Back in January, we were tasked of installing new porous pavement around a pair of trees just two blocks away from Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle. The struggles with working downtown include narrow sidewalks, a busy lunch rush and of course, dealing with the cold, rainy weather.
We were asked to install a walking path of Porous Pave in a complex crisscross patten for Seattle Housing Authority. The walkway sits at the base of some “turf mounds”, designed as a park amenity for kids to run up and over. These mounds have a concrete base underneath, which means all the rainwater that falls on them is directed to the footpath below. Processing rainwater onsite, and keeping it out of the storm drain and ultimately Puget Sound, is a more and more important goal of many landscape projects, and flexible porous paving is one of the tools we use to meet that goal. The project was particularly difficult as we had to connect the walkway to various levels of benches, city sidewalk, and the turf mounds, and installing it flat and level presented many challenges. With the ingenuity of Derek, ever creative foreman for all Root Cause operations, we found a way to make it all fit together and serve the public for years to come.
We are always impressed by the access to nature here in Seattle. Our CEO, Brian Holers, was on a project on Mercer Island. He realized how different life can be just 50-100 yards from the busy highway. It's quiet, peaceful, calm, and beautiful. We maintain urban forest for this exact reason. It creates opportunity for all of us to stay connected with Mother Nature and the natural wonder of plants and trees.
“It’s not easy being green.”
These words were made famous by Jim Henson’s iconic frog, but also ring true for our city trees. The stoic sentinels that line our streets and dot our parks are in danger, and tree advocate and arborist Brian Holers is trying to make it a little easier to be green.
Holers started the company Root Cause to promote the survival and wellbeing of city trees through arboriculture. This task is often more daunting than it might sound. “Trees and development are natural enemies,” he said. “If your job is to build a house on a small city lot and there’s a tree in the way, the first obvious step would be to cut down the tree.”
While tree preservation is not in the best interest of most developers, Eastside life simply would not be the same without these trees. And many Eastside trees would not be the same without Root Cause.
Root Cause specializes in air excavation technology, which allows arborists to dig safely around trees and improve the surrounding soil. Another technology Holers uses is porous pavement, which allows the roots to receive water and nutrients, while also protecting the tree from some of the harsh effects of city life.
“We always start with the assumption that a mature tree has value,” Holers said. “A tree has a function. It cleans the air, water; it takes up pollutants; it cleans the soil; gives us shade … we start with the assumption that, with care, city trees can be preserved.”
Root Cause’s jobs range widely, from creating porous pavement walkways between Microsoft’s office treehouses to protecting the roots of an iconic elm tree at the University of Washington.
However, arboriculture was not always Holers’ plan. After graduating with a degree in psychology and religious studies from Louisiana State University, Holers took a while to figure out his professional calling. He traveled to East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Jerusalem with his wife and their child. He even tried writing a novel.
Holers now balances his creativity and pragmatism through his work with Root Cause.
“Try to imagine what it would look like if there were no trees. Trees are awesome,” Holers said. “But city trees can only grow with the nutrients we give them. What lies beneath is always a mystery, and that’s why I like my job so much.”
Continue reading see what this tree-loving titan does on a typical day.
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“When he was growing up, Brian Holers had a love for the outdoors — fishing, playing baseball, running through corn fields and climbing trees. That last passion eventually led him to where he is today… As an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, Holers now runs Root Cause from his home base in Mercer Island, Wash. He provides services using modern technology aimed at preserving trees and tree roots, and has even installed “porous pavement” on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.”
Alison Morrow of King5-TV met with Brian Holers of Root Cause in Belltown to learn more about our porous pavement installations on 2nd Ave of Downtown Seattle. Flexible porous pavement allows the tree roots to grow without ripping up sidewalks, while also allowing trees beds to trap stormwater run-off.
In September 2016, the general contractor responsible for redeveloping Downtown Bellevue Park in Bellevue, Washington, contacted Root Cause LLC to help protect its trees. The project involved overhauling the park’s land, completing a half-mile long circular walkway around the park and building several children’s playground structures.