Green building agencies constantly struggle with the issue of how to integrate traditional home designs into the natural environment without polluting or exhausting the local ecosystem. According to Brooklyn designer Mitchell Joachim, these traditional designs may be the root of the problem. His newest home design, the Fab Tree Hab, provides a plan for a home that is literally grown, not built: its main supports are the branches and trunks of living trees, woven through scaffolding to create a pod-shaped living space that fits in perfectly with its natural surroundings.
The design incorporates living plants as both structure and insulation: While the tree trunks provide load-bearing support, a sort of skin of woven vines encircles the walls, protecting them and allowing plants to grow from soil applied to the exterior. Water is collected on the roof to be used by the inhabitants, then redistributed through a gray-water irrigation system to sustain the plants that make up the home. Even the insulation and interior walls are made from natural materials — a clay and straw composite topped off with plain smooth clay on the inside.
This idea may seem fantastical, but Joachim insists that the technology is available and workable, though its practical implementation is made more difficult by antiquated bank and insurance policies that are unwilling to cover this type of home. And besides, he adds, why should the fact that an idea is unusual mean that we take it less seriously? "It looks like something out of a J.R. Tolkien book, or Lord of the Rings and we know that," says Joachim, but "[a]t least, as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with elves."