Myrick Hixon EcoPark commissioned WholeTrees to invigorate the interior atrium of its environmental museum, which targets school-aged children. WholeTrees uses whole-diameter tree trunks and branched timbers that would otherwise be removed by routine forest thinning to create structural solutions. A structurally load-bearing branching black willow tree replaced the existing 26-foot steel column, animating the space and bringing a tactile integrity to the education facility’s atrium.
According to Minneapolis-based Dovetail Partners Inc., for every ton of total wooden material used in a building, 1/2 ton of carbon is stored. In other words, a tree can eventually die and rot in a forest, releasing its carbon into the atmosphere or it can store that same carbon in a building indefinitely. The column replacement substituted carbon-sequestering, FSC-certified timber for 2 tons of steel.
In addition, round timbers are 50 percent stronger and more durable than milled wood with a weight-to-strength ratio comparable to steel. Round timbers also often can be sourced and processed within miles of a building site. In the case of EcoPark, the trees were sourced 12 miles from the project site, utilizing a local, renewable, energy-efficient and beautiful resource.
WholeTrees also designed and built the round timber staircase accessing the mezzanine space, which overlooks the Myrick Hixon Marsh. Additional design components include slab wood benches, a 15-foot slab wood bar and built-in shelving. A variety of tree species, including red and white oak, ironwood and American elm were used.