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...Fab Tree Hab... Novel Solution To Environmental Predicament

By Carolyn Y. Johnson

Faced with global warming, a projected energy crunch, and suburban sprawl, a team of MIT researchers has envisioned a radical antidote: truly “green” homes, nurtured from seedling to tree house.

The “fab tree hab” is a fanciful orb of a home that is literally alive, with a frame of growing tree trunks grafted together, insulation made of clay and straw, and vines instead of vinyl siding. The heating, cooling, and plumbing would all mimic natural processes.

“The structure is a statement against cutting down timber,” said Mitchell W. Joachim G, the architect who designed the house, “composed of 100 percent living nutrients.”

Joachim said he was inspired in part by a report by the university’s Energy Research Council this spring, which stressed the need for greener buildings to help curb the carbon dioxide emissions that drive global warming.

In a utopian dream world it would be possible “to grow a whole village from seeds,” Joachim said, but subdivisions won’t turn into forests overnight. First, he said, people would have to accept arboreal abodes — and even then it would take years to weave and shape growing tree branches into a house. The first step, he said, could be green garages that would help offset a small part of the emissions of cars parked inside.

“The thing that strikes me,” said Martin Moeller, senior vice president and curator of the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, is “they’re trying to explore actual scientific connections to natural processes …. You have people trying to reconceive the fundamentals of the building.”