Northridge Presbyterian Church Red Oak Tree Re-use Project

October 20th, 2018

The Northridge Presbyterian Church is located in Dallas and is undergoing a significant expansion project.   This church location near White Rock Lake was developed in 1950.   During its initial construction, a series of over a dozen red oak trees were planted by the Boy Scouts and founding church members.   Well, 68 years later, the church is undergoing an expansion to keep up with growth demands.   Unfortunately, the trees must be removed which created a dilemma for the church members.   You’ll learn more about this later in our article.

This is one of the very few tree re-use projects that will be completed in Texas, and it will be the 1st re-use project 100% supported from removal to final product delivery by a single business in Texas.   Only a hand-full of tree re-use projects have occurred in Texas, and prior to the formation of the the Texas Urban Sawmill, no business had the core competencies to support them as a turn-key or cradle to grave projects.   We are changing this!  The Texas Urban Sawmill is responsible for all aspects from initial stakeholder planning to removal to final delivery of the urban lumber product(s).   This eliminates a great deal of the unnecessary burden placed on both the contracted construction and architectural firms.

It is a great example of exactly what we should be doing regularly in Texas, yet, few architectural or construction firms have this level of commitment to sustainability and retaining the rich history of our heritage trees in Texas.   Many firms talk about sustainability and adaptive design but very, very few have demonstrated this level of commitment related to our heritage trees.  We acknowledge several firms going to great extents to incorporate healthy trees into building design.  However, when the decision is made to remove trees, all of a sudden the budget drastically shrinks and the commitment to sustainability seems to wane in our experience.    We hope this is not driven by the desire to maximize profits.  In fact, we have a positive outlook on this.   We believe the root cause lies in the lack of turn-key tree re-use service offerings versus a lack of commitment to sustainability & re-use.   Our goal is to bring a paradigm shift to these practices so tree re-use & re-purposing become the norm, not the exception.   We take great pride in being the innovation leader of tree re-use throughout Texas and this project serves to support our ever growing capabilities and expertise.    The planning phases of this urban tree re-use project started in October of 2017.   Now let’s jump into the project details.

Front entrance of the church.

There is an immense emotional attachment to these red oak trees, yet, there was no good solution to avoid removing them for the expansion needs.   Moving and re-planting them is a better alternative but not feasible given budgetary constraints.  Normally, these trees would have been removed and transported off site as construction site waste.   Yes, a great majority of the construction firms and even architectural firms view downed trees as waste!   We still don’t understand this perspective but we are working hard to change this dynamic across Texas.   They need to be viewed as valuable assets & considered an important part of adaptive building re-use.   Sorry, we digress.

We are proud to say that we were asked to help retain the story of these trees.  We proposed a solution for re-purposing them as interior ceiling cladding and were rewarded the bid to save and re-purpose these valuable trees!   Our efforts will allow the church members to enjoy the rich history and beauty of these trees for another 68++ years!    As we like to say, we are giving these trees a new stage in life and there story will not be forgotten!

Church Tree Re-use

Back side of church & location of expanded wing

After our initial site assessment and acceptance of our proposal, we removed all the trees for transport back to our sawmill located in Dripping Springs, TX.  As of October of 2018, since the site removal, we’ve since milled a total of ~20 different logs, air dried them, kiln dried them and now they are ready for the final stages of architectural millworks into V-groove tongue and groove cladding.    Technically, we are far ahead of our milestone schedule and the key to this is upfront planning, very effective communication with our stakeholders, and sound tactical execution (we are a PMP or Project Management Professional certified business).   Below is a shot of Devin and Scott after the initial mill cuts.

Milled Re-purposed Trees

Perfectly milled, stickered and ready for drying!

Above picture shows the stickered pallet of over 700 board feet of flat sawn red oak.  The rough sawn, kiln dried red oak will now be milled into the final profile of V-groove T&G cladding in November of 2018.   But we haven’t stopped there.   We are having custom profiling knives built specifically for the millworks process.  Why?   We were limited to only 14 trees from the site removal and any additional future cladding needs will now have perfectly matched profiles.

Please stay tuned for future updates.   The expanded wing of the church isn’t scheduled to be complete until mid-2019.   We are very excited about sharing the finished interior with others & hope to work with more like-minded architects, construction firms, home builders and private residents to provide more of these stories!

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