Pictured above: As we develop site plans, we refer to our tree survey to minimize our impact on the land. Note, this graphic does not reflect the latest design plans.

Tremont’s second campus is an ambitious, exciting, and important project not only for our future, but the East Tennessee region and beyond. With the goal of attaining Living Building Challenge (LBC) Certification on the project, there are numerous new methodologies and considerations to make through the design and development processes.

As the first large-scale LBC project in the state, we understood from the start that there would be many unique challenges and opportunities to learn better ways to develop property in concert with the environment.

At the beginning of the design process, we decided that establishing baselines of information about the property would be critical for a couple of reasons: informing land management and operational plans for the campus, and measuring our development impact over time. These baselines included site ecology, soils, topography, and boundaries, among others.

As we engaged subject matter experts to assist in creating baseline information in these areas, we decided an additional layer of data that could be useful was a tree survey on the ~42-acre development site. While not certain about the use of the tree survey, we knew that information would prove to be useful as the design process evolved.

Our initial property survey included the traditional work of reviewing deed documents, identifying property boundaries and neighboring properties, utilities, and parcel consolidation, as well as the tree survey.

The tree survey (completed by Cantrell Engineering and Surveying, PLLC) identified and cataloged all trees over 6″ caliper within the primary development site. By the end, the surveyor had identified over 2,400 trees, noting each tree’s size, species, general condition, and location. The resulting platts were interesting to view.

As we have continued moving forward in the design process, the tree survey information has been quite useful in discussion and decision-making around building locations on the site. The data has been used to avoid stands of specific species for habitat protection and/or higher-value tree species, identify lower-value trees that could potentially be milled and used for some other aspects of the project, and note trees that should be removed for safety concerns.

As the project progresses, we are certain the tree survey information will continue to prove useful in a variety of ways, many not even known at this time!

Related Living Building Challenge Petals

About the Author

Pete Crowley is the Director of Operations at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Pete holds an undergraduate degree in Industrial Education and Technology from Murray State University and a Master’s Degree in Planning with concentrations in land-use and educational facilities planning from the University of Tennessee. He worked in local government and non-profits, and had a 21+ year career in facility management, operations, and property development in the private sector.