City touts new tech aimed at bolstering Oahu’s urban tree canopy

City touts new tech aimed at bolstering Oahu’s urban tree canopy
Silva Cells are placed into the ground in Hikimoe St. in Waipahu. (Source: Department of Transportation Services)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is introducing a new technology aimed at increasing Oahu’s urban tree canopy.

They’re called Silva Cells, and they’re flat pot-like structures that are designed to keep roots compacted underground rather than pushing through sidewalks and roads.

The mayor announced Monday that 13 trees and 500 Silva Cells would be installed at the Waipahu Transit Center as part of the first phase of a $1 million project.

The cells, officials said, are designed to support the heavy load of passing traffic while also allowing the root systems of large trees to grow.

Matthew Gonser, the city’s coastal and water program manager, said the system are a big improvement and will help ensure the city has “big, strong, healthy and mature trees.”

In a typical sidewalk, there is minimal room and soil for trees to grow. As a result, trees are stunted and their roots stay close to the surface, damaging sidewalks.

Silva Cells allow root systems to thrive in the uncompacted soil while the structure holds the weight of the sidewalk or street, resulting in taller and fuller trees.

Jon Nouchi, the deputy director of the city Department of Transportation Services, said this was one way the city is making the “best environment for people who are waiting for the bus.”

“We’ve expanded our ability to use larger trees in settings where we can provide people a lot more canopy and comfort,” Nouchi said.

“There’s no better way than providing natural shelters."

The city said its use of the Silva Cells technology aligns with Mayor Kikr Caldwell’s goal of planting 100,000 new trees within the next five years, and increasing the city’s urban tree canopy to 35 percent.

“As we renovate and redesign local areas, we’re taking into consideration innovative engineering as well as the environment, and Silva Cells fulfill both,” Caldwell said, in a news release.

“The installation of these cells will allow the 13 trees we’re planting at the Waipahu Transit Center to grow bigger with a wider canopy, creating more shade for those who are waiting at the bus stop as well as making the area look more beautiful.”

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