Timber!! Berea College Forestry

Forest LoggingThe 8,000-acre Berea College Forest offered the opportunity to tap a local, underutilized resource to supply wood for timber framing*, furniture and interior finishes in the new building.

Just as significant, it would provide a strong tie to the arts and crafts tradition of the college, while telling a unique educational story to students and campus visitors that goes beyond green certification systems. Student involvement would create another key learning component.

During the project’s concept phase, designers approached the college forester, Clint Patterson, and the Berea Forestry Department about the possibility of using this locally harvested wood. In short, the process of identifying, logging, sawing and milling the raw materials would present a challenge, yet it could be done within the complex building design and construction schedule. First, the college pursued certification through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an independent, non-profit organization established to support responsible (and sustainable) forest management. Gaining this recognition (in 2011) helps the project earn LEED credits while meeting the LBC requirement for 100% FSC-certified wood.

With a schedule in place and input from Berea Student Crafts and the design team, the foresters moved ahead:

  • Core sampling (July 2011) focused on mature southern red oak, white oak, chestnut oak and tulip poplar on crowded but fertile slopes in the middle of the BC Forest.
  • Trees are marked for harvest (late August 2011) based on a final material list and quantity estimate for construction – to allow time to hire loggers for a harvest window in late fall/early winter when sap is down.
  • Logging Operations (November-December 2011) commence, using both traditional, Appalachian mule logging techniques as a demonstration and conventional mechanical equipment. Crews harvested yellow poplar, white oak and red oak, hickory and maple – approximately 100,000 board feet (bf) of wood for the project.
  • Additional logging on campus (late December 2011) took place to make room for foundations of the new building next to Anna Smith Hall. Despite efforts to save the larger specimens, all 25 trees (hickory, maple, walnut, red oak) were cleared. Portable sawmills were then used by Student Crafts to cut the logs into boards, which were then placed in storage for later use.
  • Harvested logs were shipped (January 2012) to Lancaster, Kentucky to be rough cut and then transported to a mill in Evansville, Indiana for processing into the trim lumber.
  • First delivery of trim lumber (late February 2012) arrived in Berea: tongue and groove will be used for some of the ceilings and wainscoting in common areas, as well as baseboard, chair rail and door trim throughout the building.

In all, 48,000 bf of Berea Forest wood was processed for use as interior trim and furniture in the new residence hall. Since only a portion of any particular tree is usable (and contains lower grade logs), the remaining wood was sold to mills for other uses.

* The integration of timber frames into the new building’s structure as an expressive, community-oriented craft would convey a timeless architectural character. However the college chose not to include this feature due to the tight construction timeframe of the project.

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