Three from MIT envision grow-your-own home

August 1, 2006
Three from MIT envision grow-your-own home
This artist's rendering shows the Fab Tree Hab, a home made of living plants. Photo / Mitchell Joachim, courtesy Technology Review

In the future, homeowners may grow their houses instead of building them. That's the vision of MIT architect Mitchell Joachim of the Media Lab's Smart Cities group.

He and his colleagues -- environmental engineer Lara Greden (S.M. 2001, Ph.D. 2005) and architect Javier Arbona-Homar (S.M. 2004) -- have conceived a home that doesn't just use "green" design but is itself a living ecosystem. They call it the Fab Tree Hab.

The basic framework of the house would be created using a gardening method known as pleaching, in which young trees are woven together into a shape such as an archway, lattice, or screen and then encouraged to maintain that form over the years.

As the framework matured -- which might take a few years in tropical climates and several decades in more temperate locations -- the home grower would weave a dense layer of protective vines onto the exterior walls. Any gaps could be filled in with soil and growing plants to create miniature gardens. On the interior walls, a mixture of clay and straw beneath a final layer of smooth clay would provide insulation and block moisture. On south-facing walls, windows made of soy-based plastics would absorb warmth in the winter; ground-floor windows on the shady side could draw in cool breezes during hot months. Water collected on the roof would flow through the house for use by people and plants; wastewater would be purified in an outdoor pond with bacteria, fish and plants that consume organic waste.

"The concept of a living house is really incredibly exciting when you think that people in tropical and semitropical locations have fast-growing trees available," said Richard Reames, an Oregon-based "arborsculptor" who uses grafting techniques to grow living furniture.

For now, Joachim is working on MATscape, a house project in California incorporating about half recycled materials and half living materials, such as grasses, plants and soil. But Joachim and his team hope to plan a Fab Tree Hab community someday, creating homes that don't interrupt the surrounding ecosystem but become integrated with it. "Design intervention only guides the growth," he said. "Nature -- life -- does the rest."

Source: MIT

Explore further: No time to run? Tsunami pod aims to save lives—at a price

Related Stories

No time to run? Tsunami pod aims to save lives—at a price

February 17, 2017

When Jeanne Johnson lived in New Orleans, she figured out how to weather hurricanes. When the family moved to Kansas City, she taught her kids to take cover from tornadoes. So when Johnson recent bought a house on Washington ...

Will blazing a low-carbon path pay off for California?

February 16, 2017

President Trump has made it clear he intends to dismantle the Obama administration's policies for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But California Governor Jerry Brown has declared that his state – which would be ...

Virtually painless – how VR is making surgery simpler

January 31, 2017

Surgeons and their patients are finding that virtual reality can relieve the pain and stress of operations – and it's safer and cheaper than sedatives. Jo Marchant travels to a Mexican mountaintop village to visit a clinic ...

How to escape a maze – according to maths

January 26, 2017

Mazes are in vogue at the moment, from NBO's Westworld, to the return of the British cult TV series, The Crystal Maze. But mazes have been around for millennia and one of the most famous mazes, the Labyrinth home of the Minotaur, ...

Recommended for you

What do your co-workers really think of you?

February 22, 2017

Everyday in the workplace, colleagues actively compete for a limited amount of perks, including raises, promotions, bonuses and recognition. But new research from Washington University in St. Louis shows that, more than often ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.