AAPS to salvage cut trees for use in new construction

Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) and Ann Arbor-based Urban Ashes are collaborating to incorporate trees cut for AAPS' new Pathways to Success academic campus expansion into the new construction itself. The collaboration brings AAPS closer to its sustainability goals for the construction on Stone School Road. It will result in a carbon and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions impact equal to the planting of approximately 118 saplings and growing them for 10 years.

"We're happy that AAPS reached out to us as part of their sustainability plan in new construction," says Paul Hickman, founder and CEO of Urban Ashes. "We're working together to salvage trees and repurpose them in and around the property."

Hickman's company specializes in urban wood recycling and market development. It's important, he says, to first understand what type of wood will be repurposed at the AAPS property. By his definition, urban wood is "any wood that came from any tree, that came down for any reason other than its wood value."

"The name is a misnomer. The wood can come from rural and urban areas," Hickman says. "We're talking about storm-affected trees, blight-stricken trees, trees that age out, or trees removed during construction."

He underscores that AAPS and Urban Ashes' efforts have supported the sequestration of approximately 1,984 pounds of carbon through salvaging and recycling walnut, hard maple, and hackberry logs that would otherwise have been sent to a wood chipper.

He's not only excited about the environmental benefits of the initiative. The wood being repurposed back into buildings and outdoor spaces is important. It will create a closer connection to nature for students and staff, and the impact could ripple out into the surrounding community.

"There's research that shows that introducing natural elements into classrooms and indoor environments can have numerous health benefits," Hickman says. "Bringing the outside in, so to speak, improves mental health and makes learning easier."

It hasn't yet been decided exactly how the wood will be reintroduced into the buildings and outdoor classroom spaces, but it could become furniture, paneling or flooring, or some combination of all of those. Storyboards in the building will describe where the wood came from, what species it is, and the impact of recycling the wood. 

"You know the analogy of knowing where your food is grown?" Hickman says. "For wood, it's different and more complicated, but also important." 

As the initiative moves forward, Hickman is hopeful that more people will become aware of the importance of such partnerships.

"I'm hoping this is the beginning of more collaborations," he says. "I think it's important for people to see that this can happen and that making a difference is not that difficult." 

Jaishree Drepaul is a writer and editor based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Paul Hickman.
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