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Builders learn to be evergreen

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Given the complications of saving trees on construction sites, it's tempting for home builders to call in the heavy equipment and level them. Although this has long been a common practice, the industry in the past few years has become more attuned to saving mature trees.

One reason is that homeowners like trees. Debbie Bassert, director of land development services for the National Association of Home Builders, says full-grown trees add to a home's value by giving it instant curb appeal.

"We know that home buyers are looking at not just what's inside the front door, but at the total package - the home, the lot, and the neighborhood - and trees can very much enhance the appeal of the community that way," she says.

In some cases, communities use regulations and ordinances to require developers to be better tree stewards.

Also, some developers are retaining the services of arborists to assist landscape architects and civil engineers in planning projects, as well as in caring for trees during and after construction.

To encourage such cooperation, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Arbor Day Foundation have become partners in sponsoring Building With Trees, a training and awards program.

Each year it recognizes outstanding examples of tree- sensitive construction.

Eagle Crossing, near Indianapolis, has been a recipient of the program's award of excellence for residential communities with 500 or more lots. C.P. Morgan Communities, the developer of the subdivision, saved thousands of trees from being bulldozed, including many in a 50-acre forest with walking and biking trails and wildlife viewing areas.

Work was also done to relocate large trees and to reforest about 10 acres along a creek that was wooded about 200 years ago.

The idea was to provide a better quality of life and enhance real estate values. More than 350 houses were sold in Eagle Crossing last year.

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