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Whole Ecology Design
An Edible Prefab Home for Humanity
This home concept is intended to replace the outdated design solutions at Habitat for Humanity. We propose a method to grow homes from native trees. A living structure is grafted into shape with prefabricated Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) reusable scaffolds. Therefore, we enable dwellings to be fully integrated into an ecological community.
1. Composed with 100% living nutrients.
2. Make effective contributions to the ecosystem.
3. Accountable removal of human impacts.
4. Involve arboreal farming & production.
5. Subsume technology within terrestrial environs.
6. Circulate water & metabolic flows symbiotically.
7. Consider the life cycle, from use to disposal.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Team H.E.D. [Human Ecology Design]
Mitchell Joachim, Ph.D.
Lara Greden, Ph.D.
Javier Arbona, M.S.
Structure, Form & Growth
A methodology new to buildings yet ancient to gardening 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. Prefab scaffolds cut from 3D computer files control the plant growth in the early stages. On the interior, a clay and straw composite insulates and blocks moisture, and a final layer of smooth clay is applied like a plaster to dually provide comfort and aesthetics. Existing homes built with cob (clay & straw composite) demonstrate the feasibility, longevity, and livability of the material as a construction material. In essence, the tree trunks of this design provide the structure for an extruded ecosystem, whose growth is embraced over time. Living examples of pleached structures include the Red Alder bench by Richard Reames, “Sycamore Tower” by Axel Erlandson.
Blending Ecologically in the Landscape
The Exterior Supports Life
The Fab Tree Hab concept resolutely accumulates the inscribed nuances that influenced the American Rustic period. Stemming from the insurgent writings of Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, and Alcott, America defined a sensibility. These authors represent an early mode of intention that was profoundly ecocentric. Their notion of dwelling was envisioned as retreats, poets’ bowers, hermitages, and summer cottages in a Sylvan style.
Primary Structural Growth Stages
Unfolding Each Five Year Period
The seasonal cycles help the tree structure provide for itself through composting of fallen leaves in autumn. Seedlings started in such a nutrient rich bed may provide the affordable building blocks for a new home typology, firmly rooted to place. Likewise, realization of living structures would introduce forest renewal to an urban setting. Building of these homes occurs throughout a longer time period, yet the benefits are enjoyed as long as the trees live, after which another wave of renewal begins.
Living Machine & Rain Harvesting
Plan of Home with Open Aerobic Reactors
Life Sustaining Flows
Water, integral to the survival of the structure itself, is the pulmonary system of the home, circulating from the roof-top collector, through human consumption, and ultimately exiting via transpiration. A gray water stream irrigates the gardens, and a filtration stream enters a Living Machine, where it is purified by bacteria, fish, and plants who eat the organic wastes. Cleaned water enters the pond, where it may infiltrate the soil or evaporate to the atmosphere. Water consumed by the vegetation eventually returns to the water cycle through transpiration, simultaneously cooling the home.
Plan of Water Cycle:
1. Washer, 2. Tub, 3. Sink, 4.Toilet, 5. Living-Machine Link, 6. Garden, 7. Pond.
Tree Hull Section
Two Story Living Interior
Section revealing nutrient flows: 1. Circulation + Entry, 2. Gravity Plumbing, 3. Composting, 4. Aqueous Garden.
Furthermore, the approach draws from Jeffersonian ideologies in regards to equalizing edification and ecology. In the mind of Thomas Jefferson, the measure of any single human gesture was its contribution to the individual’s pursuit of happiness. He believed humans had natural rights. He devoted most of his life to a revolution ensuring the rights of agrarianism and education. This was vital to a citizen’s personal livelihood in an agrarian economy within a nascent system of government. Universal access to education was critically linked to sustenance thus, the “gentleman farmer.” Jefferson essentially would advocate ecological principles applied to human habitat so that each person can live off the land without detriments. He could have never imagined a human race that ignored the right to freedom from toxicity, carcinogens, and ozone depleting substances. The Fab Tree Hab not only attempts to provide a healthy biological exchange with the inhabitant, but also strives to contribute in a positive way to everyone’s quality of life.
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