Trees on Campus Give Back to Tech

White Oak at Tech Tower

The White Oak (Quercus alba) near Tech Tower Lawn is one of the oldest and largest trees in Atlanta metro area. It can be seen in images of Tech Tower circa 1888. According to the USDA Forest Services i-Tree calculations, this tree alone has the carbon storage capacity of 11,177 lbs  – the same amount of energy released when burning 2,092 gallons of gasoline. A tree of this size typically sequesters an additional 217 lbs of carbon every year. Energy calculations generated using

Georgia Tech is known for a lot of things — world-renowned academics and research, entrepreneurial students and, of course, the legendary George P. Burdell. But did you know that Georgia Tech is also becoming recognized for its thoughtful stewardship of its trees?

Georgia Tech’s campus is home to more than 11,400 trees. While the most popular by far is the common crape myrtle, the campus hosts approximately 130 species of trees — adding value to many aspects of campus life.

“The trees on campus certainly add aesthetic value. Most first-time visitors to campus are really surprised to discover the abundance of trees and green spaces," says Jason Gregory, senior educational facilities planner and landscape architect with Capital Planning and Space Management. “But the trees are important for other reasons too — namely their ability to help with our water conservation goals and reduce the campus’ heat island effect, which ultimately helps conserve energy. As Tech moves forward with its sustainability agenda, the planning and management of our urban landscape will be key to our success.”

Georgia Tech’s current landscape is a living product of the Landscape Master Plan, which dates back to 2006. It contains the prescriptions to construct a performance landscape by revitalizing the campus green space and using trees as a sustainable resource that gives back to the campus in many ways.

“Most people don’t realize how much planning and work it takes to maintain a campus like Tech. The campus was awarded the Professional Grounds Management Society certification last fall, which reflects our commitment on many levels to the concept of designing an urban landscape that is attractive, healthy, and sustainable,” Gregory says.

This care for Tech’s living campus also sometimes requires the responsible removal of trees — for tree health, community safety, and the growth of campus. These culled trees are replaced, and when the opportunity presents itself, some trees can be recycled as is demonstrated in the Engineered Biosystems Building wooden staircase.

The trees keep giving in other ways too, including providing educational opportunities to the community. Gregory has presented plans for the Campus Arboretum to an Urban Forestry course in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and an Environmentalism and Ecocriticism course in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication. His office is also actively pursuing an arboretum certification, which by definition elevates Tech’s green space to a living-learning laboratory.   

In addition, Georgia Tech’s Tree Campus USA committee has been maintaining data including the trees’ species, height, canopy size, and health since 2012. In a partnership with the Center for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the College of Architecture, this data will be combined with other data, like the campus’ stormwater metrics, to truly understand tree performance and help model and measure the campus landscape for many years to come.

More information on Georgia Tech’s Landscape Master Plan can be found on the Capital Planning and Space Management website: Updates on Tech’s arboretum certification will be announced this fall.

Recycled Wood Used for Engineered Biosystems Building Staircase

One of the trees removed on the site of the Engineered Biosystems Building was recycled and now lives on as part of the building's sustainable staircase. 

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Rachael Pocklington
Institute Communications