How Duke Gives New Life to Fallen Trees

Duke’s wood policy helps reuse trees across campus

In addition to turning fallen trees into usable wood for construction projects on campus, parts of trees have also been utilized in a restoration stream that runs along Campus Drive on East Campus. The wood helps mitigate erosion and support the riverbed
In addition to turning fallen trees into usable wood for construction projects on campus, parts of trees have also been utilized in a restoration stream that runs along Campus Drive on East Campus. The wood helps mitigate erosion and support the riverbed. Photo by Bryan Roth.

As crews cleared land last year for Duke’s reclamation pond, fallen trees did not go to waste. They were saved to add an additional level of sustainability to the project.

The trees provide lumber and mulch at the site and even firewood for local residents in need to stay warm during the winter.

These efforts are possible because of Facilities Management’s wood use policy, which provides guidelines for what happens to trees and brush that must be removed during construction projects.

“Duke is a university in the forest and our policy will help ensure we remain good stewards of the trees on campus,” said John Noonan, vice president for facilities. “As best we can, we want to make sure nothing goes to waste.”

As a guideline, any time Duke removes a tree its goal is to replace it with at least two new plantings. Protocol also calls for a review of the impact of tree removal to determine how to best make up for the loss of a tree.

“Our ultimate goal is to find a home for all of our wood,” said Katie Rose Levin, natural resource manager with Facilities. “That’s the whole reason we want this policy in place.”

One project that saw significant impact from Facilities’ wood policy was Duke’s stream restoration efforts along Campus Drive. Crews replaced any trees that needed to be cut in order to complete work, but they also placed fallen trunks within the stream to help support the riverbed and prevent erosion.

In the case of the reclamation pond between Circuit Drive and Towerview Road, 1,558 trees will be reused, including 500 for aesthetic aspects like decking, railings and a pavilion. Last spring, piles of 18-foot long pieces of lumber harvested from Southern Yellow Pine trees were delivered to the pond’s construction site near the Circuit Drive Lots.

In addition, wood from 35 Red Oak trees has been saved for future projects, 550 trees were chipped to be used for mulch and lumber and 218 trees have been donated to local non-profits or Duke employees in need of wood for their homes. To request wood, faculty or staff can email Levin at katierose.levin@duke.edu.

Chuck Landis, parking services manager with Parking and Transportation Services, has picked up wood from Facilities for 20 years. He uses the wood to help heat his home, a log cabin in Durham County. In addition to central heating, Landis and his wife get supplemental heat from a wood stove and heat exchanger.

“I’m happy that we haven’t cut down a single tree on our property for firewood,” Landis said. “I think it’s wonderful that Duke allows use of this wood, which allows people to benefit from something that would otherwise be discarded, which is recycling at its finest.”

To see the impact of Duke's wood policy, watch this video with an update on the stream restoration project along East Campus: