Trees can add value to a property, adding shade to buildings that are used for both commercial and residential purposes. When construction work is occurring nearby, protecting and preserving trees should be an important part of the process under the low-impact development criteria. Since trees offer both environmental and aesthetic benefits, it’s not uncommon for homes to be built close to them.
However, construction work can cause a lot of damage to trees. Before embarking on a construction project, it’s important to consult with arboriculture experts to avoid both short- and long-term damage to any trees in the area.
Protecting Existing Trees
Experts agree that fixing damage to trees is more time-consuming and expensive compared to simply preventing it in the first place. Construction work and heavy machinery that is used close to trees can lead to irreversible damage. Tree surveys from Arbtech are important for finding out more about the trees in the area before starting a construction project, allowing you to put a plan in place for keeping them well-protected.
Along with tree surveys, visible and sturdy barricades should be installed to protect the trees. For mature trees, the protected area should be two metres wide. When the trees are young, between one and four years old, the protected area should be a minimum of 30cm for each 2.5cm of trunk. A tree survey will enable to you to determine the age of the trees and the kind of protection that they need.
Trees have both large and small absorbing roots. The large root system expands horizontally, measuring between fifteen and sixty centimetres deep. The roots provide anchorage to the tree, along with transporting nutrients. If one of the root systems is damaged, it can cause serious harm to the health of the tree. Before and after carrying out any construction work, a tree survey can help you determine where the roots are and what should be done to protect them before, during, and after the completion of the project.
Methods for Protecting Trees During Construction Work
During construction work, there are several ways to protect trees from harm. The best method for your situation will depend on several factors including the type and age of the trees. A tree survey is the best way to determine which method of protection is likely to be the most effective.
Barriers Around the Root Zone
Start by looking at the branches to determine the critical root zone of the tree. If it is large and deciduous, for example, then the root system will extend horizontally through the soil beneath the tree in all directions for around the same length as the branches. Aim to protect around fifty percent of the root system from construction vehicles by marking a perimeter on the ground. Wood chips can be placed around the tree to protect both the tree roots and the soil. They will help to keep the soil damp, along with protecting the roots from crushing should the soil be compacted by heavy construction machinery.
Relocating or Removing Trees
A tree survey can help you determine if any trees can be removed or relocated before construction work commences. Any trees that are not structurally sound or already unhealthy may be best removed rather than saved. A professional such as a landscape architect or an arborist will be able to examine the planned construction site and provide you with more advice and information on which trees should be removed, and which can be replanted elsewhere.
Older, mature trees should be handled with care, as these can pose the highest risk to structures should they fall. Along with this, compared to younger trees they may not always be able to adapt to environmental challenges as well, so may not always be suitable for replanting.
Any trees that are going to be within five feet of the new construction, and are taller than twenty feet, should always be removed. Other close trees, including those that are within ten feet of the construction, will be harmed during the process and should be removed and relocated where possible. A professional arborist can move the tree and keep it safe during the construction project. In some cases, it may be possible to replant the tree in its original position once the construction project has been completed.
Preventing Damage to Trees That Aren’t Moved
Along with setting up boundaries to protect the roots of the trees that are to be left near the site during your construction project, there are several other things that you can do to protect trees from harm. Some are simple solutions, such as putting up signs that clearly communicate that the tree is to be protected. This can help to provide guidance to construction crews and reduce the risk of the tree being damaged by heavy machinery.
Caring for the trees during the construction project is also important. Ideally, trees should be watered every one to two weeks during construction. This is because being located near a construction site puts the tree at a higher risk of drying out. Use water to saturate the soil beneath the canopy of the tree. In the winter, you may not have to water the trees as often due to the weather – once a month should be enough. However, most construction projects are more likely to take place during the warmer months, when it’s most crucial for trees to stay hydrated.
Finally, check on the trees regularly and prune any trees that are damaged to keep them alive. Look out for signs of damage like dead or dropping branches, excessive winter dieback, scorched leaves, or over-shedding of needles. Use pruning shears to cut the affected branches off. Bear in mind that it may take months or even years before some trees start showing signs of construction site damage, so it’s important to go back and check them regularly even after the project is completed.
Trees are an important part of the world and looking after them during construction projects should be a top priority.