As the final of the first 7 villages to be constructed, the Tree House Village is intended to demonstrate that the benefits of sustainable practices and a community-centered lifestyle can be recreated in almost any environment, which is why this more challenging design built into a sensitive environment was chosen. Creating a win-win experience for both humans and a forest environment will help expand the viewpoint of the general population for what is possible and guide people’s lifestyle towards a balanced way of living motivated by simultaneous benefits for both society and the planet.
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The Tree House Village will be a community living model in the trees. It will show how a Tree House Village, or off-ground and low-footprint/low-impact housing, can be a viable approach to sustainable living. By integrating sustainability as a lifestyle while simultaneously demonstrating what is possible, this village model is purposed to help people realize that if a sustainable village can function well while in trees in a climate that receives snow, it can be practically recreated in some way almost anywhere.
Keep in mind that this village is still in the early design phase. As it continues to develop, it will be open source shared with all the same details, and level of detail, used in the Earthbag Village and Straw Bale Villages.
With this in mind, this presentation is a look at the main aspects that were considered when designing the Tree House Village concept to the point that it is at now. This includes research into the needs and expectations of visitors who may be searching for a meaningful sustainable way of living as well as the lifestyle needs and desires of those who will want to live in the Tree House Village full-time.
By demonstrating local solutions to global challenges, the Tree House Village will add to the global goals of One Community to provide mixed-use sustainable community models that drive social innovation while demonstrating and sharing a more fulfilling way of living.
Motivated by what we see as a continuous need for designs that integrate well into sensitive environments, this project is expected to promote sustainable practices in new locations by people and groups that might not otherwise be interested.
The advantages of tree house construction are many:
Tree house construction also has some limitations:
In the rest of this page, we will show details for the planning and design of our Tree House Village, which will showcase advantages and address the limitations of tree house living.
As One Community’s seventh village, the Tree House Village is intended to demonstrate that the benefits of sustainable practices and a community-centered lifestyle can be recreated in almost any environment, which is why this more challenging location and sensitive environment was chosen. Creating a win-win experience for both humans and a forest environment will help expand the viewpoint of the general population for what is possible. It will also guide people’s lifestyle towards a nature-integrated way of living motivated by simultaneous benefits for the individual, society, and the planet.
On this page, we will explore our research and design work for the Tree House Village experience, which focuses on the following three areas:
What you will see here is that it is possible to sustainably build and maintain not only a home, but also an entire small community in a forest – without removing the trees. It will provide all that is required for comfortable living while including spaces that integrate with the natural environment.
Developing a service design strategy included the study of behaviors, systems, and lifestyles to evaluate patterns of behaviors and how people use their environment. Service design development also examined user personas, stakeholder analysis, and other methodologies to develop the final service design concepts that are suggested below for the Tree House Village.
Behaviors: Research and analysis was done to consider varying attitudes individuals have towards sustainable living. Adapting a sustainable lifestyle involves exposure to using sustainable products or service systems, collaborating and using sustainable spaces and methods, and changing behaviors at home.
For the general population, sustainable lifestyles seem most achievable collectively. Common traits among sustainable and/or communally living individuals are self-awareness, systems-level thinking, cooperative attitudes, and a willingness and desire to evaluate their choices of where and how to live.
Systems: Promoting benefits and utility to users, the service systems are a focused arrangement of products and services within an intelligently designed system. Systems-thinking requires a holistic perspective on the evaluation of users’ usage to create a holistic design.
Rethinking how individuals use their environment can increase effectiveness and reduce costs, without redesigning the entire system. Furthermore, improving the functionally is itself aligned with sustainable patterns of user behavior.
Lifestyles: Lifestyles are described as the manner in which individuals manage their lives through interactions, behaviors, opinions, and decisions. Sustainable lifestyles can be developed through encouraging sustainable behaviors, and even further facilitated through demonstrating functional and effective communal behaviors.
Common factors that influence lifestyle choices include political, economic, and social norms. For this reason, One Community focuses on solutions for sustainable lifestyles that are affordable, easy to duplicate, readily available, and offer a higher quality of living than the standard lifestyle.
Stakeholder Analysis: Stakeholder analysis considered the level of influence of each individual, their potential influence on the project and world change, and their specific interest as a community builder.
