Arlington Designer Homes is committed to green building for the health benefits, energy savings, and reduced environmental footprint it provides for our buyers and our community. With constantly changing regulations, technologies and products, buidling a new green home from the ground up isn't always easy - but it's always interesting!

Welcome to our behind-the-scenes blog about green building and remodeling, where you can watch a green home go up step-by-step and learn about using green building techniques for your own home. And visit our website at to learn even more about green building and remodeling.

June 5, 2012

The Truth About Trees

People often ask  ‘How can you consider your company green when you cut down trees?’ This always strikes me as a very narrow viewpoint. What we do as a green company is so much more than any one aspect of construction, and tree protection is a very big and nuanced issue. As a green company, we have to balance the needs of our customers, the neighbors, the community and the environment.  In planning for our projects, we take all these factors into consideration.

One of the first things we do when we start a project is develop a comprehensive tree plan. The first part of this plan is a tree survey. We identify all the trees on our property and adjacent properties that fall under our site plan. We identify the type of tree, assess the health of the tree, and desirability of having this tree on the site. Many people aren't even aware that we undertake these studies, but we do one for every single property, to help us protect not only our trees, but also our neighbors’ trees and our neighbors’ property. The studies help us determine which trees should be removed and why, which trees should be preserved and why, and which types of new trees should be planted.

With the house we are building at 2617 Nottingham Street in Arlington, one question I heard many times was "What can we do to save the trees?" In my opinion, the question should have been “Should we save these trees?”  In this case, the answer was most definitely no. Most, if not all, of the trees on the property that we cut down were infested with a contagious, deadly canker disease. The best thing we could have done for the other trees on this property and for the neighbors' trees was to remove them before they contaminated other trees.

In our tree survey, we were able to identify trees that pose a danger to other trees or personal property and remove them. As I drive or walk through Arlington, I see all sorts of trees and properties that would benefit from having an arborist take a look at them. Some are in simple need of having the English Ivy pulled off of them so they don’t choke to death. Others need more TLC, and yet others are dangerous or diseased and should be removed. Our tree survey helps us to identify and remove dangerous and infected trees.

We also look at the desirability and viability of a tree. Many of the trees that we have in our area are invasive non-native species. These species can threaten the health of native plants and animals. That is why as part of any green program you are encouraged to plant native species. We believe in removing invasive species as needed, and planting species that will help support native wildlife, that are disease and drought tolerant, and that have a proven track record in the area.

The viability or life span of a tree is something else that is taken into account when deciding which trees stay and which trees go. The simple fact is, trees have a certain life span and sometimes when you are at the end of it, the best thing we can do is replace an old dying tree with a tree that will be strong and healthy for years to come.

Most of the trees we removed from the property at 2617 Nottingham St. were either diseased, invasive, or at the end of their healthy lifespan. We took our arborist’s expert council and removed the less desirable trees so that we can start to implement our more comprehensive and appropriate tree plan. The tree plans we execute are based upon creating vibrant, lasting trees that will benefit native species along with the homeowners and neighborhood for many generations.

Some interesting and useful related links:

Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension Guide to Problem-Free and Native Trees for Virginia

Virginia Department of Natural Resources Native Plant Finder

Virginia Native Plant Society (has lists of nurseries)