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Grow Your Own House? It May Just Be Doable

 Posted by on September 10, 2008
Sep 102008

By John DeFore

The idea of training plants to grow into odd, useful forms isn’t a new one. It’s been done for ages, has been the subject of enthusiast-penned books, and in recent years has attracted the interest of fine artists and architects.

Photo: Dr. Mitchell Joachim, Terreform 1

Now two professors at Tel Aviv University hope to move eco-architecture into the commercial realm, designing products that can be sold and grown around the world.

As envisioned by Professors Yoav Waisel and Amram Eshel, the structures would emphasize the use of tree roots instead of branches: Manipulating “aerial root development,” they imagine using aeroponically grown (that is, without soil) tree roots that remain easily pliable for unique applications like tree-root dwellings that would be inherently earthquake-resistant in California.

Nothing like that is currently being offered by the professors’ commercial partner Plantware, which is showcasing more whimsical and decorative items like tree-shaded chairs and coat hangers that grow out of pots. The joint TAU/Plantware effort is starting modestly, with plans to “build” street lamps and park benches out of growing materials in locations around the United States, Australia and Israel.

But that hasn’t stopped the researchers and entrepreneurs from releasing some very fanciful drawings depicting whole homes that use trees for their skeletons. Plantware CEO Gordon Glazer admits such dwellings are further down the road, probably at least a decade. But they would have some nice green features – beyond being intrinsically green – such as built-in composting and rainwater capture systems. See the dissection below.

As a press release puts it: “While the method of ‘growing your own home’ can take years, the result is long lasting and desirable” — especially for prospective home-growers who don’t live in regions with heavy woodpecker populations.

Photo: Dr. Mitchell Joachim, Terreform 1

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