Methodologies: Also, methodologies such as augmented service offering and SWOT analysis were applied. Augmented service offerings analyzed aspects of a service that the target audience perceives. SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project.
The outcome for this phase was the development of eight service design concepts, which are divided into four categories:
These eight concepts and four categories were generated by specifically looking at people’s Behaviors, the Systems in their living environment(s) that are most important, and the Lifestyle(s) people desire. The details and illustrations for each of these are shown below.
Component: Start-up workshops Timeframe: 12 months
Potential competencies / stakeholders required: director, members, event planner, curators, mentors
One of the target audiences for the tree house is residents and visitors who may be interested in developing their own business and enjoying the unique opportunities this village could provide for them. The objective for the service design for this audience this was to include areas and traffic flow that are compatible with start-up businesses, workshops, and conferences. With this in mind, the design process included analyzing and integrating practices that provide the most sustainable business opportunities through the exchange of experiences between business owners/professionals, residents, and visitors.
Components: Self development, experiential learning Timeframe: 5 months
Potential competencies/ stakeholders: directors, members, event planner, curators, mentors, psychologists
For the educational aspect of the service design, the Tree House Village was designed to promote learning opportunities that incorporate and are enhanced by the unique natural forest environment. This portion of the design includes spaces for self-development and experiential learning.
Building layouts in the social buildings (the red buildings on the map) include specific designs with these types of services and experiences in mind. Specific outdoor areas have been designed for activities that promote body and mind expression and development. There are also information hubs for learning about the Tree House Village. Additionally, the programs and the village layout itself promote an environment of collaboration and experiential exchange between residents and visitors.
Components: Camping & orienteering, village exploration, outdoor activities / exercise Timeframe: 12 months
Potential competencies/ stakeholders: executive directors, member, event planner, curators, mentors
The third element of the service design for the Tree House Village is immersion. This includes tours and activities for small and large groups of visitors with the main objective being creation and sharing of an immersive environment that provides a desirable, unique, and memorable visitor experience.
Some examples of experiences for this portion of the service design include camping, village exploration, and outdoor exercise, games, and other activities.
Residents will provide tours for both large and small groups of visitors. They will cover topics unique to the specific environment like forest stewardship, backpacking and camping, forest foraging, cross-country activities, and much more.
4. Events & Awareness
Components: Special events, festivals, movie screenings Timeframe: 10 months
Potential competencies/ stakeholders: directors, members, event planner, curators, audio/visual specialist
Special events hosted by the Tree House Village were included in the service design of the Tree House Village to bring additional visitors to One Community, to draw in the semi-local community, and as another way to increase involvement between residents and visitors.
Examples of these types of events include activities like music festivals and movie and documentary screenings. These will also include and promote meaningful discussions and interactions amongst the participants. You can see illustrations of examples below and click to enlarge.
The components of the architectural design include the Village Layout, the External Design, and the Internal Design, which are all described in detail below.
Since the Tree House Village is the seventh and planned village for One Community, the interconnectedness of all life on our planet served as the inspiration for the design of this village as a physical representation of One Community’s core value – living and creating for The Highest Good of All.
To capture that value in the village layout, research was done to incorporate time-honored symbols for interconnectedness. The intention being a village design representative of the powerful transformation of the world that is possible through collaborative relationships among individuals, their community, and their natural environments.
Considerations for exterior design identified as important include appearance, proper insulation from all sides, transit between structures, added structural support between structures, and careful consideration of material weights. More details on this can be found below.
Considerations for interior design identified as important include shared common spaces, and ultra-efficient furniture layouts, space utilization, and functionality.
The Tree House Village’s interior design also features the color blue and colors that compliment blue, such as yellow. The blue color was chosen to represent the One Community value of Communication because it is the color associated with the fifth chakra, which represents communication, the inner voice, and the expression of creativity. This can be summarized as representing the expression of self to others, and therefore is compatible with the four primary service design elements of business, education, immersion, and events.
NOTE: The following information contains general guidelines only. It is advised that tree house constructions, just like any construction, should be overseen by a professional.
Tree houses are a fairly new and unique type of home construction today, so their design possibilities are still being explored and tested. They are typically built with wood but some examples using bamboo and other materials are being developed too. Since this type of construction is still relatively new, structures using and combining varying materials should be tested while considering the weight and structural behavior in the specific location of the build.
