VCU Campus Tree Plan

Bilal Damaj, Virginia Commonwealth University


Throughout the past several years VCU has grown tremendously as a large public research university and an anchor institution within the city of Richmond However, VCU also has been working towards a more sustainable future and is committed to furthering sustainability in its community and campuses. While VCU has several long-range plans dedicated towards different aspects of the University’s planning and design initiatives, the University does not have any plan dedicated specifically towards its campus trees or tree canopy. An analysis of the existing conditions on VCU’s campuses found that there is low amount of urban tree canopy cover, high amount of impervious surface areas as well as a lack of policies in place relating to oversight and administration for campus trees. Additionally, VCU’s urban tree canopy (UTC) faces threats posed by climate change and potential shrinkage of its tree canopy due to future increased development. The VCU Campus Tree Plan aims to provide the University with the framework and policy guidelines for the preservation, maintenance and planting of the urban tree UTC on its campuses. The overall goal of the VCU Campus Tree Plan is to provide a safe, healthy, attractive and sustainable campus forest. This will help to enhance the VCU campuses in terms of aesthetic appearance, energy efficiency and the social/educational interactions that take place through the wide range of benefits that urban trees provide. The implementation of this plan will provide the University with many tangible benefits such as a reduction in the urban heat island effect that VCU’s campuses experience, mitigation of stormwater runoff during heavy precipitation events, increased physical and psychological well-being for residents, increased revenue for business owners and business districts and increased aesthetic appearances for neighborhoods and retail areas. All of these benefits will help enhance the overall environment for VCU’s students and faculty and increase VCU’s standing as a premier urban university.