American Liberty Elms good for ‘going green’

For builders across the nation who are turning their attention to designing “green,” environmentally-friendly building projects, there is a tree for those project sites. It’s the disease-resistant American Liberty Elm.

Standards for green building have been developed by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a project of the U.S. Green Building Council, which promotes “buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.” Both new and existing buildings are included in LEED’s scope.

By using green methods, builders can earn credits toward LEED certification, which recognizes leadership in the green building industry. Certified builders can qualify for state and local government incentives.

Among many green building goals, LEED emphasizes development of high-performance sustainable buildings, energy efficiency, water savings and reduction of “heat islands” through landscape and exterior design. That’s where the American Liberty Elm, propagated by the nonprofit Elm Research Institute (ER) of Keene, N.H., comes in.

Sustainable Design—“Because elms are long-lived, this tree is a sustainable design,” said ERI founder John P. Hansel. “And it will grow to be large, so one elm will fill a landscape space that otherwise would require several smaller and, perhaps, short-lived trees.” Elms can live to be 200 to 300 years old.

Energy reduction—American Liberty Elms will have a 60- to 65-foot spread at maturity, producing a wide area of shade and reducing air conditioning cost. In winter, the tree is leafless, allowing warm sunlight to reach buildings. The canopy is high enough it doesn’t hide a building’s architecture. Imagine the shade it will provide when planted on a main street in front of a business…then think of the money saved in air conditioning costs.

Water Conservation—The shade also reduces temperature and water loss at ground level. As the tree is drought-tolerant, it won’t need watering, once established.

Environmental improvement—Elms are efficient in cleansing polluted air. The elm leaf’s capacity for this function is increased by projecting hairs, which, in effect, add to the total surface of the leaf. The tree has an abundance of foliage because of its size, compared with smaller trees.

Hansel points out other advantages of the American Liberty Elm. “When you plant this tree, you’ll be restoring a species that, at one time, was on the brink of extinction,” Hansel said. “And with its majestic stature and arching branches, there is nothing like it for adding sheer grandeur to the landscape.”

Builders who specify the tree receive bonus trees they can donate to a community where the project is located. This occurs in ERI’s Matching Tree Grant Program, in which the purchase of American Liberty Elms generates a number of free trees for planting in public places.

For more information about how to include American Liberty Elms in your next project and to get free trees under ERI’s Matching Tree Grant Program, call 1-800-367-3567, visit online at or write Elm Research Institute, 11 Kit St., Keene, NH 03431.

From the june 7-13, 2006, issue

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