Additionally, it is highly accepted between tree house builders that the planning and construction of any tree house always begins with choosing the tree because the conditions of the tree will greatly affect the design of the structure. Since trees are organic shapes and each one is unique, a tree house design should always consider the specifics of the chosen tree. If you decide to use an existing design to build your own house, it is likely you will benefit from adapting the existing design to the tree you choose.
Tree houses can be built on a single tree or on a number of them. When deciding which is right for your situation, it may seem that using only one tree as the support for your house would be a disadvantage because it increases the weight supported by an individual tree. However, even though using multiple trees distributes the stress among multiple supports, the construction would have to consider the uneven growth and movement of each tree and therefore the impact those factors would produce on the house structure.
More fully grown large trees are usually better for building a tree house in because they are more resistant to larger weights, tend to move less with the wind, tend to have less growth to calculate into the designs, and tend to have thicker heartwoods (inner core of dead wood, where screws are attached). The typically recommendation we found is that single trees should ideally have a 18’’ minimum diameter to support a house, although there are cases of trees with 10” that also performed well. When choosing your tree, remember to seek the evaluation of experts, such as arborists and engineers.
Also be sure to choose a healthy tree. In addition to having an overall good look to start, there are other crucial details to look for. On the trunk and branches, look for large holes and/or hollow spots, rot, and signs of bug infestation. Avoid trunks that are too lean because they are more susceptible to storms. Dead branches must be removed before starting construction and the tree canopy should be evaluated at the time of year when it is fullest (usually summer) to make sure there are no significant bare spots. Be careful with roots too, to bury them can suffocate them. This means you should be aware of constructions near the tree too, because construction can create a form of burying and impact the tree by limiting water and nutrient supplies.
Another point of consideration when choosing a tree is the species. The ideal species for building tree houses according numerous authors include: apple, ash, beech, cedar, chestnut, cypress, douglas fir, elm, larch, London plane, all maples, monkey village, almost all oaks, redwood, spruce, and sycamore. They also recommend avoiding: alder, aspen, box elder, cottonwood, holly, juniper, palm and swamp oak. Trees that are not listed here may be able to be used and a consultation with an expert is recommended to ensure the tree you have in mind suits the house you want to build.
Understanding the basic inner structure of a tree is important to help tree house designers’ decisions. This knowledge allows us to understand how tree growth may affect the structure, why some trees are more resistant to different threats than others, and how to avoid damaging and killing the tree during and after you build a tree house.
Trees grow both vertically and horizontally. The vertical growth of a tree happens at its top, which means that if you happen to build your house on a tree with constant growth, your house is very unlikely to go up as well. Since the structure is typically built around the tree, it is the horizontal growth which can be the challenging part. This horizontal growth can be understood by studying the inner structure of the tree.
The horizontal growth of the tree typically appears in the inner structure of a tree as rings, as shown below in the picture. The difference in color from ring to ring is due to weather variation. Botanists typically determine the age of some trees by counting the number of rings, although this characteristic is not perceived in trees where there is a consistent climate.
Planning for horizontal tree growth is essential because it means that walls, beams and roofs of tree houses should be built with space for the tree’s trunk to expand. If beams are built touching the trunk, they could be pushed out of place or stressed, so generally the less of those areas that directly touch the tree, the better.
When designing a tree house, it is also important to understand the five main layers of the tree: heartwood, sapwood (xylem), cambium, phloem, and cork. Heartwood is the spine of tree, the axis that maintaining it standing. It is made of dead cells in the center of the trunk, and therefore it is the most rigid part of the tree. These factors usually make this the place where supporting bolts are anchored.
Sapwood is a layer of younger cells that flow water and nutrients from the roots up to leaves; when its cells die they become part of the heartwood. Cambium is the part of the tree that new rings appear and create horizontal growth by producing cells for sapwood and phloem. Phloem is the network of cells that supply all parts of the tree, including roots, with sugar made by leaves, and since it is located on the outer layers of the trunk, it is the part that builders should pay close attention to. Affecting the phloem too greatly could prevent roots from being fed and cause the death of the tree.
Trunks should never be tightly embraced by metal rings, ropes or cables, nor be superficially cut around like a ring. And finally, cork is formed by dead cells of phloem and it acts as a protection against insects, diseases, temperature and physical impact.
