Fab Tree Hab - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Fab Tree Hab

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Tree houses aren't just for kids anymore. They are used increasingly as primary residences, vacation getaways and meditation retreats.

Homes perched high in a forest canopy or woven from the very branches of trees take ecofriendly building to the extreme. Future-forward designers are concocting tree houses that live and "breathe," such as the Fab Tree Hab. It uses high-tech computer modeling and ancient techniques such as pleaching, which weaves together living branches and trunks to create walls and ceilings.

"Most folks that contact us are not looking for a product that is 'environmentally friendly,'" explained Mitchell Joachim, an architect at the Smart Cities group of the MIT Media Lab. "Instead they want a product that is the environment. "

Photo by: Mitchell Joachim, Terreform



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A closer look at Fab Tree Hab's design - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

A closer look at Fab Tree Hab's design

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This closer look at the Fab Tree Hab's design shows how the structure would both nourish and be fed by its natural surroundings. Elements include walls woven from vines, soy-based plastic windows, rammed earth and tile flooring, and radiant solar hot water heating.



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Treedome - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Treedome

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Like Joachim, Konstantin Kirsch believes that living trees can make ideal building materials. He planted this " treedome" in 1992 using two tree species in the Sorbus family. The research project sits on his wooded property in Central Germany, where the largest tree structure is 31 feet in diameter. Kirsch is working on a 427 square foot treedome made from a giant sequoia.

Larger dwellings could be built by planting small rooms like this one near each other, then encouraging them to grow together. In theory, a household living in such a structure could use its wastewater and compost to feed the roots of trees, helping the walls and roof to grow. Health benefits include fresh air from the oxygen given off by the trees, which absorb carbon exhaled by the inhabitants.

Photo by: Konstantin Kirsch



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Arborsculpture - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Arborsculpture

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Oregonian Richard Reames manipulates tree branches as they grow to create what he calls " arborsculpture" structures such as this gazebo made from red alder trees. Once the trees are bent and grafted over time, the structure sustains itself. Reames has written books about growing buildings and furniture from trees.

Photo by: Richard Reames, Arborsmith



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geodesic dome - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

geodesic dome

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This geodesic dome perched in an olive tree uses natural pine, cork and clay for construction in a Spanish ecovillage. Like the Fab Tree Hab, this structure combines the general form of a geodesic domewith the sustainability of an earthship.

Photo by: Valle de Sensaciones



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Styx tree houses - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Styx tree houses

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Australian architect Andrew Maynarddreamed up Styx tree houses, named for an endangered Tasmanian forest where the world's tallest hardwood trees live. To prevent clearcutting there in 2003, activists squatted within structures similar to these, dubbed Global Rescue Stations. The structure shown is a prototype of a model supported by three trees rather than one.

Activist Julia Butterfly Hillbecame famous while living in a tree for 738 days to save Luna, a 1,000 year-old Northern California Redwood, from logging. The tree now stands in a protected zone. Last year, actress Darryl Hannah camped out in a South Central Los Angeles walnut tree for three weeks in a bid to prevent the destruction of a neighborhood farm, which was eventually ordered bulldozed by the landlord.

Photo by: Andrew Maynard



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Conceptual tree house - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Conceptual tree house

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This conceptual tree house from London-based design firm Sybariteresembles a spaceship. The materials used in the modular, off-the-grid structure are meant to be recyclable.

Photo by: Sybarite



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Wind-powered home - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Wind-powered home

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The futuristic, wind-powered home peeks above the treetops. Although none have been built yet, each Sybarite tree house of up to five bedrooms would cost about $1,875 per square meter, including construction taking about two weeks. The company also licenses its plans for a fee.

Photo by: Sybarite



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Spherical room - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Spherical room

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This spherical room is suspended from several trees by a web of rope. It follows the principles of biomimicry, which uses forms found in nature as inspiration for man-made designs. The sphere's inherent strength can withstand the impact of falling branches. Nothing penetrates the bark of the trees, which provide the foundation, and nothing touches the ground. People enter through a spiral staircase and suspension bridge.

Tom Chudleigh of British Columbia created his Free Spirit Sphereas a meditation space. He aims to build 20 more spheres using fiberglass rather than wood, and hang them in an old-growth forest Each sphere can be installed within four days and removed in one day with a crew of several people.

Photo by: Tom Chudleigh, Free Spirit Spheres Inc.



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A walnut house - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

A walnut house

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You don't need to be a treehugger or join the Swiss Family Robinson to live in a tree. More ready-made designs are coming to the United States. Yet another example of biomimicry, this compact and whimsical designfrom German firm Baumraum is shaped like a walnut. The company makes more spacious dwellings with sweeping views of woods and waterfronts. It favors pine woods for construction materials because the natural resin protects the exterior from sun, rain and snow without requiring toxic finishings. The structures are built with double-paned windows and doors, 4 inch-thick walls, and tightly sealed corners to keep out insects and small animals.

Photo by: Alasdair Jardine/Baumraum



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Prefab tree houses - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Prefab tree houses

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Baumraum makes prefabricatedtree houses in its workshop, then trucks or ships the components to a site. Each structure is fastened to sturdy trees by cloth belts and steel cables without using bolts or nails. Built-in benches, electricity, heating and a kitchen are optional. Although the company's primary market is Europe, its first U.S. tree house will be a New York family's vacation home. Prices range between $28,000 to $71,000, plus delivery.

Photo by: Alasdair Jardine/Baumraum



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Hooch tree houses - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Hooch tree houses

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Although ideal for the tropics, Hooch tree housescan be built as summer getaways even in climates with cold winters. The tiny foundation is a single pole, which allows for easy dismantling if the house needs to be moved. Made from Douglas fir remnants from lumber plantations, the pole is secured to the trees by cables. Fast-growing bamboo makes up most of the structure. Solar electricity and hot water in addition to a composting toilet are other green options.

Photo by: Jo Scheer, Island Ambiance



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Hooch tree house master bedroom - Photos: Extreme tree houses - CNET News

Hooch tree house master bedroom

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This is the master bedroom of a tropical Hooch house. At least two dozen Hooch homes can be found in Oregon, California, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. Residents in coastal U.S. western states can order one for between $3,500 to $9,000, depending upon the size and assembly options. Users of Google Earth and SketchUp software can play with models of a Hooch house.

Photo by: Jo Scheer, Island Ambiance



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