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WI Company Saves Energy With Real Tree Houses

November 16, 2009

LA CROSSE, Wis. - If you want to help save a lot of energy and help the environment, you may want to consider a tree house. But the tree houses being developed by a Wisconsin company don't involve living in the tree. It's a technique called "whole tree architecture," and it employs the use of un-milled lumber, so the entire tree is used in the construction rather than processed boards, with the branches becoming part of the building architecture.

Roald Gundersen of Whole Trees Architecture and Construction in La Crosse says the energy savings are substantial.

"Compared to milled lumber, we're using less than a tenth the amount of energy, and that's in the full processing and transportation."

Gundersen says another great advantage is that the trees used are often referred to as "junk trees" that usually end up on a burn pile. Making productive use of them culls those trees from a forest, allowing the more desirable trees to grow healthier, sequestering even more carbon. The trees can often be pulled from the same lot where the building is constructed, saving even more energy in transportation.

Gundersen says that, in a commercial building application, the energy savings are even more dramatic.

"And when you compare it to steel, it's an 80th to even less, depending on whether it's American steel or Chinese steel, which uses considerably more energy in its processing."

The passive solar structures Gundersen builds from whole trees also require little or no additional heating, saving even more energy.

Pictures and information are at

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI