Fab Tree Hab

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Fab Tree Hab, a "Local Biota Living Graft Structure"[1]

The Fab Tree Hab is a hypothetical ecological home design developed at MIT by Mitchell Joachim, Javier Arbona and Lara Greden.

It would be built by allowing plants to grow over a computer-designed (CNC) removable plywood scaffold. Once the plants are interconnected and stable, the plywood would be removed and reused. MIT is experimenting with woody plants that grow quickly and develop an interwoven root structure that's soft enough to "train" over the scaffold, but then hardens into a more durable structure. The inside walls would be conventional clay and plaster. [2]

An old methodology new to buildings is introduced in this design - pleaching. Pleaching is a method of weaving together tree branches to form living archways, lattices, or screens. The trunks of inosculate, or self-grafting, trees, such as Elm, Live Oak, and Dogwood, are the load-bearing structure, and the branches form a continuous lattice frame for the walls and roof. Weaved along the exterior is a dense protective layer of vines, interspersed with soil pockets and growing plants. Using conventional computer designed scaffolds will vastly increase the control, depth, and accuracy of this building method.

The Fab Tree Hab is an experiment that would develop over time. Extra operating costs required over the life-time of the home include pest management with organic pesticides and maintenance of the living machine's water treatment system. Technical demonstration and innovation is still needed for certain components, primarily the bioplastic windows that accept growth of the structure and the management of flows across the wall section to assure that the interior remains dry and animal-free. All in all, the elapsed time to reach livability is greater than the traditional sense, but so should be the health and longevity of the home and family. Above all, building this home could be achieved at a minimal price, requiring only some time to complete its structure. Realization of these homes will begin as an experiment, and it is envisioned that thereafter, the concept of renewal will take on a new architectural form - one of interdependency between nature and people.


Main trees suggested to used are elms and oaks.

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Further reading[edit]

  • James Nestor, "Branching Out," Dwell, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 96–98, Feb. 2007.
  • Gregory Mone, "Grow your second home," Popular Science, pp. 38–9, Nov. 2006.
  • Carolyn Johnson, "MIT plants seeds of a new kind of house" , The Boston Globe, p. C1, Sept. 25th, 2006.
  • Tracy Staedter, “House and Garden - Architects design a living home," Technology Review, pp. m2-m9, VOL. 109/ NO.3, July/ August, 2006.
  • Gail Hennessey, "Living in the Trees, " Scholastic News, Mar. 9, 2006.
  • Linda Stern, "Beware of Squirrels," Newsweek , p. E2, May 28, 2007.
  • Mitchell Joachim, Javier Arbona, and Lara Greden. "Fab Tree Hab," 306090 08: Autonomous Urbanism, Monson & Duval, ed., Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.
  • Richard Reames, Arborsculpture- Solutions for a Small Planet, Arborsmith Studios, 2005 ISBN 0-9647280-8-7.
  • David J. Brown, Ed., The HOME House Project: The Future of Affordable Housing, MIT Press, 2004.
  • Mitchell Joachim, J. Arbona, L. Greden, "Fab Tree Hab," Thresholds Journal #26 DENATURED, MIT, 2003.

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