Design

Housing the tree

Tree houses are not only eco-friendly, but become part of the ecology.  

What did we dream while being a small child? Many of us wished to fly like a bird and live on the trees. Could it be the primitive human genes which suggested climbing trees for protection in those days of living in the wild? Is this inspired by hunter’s cabins or watchman’s shack between tree branches in a farming estate? Whatever be the reason, the dream of kids has now evolved as a doable feat with improved skill-sets and technology for building tree houses.

The idea is still attached with an exotic notion befitting resorts, but the concept of it being an extension of a house for everyday living is now being promoted by the tree house community at Auroville, mainly run by Filip and his friends. With more than 50 units already built, the new one at Varanashi Farms has ventured into greater heights. While the basic platform can be erected between braches by anyone, with wood purlins and planks using thick tying ropes, building up the whole tree house to live needs tools, skills, hoisting mechanisms and safety gears.

Among the most possible green projects, tree houses are not only eco-friendly, but become part of the eco, just like the bird nest becoming a part of the flora and fauna. Considering the swaying and growing of the tree, construction cannot be rigid, unlike the ground constructions. Selection of the tree based on its branching pattern, type of wood, fixing the landing points, angle of staircase and reaching out to the base of the tree house are of paramount importance. While entering sideways is the best, we may have to enter through the floor using a hatch door.

Natural and light weight materials such as wood and bamboo are used for the frame, while floor can be made up with planks. Walls need to be treated more like partitions than solid masonry, hence woven mats and bamboo boards come in handy. The same wood, bamboo and additionally rattan can be used for furniture. Roofing has many options like grass, tiles, coated metal sheets and such others.

Tree house design cannot be drawn up in advance, but for some hand sketches, rest happening and improvising while actually building it. Ensuring it is easy to maintain over the years is a challenge to be met with. They fare better in climatic regions where wood and natural materials do not rot, crumble or become powdery; however it is mandatory to use seasoned construction materials, pre-treat them against termite and fungus, finally finishing with appropriate surface polishes.

Historically, tree houses belong to the primitive shelter group, but can they be for the future too? Any logical analysis would suggest – yes, they have the potential to compliment our future living. To that end, we need to respect the tree, understand how minimally it should be harmed and merge our needs within what the tree offers. May be, building a tree house is among the most sensitive modes of creating shelters.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at varanashi@gmail.com)

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 12:06:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/design/Housing-the-tree/article13988511.ece

Next Story