The climate has a huge impact on the design of a tree house. Factors that are affected by climate include location, orientation, appropriate and available material, and the most efficient construction techniques for appropriate thermal insulation and ventilation. Since building a tree house involves a lot of variables, it is all a matter of analyzing your specific situation. For example, the best tree may not provide the best orientation for sun and the most energy efficient building material may not be the lightest and/or best to be supported by a tree.
There are also additional tree factors to consider that might be important in certain climates. For example, whether the tree is deciduous or evergreen could greatly impact your design. Deciduous trees protect homes from the sun during summer, and when it gets cool in fall, the leaves drop and allow more sun in to help with natural heating. On the other hand, evergreen trees create extra protection from the snow and the wind.
The materials that best protect and support a tree house during the winter are additionally complex when building homes in trees. Being a tree house, weight takes a huge part in the design. Wood houses have been applied as a design solution for tree houses for decades. However, when considering that most tree houses are built as temporary or seasonal structures in more moderate climates, building a permanent tree home in a region with snowfall, while using single stud walls (to lighten weight) creates a concern around internal temperature regulation.
Structural insulated panels (SIPs) present a good construction solution when considering weight and insulation but SIPs are made of a foam and are generally not considered sustainable materials. Concrete, lumber, steel, and clay bricks may are standard for building but can also be unsustainable as well as too heavy.
That said, most standard materials in today’s construction are in some way unsustainable, if not because of the ingredients, then because fabrication typically involves the production of high quantities of pollutants and greenhouse gases. The question of how sustainable a building is can only be fully answered when considering all impacts to the environment from the production of each element, the transportation, the construction, and the behavior of the components during the lifespan of the building, and what will happen to them after the lifespan of the building.
With this in mind, and analyzing the variables that involve the construction of the Tree House Village (architectural program, structure’s weight, thermal insulation, sustainability, accessibility, available materials, speed of construction, etc.), we chose a plan that could be supported by a single tree of a good size, which uses lumber for the main support of the tree house, SIPs for floors and insulated metal panels (IMPs) for walls and roofs to increase the insulation and remain more light weight.
Of course, if even more sustainable options become available and/or are identified, and since this will be the seventh village at One Community, anything we learn along the way will be appropriately integrated into this design. Here are some extremely simplified images of the phasess of construction for our initial design:
This page demonstrates how to sustainably integrate societal, architectural, and structural elements to build a Tree House Village. By demonstrating globally duplicable solutions to local challenges, and considering environmental and social impacts, in as challenging of an environment as a forest, we hope to show that sustainable and/or communal designs can be implemented almost anywhere.
Q: Where can I get more information about your philosophies for world change?
Please take a look at each of these additional pages: (click icons)
Q: What were the initial inspirations for these designs?
With 7 villages to be designed, and a desire for artistic and unique appearances that also had a deeper relationship to the purpose/intent of each village, we drew inspiration from the 7-chakra system from Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism and the Japanese 5-elements philosophy.
Note: One Community does not endorse or subscribe to any one spiritual philosophy. You can read more about our philosophy on spirituality and religion on our Spirituality Page.
The Tree House Village was designed thinking of and researching the Throat (5th) Chakra and element of Ether from Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism and the element of Wood (“mù”) from the Japanese 5-elements philosophy.
To align, diversify, and distinguish the purpose and intent of each village, we then looked at One Community’s core values to see which ones aligned best with each chakra. In the case of the Tree House village we focused on the overarching value of “Sharing” and the specific values of Communication, Open Source, Contribution, and Consensus. The village was then designed with the intent to embody and represent and emphasis of these values within One Community. For the appearance of each village, we formed color palettes based on the colors associated with the chakra too. In the case of the Tree House Village, the core color is blue.
To further share the design process for this village, here are some of the initial renders and design drawings:
Ana Carolina Salomao Faria: 3rd-year Industrial Design and Service Design Student
Guy Grossfeld: Graphic Designer
Jesika Rohrbach: Architectural Drafter, Designers, and 3-D Modeler
Jiming Chen: Designer – BA Engineering & MS Architecture
Manuella Schorchit Meirelles: Graphic Design and Branding Major
Sarah Felippe: Architect and Masters of Urban Design Student
Thaís Eustaquio: Architect and Urban Design Student
Zachary Melin: Videographer, Graphic Designer, and Airman