Although more fable than fact, the story of the Oak beams from New College, Oxford is an interesting one and has become an inspiration to many companies and organizations trying to think sustainably.
New College, Oxford, is of rather late foundation, hence the name. It was founded around the late 14th century.
It has like other colleges, a great dining hall with big oaks beams across the top, yes? These might be two feet square, forty five feet long.
A century ago, so I am told, some busy entomologist went up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams and found that they were full of beetles. This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, because where would they get beams of that caliber nowadays?
One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on college lands some oak. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country. So they called in the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him about oaks. And he pulled his forelock and said, “Well sires, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’”.
Upon further inquiry it was discovered that when the college was founded, a grove of oaks ha been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end.
This plan had been passed down for one Forester to the next for five hundred years.
“You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”
Author: Gregory Bateson, anthropologist/philosopher
Source: How Buildings Learn Via Yarns Found