Answer: Construction activity can be very detrimental to trees and it may be nearly impossible to provide them with sufficient protection no matter what you do. Simply removing a number of trees can expose the remainder to unaccustomed stresses such as excessive wind. However, the basic idea is to protect as much of the root area as possible from disturbance and compaction, keeping in mind that roots can spread half again as far as the branches. Next, the trees will be affected by any changes at all to drainage patterns and grading. An increase or reduction in surface runoff, for instance, can have a big effect on trees; roots can also be easily smothered by an increase of just a few inches of soil over their roots, with different trees, such as oaks, being more sensitive than others. There are techniques, such as building tree wells, that can be used to try to preserve trees, but their design is site specific. I strongly suggest you work with a professionally trained arborist and possibly a landscape architect to work out a tree preservation plan for your builder to follow.
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