You Don’t Have to Destroy Nature to Profit From It

I smelled it before I could see it. While flying up the San Jacinto West Fork on 6/16/2020, acrid smoke from burning trees filled the air for miles. Then I saw it. The comforting, green blanket of trees that surrounds Houston had another massive gash in it. This is one of the main ways flooding starts. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to destroy nature to profit from it.

Death of a Thousand Cuts

You’ve heard it. A thousand times. “What I do on my property is my own damn business.”

Extrapolate that out a hundred years. Multiply it times millions of people. Before you know it, you have…Houston. And flooding. Often born out of lack of awareness of alternatives.

Start of a new development between FM1314, SH99 and the West Fork, adjacent to Cumberland.
Red marker indicates location of pictures. North is up and FM1314 cuts diagonally through frame on upper right.
The developer had trees lined up like the dead bodies of fallen soldiers on a battlefield.
Perhaps someday, this will be the site of a strip center.
Maybe they will call it Memorial in honor of the silent sentinels that once helped protect this land from erosion and flooding.
It’s easier for contractors to work without trees. But it is possible to work around them.

How Trees Reduce Flooding

Nearby, homes in Cumberland showed that development can co-exist with nature. In fact, people pay a premium to be surrounded by nature.

Google “role of trees in reducing flooding” and you will get 240 million results. Here are some of the main ways.

Trees reduce flooding by:

This page by the EPA contains an excellent summary of the benefits and dozens of documented case histories from all over the county.

Alternatives to Clearcutting

Whole industries are set up around clear cutting. Try to build something someday. Most likely everyone from architects to engineers, land clearing companies, and building contractors will tell you that trees are a nuisance during construction. They say it’s best to get rid of them and replant when you’re done building.

I’m not a professional developer. But I did construct an award-winning office building in the forest without killing everything around me. I even managed to preserve a small patch of wetlands with a seasonal pond on the property. It became the focal point of the main entry. Deer routinely grazed outside my windows. Hawks hunted on the property. Everyone felt connected to nature.

A building that made everyone feel as though they worked in the forest.
Fawn born on RCS lawn, near the red sign above.
Red Tailed Hawk kept rodents away.
The peaceful quiet of a December snow. Can you see the street just 75 feet away?

You Don’t Have to Destroy Nature to Profit From It

The Texas Society of Architects named it one of the top 25 buildings in Texas the year it was built. And the American Institute of Architects gave the building its highest award for Environmental Design. People loved the relaxed atmosphere of working in the building; nature has a soothing quality. My company’s productivity and profits soared. And when it came time to retire, I sold the building for a nice profit that lets me live comfortably.

All it took was a vision and the determination to build a team of contractors who shared it.

These are the kind of stories you don’t hear from people who make their money with bulldozers.

Oh, and by the way. The building never flooded. Never even came close. Nor did anyone ever say that I was making their flooding problems worse.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/27/2020 with thanks to Melton Henry Architects and Crawford Construction

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