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Compendium of Best Urban Forest Management Practices

Chapter 13. Tree Protection during Construction/Trees and Building Foundations


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Tree Protection during Construction/Trees and Building Foundations

Experts agree that tree protection during construction is more important (and less expensive) than tree expansion programs (see Species Selection and Planting section) after the fact. Construction activities such as paving, sidewalk installations, excavation, and road widening can severely affect existing trees. Some areas of impact are root cutting, branch abrasions and trunk fractures, these injuries can lead to rot and decay, structural damage, canopy loss, or tree death. Properly valuing green space and implementing a strategy to monitor, sample, measure, and protect vegetation is critical to urban development preceding construction to effectively preserve the urban forest and maintain its integrity. A professional arborist can recommend how to protect and preserve trees near construction projects. Additionally, many municipalities have tree protection guidelines or by-laws, which often include measures like erecting barriers around the tree, limiting access to the construction site, and posting signs describing what work may not be done near the tree.

Similarly, there exists a wealth of information on the complex relationship between trees and building foundations as they relate to soil types, surface drainage practices, and the variation between species of trees.

Canadian online resources:

Non-Canadian online resources:

Further reading:

Despot, D., Gerhold, H. (2003). Preserving trees in construction projects: Identifying incentives and barriers. Journal of Arboriculture, 29(5), 267-275.

Grahn, P., Stigsdotter, U. (2003). Landscape Planning and Stress. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 2, 1-18.

Matheny, Nelda and Clark, James. (1998). Trees and Development: A Technical Guide to Preservation of Trees during Land Development. International Society of Arboriculture.

Sorvig, K. & Thompson, J. W. (2018). Sustainable Landscape Construction: A Guide to Green Building Outdoors (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Island Press.

Watson, G., Neely, D. (1995). Trees and Building Sites: Proceedings of an International Conference Held in the Interest of Developing a Scientific Basis for Managing Trees in Proximity to Buildings. International Society of Arboriculture, Champaign, IL.

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