Up From Ashes

Michael Guthrie
Friday 04 Mar 2011

Acclaimed documentary details complex sustainable construction system at AADL


In 2005, The Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) purchased approximately 4 acres of property for a new branch library to serve the Northeast quadrant of the city of Ann Arbor. This was to be the third branch library constructed by the current administration since 2002 and replace a 4,000 sq ft branch library within an existing strip mall located along a nearby commercial corridor.

The site, heavily wooded and densely vegetated, is located on the Southwest corner of the intersection of Huron Parkway and Traverwood Drive. A thorough site analysis identified edges of the property along the Southwest corner which were scarred and sparsely vegetated, an ideal and well suited location for placement of the building footprint. Further evaluation of onsite circulation brought about considerations to allow parking under the building, reducing the amount of impervious surface onsite and minimising further site clearing.

Although densely populated, many of the trees were Ash, suffering the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a destructive beetle, which aggressively attacks North American Ash trees through feeding on the water and nutrient conducting tissues under the bark, killing the tree over a period of 3 to 5 years. Preliminary research showed that this particular tree species is especially well-suited to milling, as the insect does not damage the interior portion of the wood.

With so much value found in a close, abundant, natural resource, unique uses of the wood in the floors, walls, ceiling and structure of the new branch library were proposed and considered. Additionally, grants from the South East Michigan Resource Conservation & Development Council aided in the feasibility of this reutilisation. Lumberjacks with custom ordered Swedish Gransfurs axes in hand, proceeded to manually cut down approximately 60 dead ash trees, ranging in diameter from 10in to 22in, in order to harvest the trees as sensitively as possible.

'Up From Ashes', a short documentary by KDN Films, captures each step of the Traverwood Branch construction process, a process that combined both primitive and modern construction methods. Click here to view a clip of the documentary or here to view the documentary in its entirety.

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