Trees improve communities. They cool neighborhoods, provide shade and green space, and can help mitigate climate change. But what happens when trees get in the way of construction? You could cut them down. Many developers would, says Jon Hillis of Houston-based Environmental Design, which provides tree services all over the world.
Or, you can move them.
AMLI Development Company faced this predicament earlier this year as it planned a 13-acre community along Midway Road in Addison. The project will include a five-story apartment building, 34 townhouses, a separate three-story complex with attached garages geared toward seniors, and retail space. Construction is set to begin in early 2024.
Before that, AMLI had to figure out what to do about the trees. For years, the location had been occupied by an old event center and a collection of defunct office buildings, along with dozens of trees. Unfortunately, most of those trees were too close to the buildings to be saved, says Taylor Bowen, AMLI’s president. Four heritage live oaks, though, were far enough away that they didn’t have to go.
Each of those live oaks are 50 to 70 years old, Bowen says. They are 35 to 40 feet tall, with spreads of 45 to 60 feet. “These are the best that we found out here,” he says.
Trees are vital for reducing heat in cities, says Rachel McGregor, the Texas Trees Foundation’s urban forestry manager. They are especially important as populations become denser and infrastructure proliferates. They shade, of course, preventing sunlight from hitting concrete, which absorbs sun that then radiates heat. Trees also act like a swamp cooler in a process called transpiration, McGregor says. Moisture from trees’ leaves evaporate, “and that results in a decrease in temperature in the immediate area around the tree.”