Eco-architecture could produce 'grow your own' homes

August 21, 2008
TAU/Plantware
A computer-generated illustration of a TAU/Plantware "home." Credit: AFTAU

A bus stop that grows its own foliage as shade? A children's playground, made entirely from trees? A shelter made from living tree roots that could provide natural protection against earthquakes in California?

"Eco-architecture" may sound like a Buck Rogers vision of an ecologically-sustainable future, but that future is now thanks to the guidance of Tel Aviv University Professors Yoav Waisel and Amram Eshel. The concept of shaping living trees into useful objects -- known as tree shaping, arborsculpture, living art or pooktre –– isn't new. But scientists are now ready to use this concept as the foundation of a new company that will roll out these structures worldwide.

Pilot projects now underway in the United States, Australia and Israel include park benches for hospitals, playground structures, streetlamps and gates. "The approach is a new application of the well-known botanical phenomenon of aerial root development," says Prof. Eshel. "Instead of using plant branches, this patented approach takes malleable roots and shapes them into useful objects for indoors and out."

A Scientific and Commercial Partnership

The original "root-breaking" research was conducted at the Sarah Racine Root Research Laboratory at Tel Aviv University, the first and largest aeroponics lab in the world. Founded by Prof. Waisel 20 years ago, the lab enables scientists to conduct future-forward and creative research that benefits mankind and the environment.

Commercial applications of the research are being developed by Plantware, a company founded in 2002. TAU and Plantware researchers working together found that certain species of trees grown aeroponically (in air instead of soil and water) do not harden. This developed into a new method for growing "soft roots," which could easily turn living trees into useful structures.

Completing the informal collaboration between Plantware founders and the university, the company's director of operations, Yaniv Naftaly, holds a degree in life sciences from TAU.

An Eco-Positive Abode

It's even possible that, in the near future, entire homes will be constructed with the eco-friendly technology. An engineer by trade, Plantware's CEO Gordon Glazer hopes the first home prototype will be ready in about a decade. While the method of "growing your own home" can take years, the result is long lasting and desirable especially in the emerging field of green architecture.

Prof. Eshel's team is also working on a number of other projects to save the planet's resources. They are currently investigating a latex-producing shrub, Euphoria tirucalii, which can be grown easily in the desert, as a source for biofuel; they are also genetically engineering plant roots to ensure "more crop per drop," an innovative approach to irrigation.

Source: Tel Aviv University

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13 comments

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superhuman
4.6 / 5 (13) Aug 21, 2008
They desperately need to hire a skilled artist, the concept allows for some really beautiful structures yet their computer-generated illustration is extremely ugly.
TJ_alberta
5 / 5 (4) Aug 21, 2008
take a look at their website: http://www.plantw...lery.htm
mostly curiosity items but could develop into something interesting.
GrayMouser
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 21, 2008
I want whatever they are taking...
tikay
3.3 / 5 (3) Aug 21, 2008
Thanks TJ...for the site.
DonR
4.5 / 5 (4) Aug 21, 2008
I can see a whole new employment industry springing out of "home maintenence". A growing home will obviously require a fair amount of tending.
Arikin
4.8 / 5 (9) Aug 21, 2008
How do I kill the bugs in my house without killing off half the wall? :-)
CreepyD
4.3 / 5 (4) Aug 22, 2008
I was thinking the same thing. Wouldn't it be infested with critters? These would need a lining of some kind I guess to prevent damp and insects.
seanpu
3.8 / 5 (6) Aug 22, 2008
the bus stops around me get smashed up every month. shaming up a tree might be a bit more difficult, but take much longer to rectify.
Valentiinro
3.3 / 5 (4) Aug 22, 2008
Uhm, there are plants that bugs don't like, are there not? I'm sure they could grow some plants that dispel bugs in the midst of their tree roots.
Would garlic growing around the edges of the walls do the trick?
NewDimension
5 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2008
I like this kind of new architecture concept very much and genetic engineering already gave us square tomatoes.
There are a lot of bug repealing plants I guess Garlic or onions could do the trick even having a snack while waiting for transportation.
Egnite
not rated yet Aug 25, 2008
So in all honesty, they are still a long way off producing 'grow your own' homes. The benches and coat stands look pretty kewl and would be perfectly practical. Here's hoping the venture takes off so it can advance into bigger and more complex structures.

Corban
not rated yet Aug 25, 2008
This reminds me vaguely of D&D and elves.
Valentiinro
not rated yet Sep 25, 2008
This reminds me vaguely of D&D and elves.


Morrowind.
There is a culture in there called the Telvanni, and generally, every single one of them lives in a house made of mushrooms and trees magically grown into livable spaces. It's roughly the same concept.

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