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There are many reasons to hire a certified arborist to assess your trees.

Landscape Architecture

Why Should You Hire a Certified Arborist?

The proper care of trees is crucial to their health and to the safety of the people enjoying them. The relationship between trees, people, and the structures we build requires a managed balance. Certified Arborists play a key role in all this; explore how in this conversation with our in-house certified arborist, Hailey Mackay.

September 24, 2019

Many of us love living in the Pacific Northwest because of the fantastic access to the surrounding waterways, mountains, and forests. The reflection of that landscape within the urban areas around Puget Sound and Lake Washington is yet another reason people love living here (and is a reason Seattle has been referred to as the ‘Emerald City’).

At the scale of your project, the existing trees on your property can be a real asset to what you want to achieve. But trees, when they aren’t healthy or properly located, can also be a challenge. For many projects, one of the first steps is to have the larger, significant trees evaluated by a Certified Arborist. To help understand that process, let’s chat with Hailey Mackay, our in-house Certified Arborist.

Zack: Before jumping into what an arborist does, what is a Certified Arborist?

Hailey: The literal definition of an arborist is a “tree surgeon,” or professional in the practice of arboriculture: the study, care, cultivation, and management of individual trees. Arborists can be distinguished from foresters by the scale of study and cultivation. Simply put, arborists focus on the study and care of individual trees, primarily in urban areas, while foresters focus on communities of trees, such as forests or continuous urban canopy, in both urban and wild environments.

A certified arborist can appropriately assess a tree and its condition.
Measuring a Tree

Measuring the trunk diameter, observing bark and foliage close-up, as well as looking at a tree’s form and canopy structure from a distance, are key to building an understanding of overall conditions. This Atlas Cedar is in excellent condition.

Zack: Why is it important to use a Certified Arborist?

Hailey: Certification is a mark of experience, knowledge, and commitment to a code of ethics. Whether an arborist is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA), both certifications indicate a level of experience and ethical standards that are critical to safe and responsible tree management and care.

Cabling and bracing of trees should only be installed, checked, and maintained by a certified arborist.
Assessing Cabling & Bracing

Supports like cabling and bracing should not be taken lightly, and should only be installed, checked, and maintained by a certified arborist with experience in tree support. This Scotch Pine is leaning heavily; its support brace is loose and may need maintenance.

Certified professionals have not only documented their work history in arboriculture, they also demonstrate key areas of knowledge based on training and experience. Levels of certification include designations for high-risk work — such as work around utilities, tree climbing, and aerial-lift operation that can be hazardous and require additional training and experience. Working with trees can be risky and unpredictable, so certified arborists play a critical role in maintaining safe, healthy trees, and removing trees that are hazardous or diseased.

Zack: As design professionals, we interact with Certified Arborists frequently – starting with feasibility studies, during the design and permitting process, and through construction. Our clients often outsource this work to local Certified Arborists. Could you talk about the advantages of having a Certified Arborist on staff at Board & Vellum?

Hailey: Before answering your question, let’s be clear that we plan to continue to work and build relationships with local Certified Arborists! But there are two big advantages for us (and our clients) to having this expertise in-house.

The first is we can provide insight and advice on tree management and protection. Many projects don’t require a Certified Arborist, but questions arise during day-to-day design work regarding trees and we can quickly respond to them – perhaps even recommending that a project engage an arborist.

It is important to hire a certified arborist who understands the potential impacts of environmental conditions on specific species and sizes of trees, in order to create a maintenance and care plan for those specific conditions.
Assessing Climatic & Environmental Conditions

Different species of trees react differently to climatic and environmental conditions. It is important to hire a professional who understands the potential impacts of environmental conditions on specific species and sizes of trees, in order to create a maintenance and care plan for those specific conditions. This Sargent Magnolia has been pruned away from the building and its canopy kept open and clean to prevent debris from falling on nearby walkways.

The second advantage is in selecting the right Certified Arborist for your project when one is required. Much like designers and contractors, the skillset a Certified Arborist has to offer is largely dependent on their background and experience. That can range from consultation to hazardous tree assessment to the pruning, climbing, and removal of trees. My background is in the selection, installation, and maintenance of trees, so I help bridge the perspectives of designer and arborist to find solutions that honor the value of existing trees and maximize design opportunities. While I can assess trees and create arborist reports, we often recommend other local arborists whose experience and skills are more suited to a project’s needs. Having a tree expert on staff helps to streamline that process.

Zack: Any last thoughts?

Hailey: I provide support on most of our projects if there are large trees on the property. This might be as simple as taking a quick look at photos to correctly identify the species, or as involved as going out on-site to document existing trees and measure trunk diameter and driplines.

Do you have questions about a tree on your property? Let us know – we’d be glad to help!

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