The Tree House

Year: 2014 | Type: Competition | Location: Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada

The competition, for Community Forests International, called for a “backwoods cabin of the future”; a contemporary design for a cabin that “blurs the lines betweens humans and nature.” The cabin should exemplify how humans can dwell in nature without destroying life-sustaining ecosystems and demonstrate the ability of buildings to make a positive impression on the landscapes we live in. The program was simple—a small season shelter (max 184sqft footprint) for one to two researchers, students  or workers, that included a wood-burning stove. The cabin should consider use of local and sustainable energies and materials; was required to provide space for a solar array and its equipment. This was my response. 

This small backwoods cabin is for two researchers or students. it raises the guests up to the level of the trees, allowing them to directly interact with and study the natural environment that surrounds them. The cabin is as close to the neighboring trees as possible; close enough to reach out and touch, but far enough not to disturb them or the creatures that inhabit them.

Being raised off the ground at a single point, the cabin requires less foundation than the typical structure, allowing for less excavation and less damage to the existing vegetation and creatures that live there. It also reduces the amount of concrete required, as the cement industry, a key component in the making of concrete, is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide.

Beetle-kill pine is used as much as possible for structure, floor and wall finishes, and furniture. billions of these pine trees lay dead across canada; however, innovative wood technologies allow us to salvage this wood for building purposes. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is one such technology that takes advantage of lower grade lumber that could otherwise not be used for structural applications, and turns it into a straighter and stronger product that is ultimately more structurally reliable than typical lumber.

While the use of these innovative technologies and specially salvaged wood products does unfortunately lead to an overall higher upfront construction cost, the more durable and eco-friendly materials result in a longer-lasting, higher quality structure.

Born out of a simple idea, the tree house aims to create a simple, but reflective experience. The guests are able to directly experience the natural environment around them, and are challenged, through environmentally conscious design, to consider the impact of humans on nature and ways we can give back to the environment. 

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