UW Campus Salvage Wood Program

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $43,603

Letter of Intent:

Brief Summary:

UW Grounds Management and UW Facilities Construction (Facility Services) seeks to create the necessary infrastructure to augment the products from trees that are removed from the campus landscape. Currently wood chips and limited lumber pieces are the only products that are produced with campus trees. This project will create the infrastructure to process trees creating lumber to be utilized across campus for a variety of users; student, staff, and faculty. Any product made from University lumber will hold more value than the product itself since it will also include the story and history of that tree. This would result in a reduction of costs associated with disposal of tree, reduction of cost associated with purchasing building material for certain projects, and an increase of waste diversion by keeping these out of the waste stream. In addition, this project seeks to protect the investments and maintain the value that the trees have, as assets of the University of Washington.

Define the campus environmental problem that you are attempting to solve:

The University of Washington Seattle campus grounds management staff manages about 10,000 trees. At some point in time these trees will be removed as a result of natural decline or death, due to disease issues, as a preventative measure to avoid potential hazards, or as part of a construction/capital project. The problem of removing and disposal of campus trees is twofold.

Currently, trees that are removed from the campus landscape are either chipped or reduced in size, so it can be disposed of in a green waste container. Any tree material being disposed of in the green waste container represents a cost to the University without any benefit. The costs of this disposal system are both monetary and environmental: the university spends thousands of dollars annually on removal of campus tree material and purchasing lumber for projects. Transportation of these materials to and from Cedar Grove uses of fossil fuels and causes carbon emissions.

Grounds Management is charged with the task of protecting campus assets in the landscape.  Campus trees are a significant asset in both actual value and investment over time. In 2008 the total annual benefits provided by tree on campus was $736,385.00 and the total annual cost of those trees were $265,100.00. (Vale 2011) The net benefit in dollar value is then approximately half a million dollars, in which a portion is lost when a tree in cut up and removed from campus.

The current infrastructure can only process a small number of trees using the chainsaw mill to cut wood for air drying utilizing our outside facilities. However, most of the tree material that is small enough, is processed using the wood chipper for mulch that can be utilized on campus. Still, with both of these items, Grounds Management is sending 50% of the accumulated tree material off campus for disposal. In addition, to produce wood that can be used for indoor applications, the wood needs to be under a certain moisture content, which is often lower than the relative humidity. The preferred moisture content is hard to achieve when air drying the milled limber in our outside facilities, given the marine climate of this area. A drying facility, most commonly a kiln, is used to achieve the target moisture content.

Describe your proposed solution to this problem:

Facilities Maintenance & Construction seeks to obtain and build infrastructure that increases the capacity for staff to process tree material in ways that protect University assets and investments related to our campus trees. This infrastructure will include a portable lumber mill and the design and construction of a solar powered kiln for drying the lumber in order to make it usable for wood working products. The processed wood material will be used for student, faculty and administration projects, with emphasis on the College of built Environments programs, requests related to Capital & Facilities Construction projects, and the potential for Annual Giving donor gifts. These requested items compliment already purchased items of a wood chipper and chainsaw mill to process tree material on campus. By keeping the tree material on campus, money is saved in disposal cost, less energy is used in waste transportation, some of the asset value of the tree is retained by being incorporated into campus projects and the investments made into that tree over time is preserved, especially if the final product becomes a permanent feature on campus.

What form and amount of student leadership will your project involve?

  • A graduate appointee (The Integrated Pest Management and Sustainability Coordinator) will coordinate with Grounds Management, Facilities Construction staff, and faculty from the College of Built Environments to develop and implement this program.
  • The student will develop the educational and outreach components of the program.
  • The student will also be responsible for records keeping, tracking costs, quantities and procedures related to this project.
  • The student will be work with multiple partners (including other students) to ensure products from campus trees that are benefiting students, staff, and faculty.

What type and amount of outreach and education will your project involve?

  • Grounds Management will feature this Salvage Wood program on their website and at outreach events.
  • Outreach and education through partners in the College of Built Environments will involve numerous student projects over time.
  • Any products created from this project could potentially be branded with the Campus Sustainability Fund logo creating a lasting outreach impact. 
  • As trees are removed from the campus landscape and incorporated into campus-wide projects, the story of that tree (its narrative) will hopefully become part of the project narrative.
  • Through education and outreach efforts, the perception of trees on campus and urban trees in general will change to reflect the understanding that they have value beyond their time in the ground.

Feasibility, Accountability, & Sustainability

  • Several demonstration products have been produced including a conference table and outdoor benches.
  • Both Grounds Management and Construction operate within the Facilities Services department of University of Washington. These entities have oversight mechanisms in place already to ensure projects are completed. The student position is supervised by the Manager of Ground Operations and will work closely with the Facilities Construction Lead carpenter to ensure project success.
  • Implementation of this project will demonstrate several sustainability practices including narrowing the waste stream by keeping more wood material on campus and creating the opportunity for locally grown wood to be utilized on campus.

What amount of funds do you anticipate your project will require from the CSF? :

Portable mill: $50,000.00

In-house design/build solar kiln: $6,000.00

Outreach and educational materials: $1,500.00

Total funding amount request:  $57,500.00


Vale, Karen. 2011. University of Washington Seattle Campus Forest Resources Analysis.  Master’s Project, University of Washington Botanic Gardens. Seattle Washington.

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Daniel Sorensen