Rachel Bowden contributed to this article.
The 2015 Southface Campus refresh was driven by a holistic approach to sustainability in our built environment. It was rooted in evidence-based design around enhancing health and well-being. A survey of Southface employees inspired decisions regarding materials, color selection and needs for flexible workspaces. Validated by third-party research in environmental psychology and biophilic design, the campus refresh has created a built environment that is healthy and efficient, allows occupants to thrive and provides Southface a platform for demonstrating how industry is leading the way.
Each year, Metro Atlanta tree services send millions of board feet of hardwoods to landfills around the region. Sims Acuff, a skilled sawyer with a woodworking background, managed an Atlanta-based tree service for ten years before finally growing tired of throwing away logs that had the potential to be turned into quality products. “I really hated taking logs from old growth trees that I knew would make incredibly beautiful lumber to the landfill,” explains Acuff. In 2010 Acuff created Eutree—a business with a sustainability mission: to revolutionize the way flooring and other hardwood products are sourced, processed and supplied. By disrupting the journey of hardwood trunks from urban tree services to waste, Eutree fulfills a market need for sustainably-produced flooring and other hardwood pieces, while reducing the burden on landfills.
The business model is simple: Acuff and his staff carefully select wood already cut down by local tree service partners and repurpose the trees into fine products at Eutree’s lumber mill. By choosing timber that is already cut down by tree removal services, the company reduces habitat destruction, loss of tree canopy and other environmental costs. Eutree proudly calls this approach Forest Free™, as they never have to step foot inside a forest to obtain materials. Acuff explains:
Eutree is unique in our production process. We are one of the few fully vertical hardwood flooring and paneling manufacturers in the country. Of these, we are the only one that produces exclusively Forest Free™ products. To qualify as Forest Free™ a tree must have been removed for a reason other than its lumber. A Forest Free tree is removed by a residential tree service from a yard, park or roadside.
Additionally, since the mill is located just outside Atlanta, Eutree significantly reduces carbon emissions inherent in moving heavy materials long distances across the state. For that reason, Eutree’s Forest Free™ products are accepted by green certification programs like EarthCraft and LEED for locally sourcing materials. It’s also not uncommon to see some finished products inside the building from the site where the tree was taken—a program called “Root-to-Fruit.”
In a world where commodities have replaced craftsmanship, Forest Free™ materials revisit the lumber industry’s artisanal roots. Each locally sourced tree is selected for a specific purpose. This selection criteria is a core value of Eutree’s that allows for intentional design of a product. Eutree’s thoughtful approach demonstrates values that Southface admires and showcases throughout its campus. Shane Totten, Director of Commercial Sustainability Services at Southface explains:
Optimizing the usefulness and economy of materials is a primary component of sustainable design. Eutree’s use of lumber sourced from urban sites exemplifies Southface’s commitment to thinking holistically about our environment and our use of materials. Integrating Eutree’s unfinished lumber in Southface’s 2015 refresh creates an opportunity for dialogue about the critical role of materials in sustainable design projects.
Eutree selected a hemlock specimen to feature in Southface’s reception area, wrapping the reception desk and accentuating three shelving units. Other Forest Free™ products Acuff and his team craft include wide-plank flooring, paneling, artisan slabs, outdoor decking and posts and beams, from species such as beech, black walnut, cherry, heart pine, maple, red birch, red oak and white oak.
When asked about the future of Eutree’s woodworking and the lumber industry in general, Acuff remarked:
The long term goal for Eutree is to scale, salvaging more urban trees to reduce the demand to harvest timber from forests. I think Forest Free™ is the future of architectural lumber products. In my opinion, there is simply no other truly sustainable method of sourcing lumber.