to route the processed lumber back to its community of origin. The Glen Lennox architects and designers are already considering plans to utilize the lumber from this neighborhood within the planned office and residential spaces as heirloom-quality tables, mantles, counter tops, shelves and artwork.
The TreeCycle approach offers many long-term positive effects. Communities can provide for their future lumber needs, jobs are created at each end of the tree’s lifetime, value is created out of what was considered waste product, and communities will reduce the need to buy and ship lumber from elsewhere—all while greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Barron admits it will take a significant shift in the industry for his TreeCycle initiative to become standard practice, and will require willing participation by developers, builders, tree services, lumber mills and consumers. For a developer, the system adds time, complexity and expense. Grubb Properties is choosing to accept that reality to help lead the industry to a more sustainable future.
For more information on TreeCycle American and Carolina Urban Lumber, please visit their websites: