Architect Roald Gundersen and his team at Whole Tree Architecture and Construction are all for putting small-diameter trees — the “weeds” of the forest — to practical use. Forests need thinning to grow healthy stands of millable trees, Gundersen observes, and his company works with “the waste product” of that process.

Studies by the USDA-funded Forest Products Laboratory have found that a small round timber is 50 percent stronger in bending than an equivalent cross-sectional area of milled lumber. Gundersen’s work takes advantage of that attribute: “We’re looking at the architecture of trees, the result of 200 million years of environmental testing, and using...

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