Advocating for Heritage Trees During Construction

In major construction projects there’s a lot of moving parts and variables to account for. It is the job of the architect, landscape architect, and engineer to communicate in their drawings how to successfully build their design. In this post, I’d like to briefly explain a scenario with our South Lawn cistern project that required some edits in the field due to discrepancies between the plans and site conditions. Its also important to note that I was new to this project was did not participate in the initial planning discussions.

Specifically, this instance looks at the challenges of tree protection during a project. After sitting down with the general contractor for a kickoff meeting to discuss the project activities onsite, I quickly learned that the trenching and groundwork activities would be much more invasive than initially thought. While the trench would only be about 5 feet wide, the equipment needed to perform the work would need a 10.5′ width clearance. The contractor informed us that tree protection fences would have to be moved and that some work would spill into the drip line of a few heritage trees. Additionally, the machinery would create a lot of compaction if metal plates or boards were not laid down. This information was not currently communicated in the plans and clashed with the current location for tree protection fencing. The District arborist would have to be contacted to find a solution for protecting the trees while at the same time performing the work. As it stood, if the current fencing location stayed, then severe compaction to roots would occur. If metal plates were laid, tree protection fencing would have to be pushed back, possibly encroaching into drip lines.

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For this project and particular challenge, I took on the role as collaborator between the general contractor and district arborist to communicate the issue and to problem solve. Additionally, it was also important to be an advocate for the trees, one of which was a champion tree. My participation streamlined the issue and kept us on schedule. Ultimately as a team we decided to alter the proposed line of the trench and spill into areas of less risk. Tree protection fences were pushed back, with the most risk assumed by a white oak that was not considered a heritage tree.

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This experience taught me about the importance of coordination meetings with builders and designers, and specifically the importance of asking questions in order to be an effective advocate for your property. Had this meeting not occurred and the right questions asked, its possible that these trees would not have the same outcomes.


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