If there was ever a way to combine high tech and high touch as John Naisbitt stated in High Tech, High Touch, his 1999 follow-up to his 1982 bestseller Megatrends, “embracing technology that preserves our humanness”, WholeTrees Architecture & Structures of Madison, Wisconsin epitomizes it. WholeTrees is an innovative company that has hit it out of the park in terms of innovating on technology while providing a substantial impact return, all while having one of the most gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing product lines you’ll ever see.
WholeTrees uses trees as turn-key structural systems in commercial and residential building construction. Until you see the photos, however, the description doesn’t do justice to the warmth of their offering.
Myrick Hixon EcoPark, LaCrosse, Wisconsin
The co-founding team of Roald Gundersen AIA, an architect, and Amelia Baxter, in partnership with the Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, have developed a process that allows them to cost-effectively grade, engineer and manufacture the small trees removed from routine forest thinning (called small diameter round-timber), and use the timber as patented trusses, beams and joists in building construction. In doing so they turn forest waste into a sustainable and high value building material.
Round timber is an abundant and renewable resource. The timber is sustainably harvested then dried and treated to protect against shrinkage and pests. Pound for pound as strong as steel in tension, unmilled timber requires less than two percent of the energy of concrete and steel materials for processing and transportation.
YMCA lobby, Dallas, Texas, 2015
“We are positioned to occupy a large niche in the approximately $13 billion U.S. sustainable structural systems market,” says Amelia Baxter, president. WholeTrees is a woman-owned business with pending Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) certification.
Last week they announced a $1.8 million debt and equity financing from investors who characterize themselves as “impact investors”. Impact investors seek environmental and social returns in addition to financial returns. WholeTrees also receives on-going grant support through the USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Neil Kane writes about leadership and turning innovations into businesses.
This article first appeared in Forbes.com
Copyright © 2016 Neil Kane
Photographs: WholeTrees Architecture & Structures & Neil Kane
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