You Can Grow Your Own House and Eat it Too

July 12, 2016 by


Growing your own food is becoming more and more commonplace, whether in a garden, on a balcony, or even in a small planter on your kitchen counter. I’ve shared stories about growing living walls and roofs–and even about growing your own chair. What about growing your own house?


Brooklyn-based Mitchell Joachim of Terreform One thinks he can do this by planting trees that will become natural, livable, carbon-sucking bungalows.

Weaving Together a House
You may have heard about the Edible Schoolyard, well here’s the edible house. Joachim’s Fab Tree Hab is a nearly entirely edible living home whose exterior and gardens would provide its dwellers with food at each stage of its life cycle. His idea is based on pleaching, a centuries old technique of tree shaping by interweaving living branches to create a structural form. When they are in close contact, the branches may grow together forming a natural graft.


A House Grows In Brooklyn?
Joachim’s is a concept that is entirely feasible, but within the confines of our current home building system, a very difficult one to pull off.


As Joachim explains, Fab Tree Hab is really a tree made to work as a house. It would be hard to get a mortgage for this as banks would question the resale value. Insurance companies would be skeptical about insuring contractors who are growing, not building a house. Potential homeowners might worry about insects, however Joachim contends that this dwelling would have no more insects than a regular home and that they could be controlled in natural ways. And municipalities would not be able to set zoning heights as a tree’s growth and height is unpredictable.

The Future of Biotecture and Agritecture
Joachim is among the next generation of visionary architects weaving nature back into our highly artificial urban jungle. Sometimes referred to as agritecture or building integrated agriculture (BIA) –this “growing” field sits at the intersection architecture and agriculture and may represent the future for providing sustainable agriculture for our increasingly dense urban mega cities.


Our need for greener, smarter buildings is becoming ever more urgent. Today than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a number that is expected to increase to 66 per cent– some say 80 per cent– by 2050. By 2030 about 5 billion people will be living in cities, according to the 2014 revision of the World Urbanization Prospects. (sources: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and UN Population Fund.)


Integrating Agriculture Into the Urban Landscape
How will we house everyone without choking the world in smog and sprawl? And how can we put to use our skyscrapers’ currently unused vertical surfaces to bring agriculture into the urban built environment?

When Columbia professor Dickson Despommier first proposed the concept of vertical farming, people thought he was a bit of a lunatic, and when in June 2008 he appeared on the Colbert Report to describe his concept of vertical farming, Stephen Colbert questioned whether the idea represented an elitist way to farm. Despommier’s 2010 book The Vertical Farm, has become somewhat of a bible for many who support this idea today.

farmery-vertical-farmingThe Farmery vertical farm.

The Urban Agriculture Underground
Fast forward to the present, where growing of crops indoors and even underground in multi-story urban buildings is no longer considered crazy or elitist, but is actually an idea in practice today. Vertical farming is becoming an accepted solution for feeding the increasing global population and a way to mitigate the environmental damage created by conventional agriculture.

pasona-indoor-urban-farm-vertical-farming-urbangardenswebPasona indoor underground urban farm in Japan.

And the idea has entered the realm of popular culture. Even the musician Sting has commented on it. “The vertical farm is a world-changing innovation whose time has come,” said Sting. “Dickson Despommier’s visionary book provides a blueprint for securing the world’s food supply and at the same time solving one of the gravest environmental crises facing us today.”

plantagon-greenhouse-vertical-farm-urbangardenswebPlantagon’s vertical greenhouse model under construction in Linköping, Sweden.

We may soon be able to forgo the construction process entirely and create eco-friendly homes as easily as planting a tree. As with anything, there’s a catch–you can’t fast-track nature, so you’d need to give it a good seven to ten years before moving in.

Photos via Archinode


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