Grow Your Own Home from Living Trees
A children’s playground, made entirely from trees? A bus stop that grows its own foliage as shade? A shelter made from living tree roots that
could provide natural protection against earthquakes? Eco-architecture may sound like a Buck Rogers vision of an ecologically-sustainable future, but that future is now possible thanks to Tel Aviv University (TAU) professors Yoav Waisel and Amram Eshel. The concept of shaping living trees into useful objects, known as tree shaping, arborsculpture, living art or pooktre is not new.
“The approach is a new application of the well-known botanical phenomenon of aerial root development,” says Professor Eshel. “Instead of using plant branches, this patented approach takes malleable roots and shapes them into useful objects for indoors and out.”
The original “root-breaking” research was conducted at TAU’s Sarah Racine Root Research Laboratory, the first and largest aeroponics lab in the world. Founded by Professor Waisel 20 years ago, the lab enables future-forward and creative research that benefits mankind and the environment.
Commercial applications of the research are being developed by Plantware, a company founded in 2002. TAU and Plantware researchers working together found that certain species of trees grown aeroponically (in air instead of soil and water) do not harden. This developed into a new method for growing “soft roots,” which could easily turn living trees into useful structures. Pilot projects now underway in the United States, Australia and Israel include park benches for hospitals, playground structures, streetlamps and gates.
It’s even possible that, in the near future, entire homes will be constructed with the eco-friendly technology. An engineer by trade, Plantware’s CEO Gordon Glazer hopes the first home prototype will be ready in about a decade. Professor Eshel’s team also is working on a number of other projects to save the planet’s resources. They are currently investigating a latex-producing shrub, Euphoria tirucalii, which can be grown easily in the desert, as a source for biofuel. They are also genetically engineering plant roots to ensure “more crop per drop,” an innovative approach to irrigation.