Green architecture: Living in treescrapers
The trend is moving towards green urban planning. What happens though when architecture not only employs eco-friendly, renewable materials, but also takes the word “green” quite literally and tries to integrate houses into the natural environment? Maybe we will soon find ourselves living in the verdant countryside even in the cities, in tree-like houses that represent a true fusion of architecture and nature with their vegetation facades. Read More
Dutch architect Raimond de Hullu is the mind behind the idea of “OAS1S”. He hopes to kick off radical urban improvement with his houses, the tall, slim and detached biomimetic tower houses whose measurements (6x6x12m) are actually reminiscent of a thick tree.
“Treescraper” is Hullu’s word for his constructions, which have living facades covered with plants for the ultimate in natural living. The basic model is a fully customizable one-family treescraper that offers more than 160m² in living space divided over four floors connected by easy stairs and glass hallways. Every house has a skylight and offers large windows with loggias or French balconies. Ideally the homes would be built into a park, thus creating green communities of no more than 100 buildings per hectare that combine living space with hotels and offices. The shared property would be landscaped as a park and recreation area.
Raimond, why do think our cities need improvement?
I think people both love and hate cities equally, just as I do. For many centuries we have needed cities because of the economy, but we also cannot wait to escape them. To date urban green was limited to small parks or private gardens due to the financial exploitation of land for buildings, which has limited urban green. Now we have an opportunity to completely integrate buildings and greenery. So urban green could be greatly intensified and, as such, the well being of urban citizens. People nowadays realize this, which why we have such a strong sustainable trend right now. Since all eras in time give birth to their own form of architecture, I think it is now time for 100% green architecture.
How did you come up with the idea for your treescrapers?
I grew up on the countryside in southern Holland and spent a lot of time in the forest and at the beach. That is why I love nature. When my father started building a house, I fell in love with architecture. I have always been fascinated by both, and passionate about creating a fusion between both. This developed further during my college years when I became interested in urban design as well. Secondly, recent wonderful realizations of green walls have also served as my inspiration. These two aspects came together during a creative session one night a few years ago.
And Oas1s was the result of this nightly session. Sounds like an architectural project with a mission.
Kind of. I tried to develop a win-win-win concept for people, nature and society – indeed the mission was to create the ultimate green architecture where nature and people truly become one. The aim is to improve cities through the timeless qualities of trees and the forest, earth’s most ancient, important, and appreciated structures.
I think it is now time for 100% green architecture.
Though the idea of green living is not new, it is currently becoming more and more trendy. What’s so special about your architectural concept?
The strength of this concept is that you can urbanize and greenify at the same time. Currently there is a lot of focus on and demand for green living and green construction. However green construction deserves a new typology, not just the same typical houses with some extra technical gadgets. By nature the architectural world has always been too focused on design gimmicks. What we need is a 100% green concept that is both desirable and affordable, not only on an architectural level but on an urban level as well. In addition we need a concept that sets a new standard that surpasses the current highest sustainable certifications.
How did you integrate those sustainability aspects into OAS1S?
I used several approaches: Just like trees, OAS1S units consist of wood and leaves and collect sun and water along with providing oxygen, shelter and food. Furthermore, the constructions take a biomimetic approach – it’s called cradle-to-cradle design (C2C) –prefabricated structures of recycled wood, organic high quality insulation, green walls and triple glazing. The cost-saving technical installations are off-grid, 100% self-sufficient in energy, and water plus waste. They consist of solar panels and boilers, water and air heat pumps, water and heat storage, and grey water and filtration systems.
Where would the perfect place for OAS1S houses be?
I would love to develop an OAS1S community that upgrades an unattractive urban area just as much as I would love to develop an OAS1S eco-resort that really merges into the natural environment
And how should I envisage these communities?
These communities would be located in a detached place where the tree-like houses would be mixed with trees. Car parking would be kept at the fringes of the communities, and people would reach their homes via a short and delightful walk through a natural car-free park. Imagine a tree house combined with modern luxury, imagine living in and among trees, imagine living with nothing but green around you, image growing flowers or fresh herbs on your facade.
Isn’t setting it up quite cost intensive?
To make the extra sustainable investments affordable OAS1S uses the concept of a community land trust. This is a proven concept for creating affordable housing in use in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom for over 40 years now. This concept separates the ownership of land and houses. A non-profit corporation owns the land and individuals own the properties on top, which can be sold for limited profit only. Furthermore, this principle combines very well with the public park-like layout of OAS1S communities. The design is basic and uses proven, available and feasible principles to make developing the communities affordable. Moreover the sustainable technology will reduce your usual energy, water and waste bills to zero.
And who are potential OAS1S inhabitants?
OAS1S offers competitive middle-class housing for people who demand high quality and a green standard of living. It is applicable to urban as well as natural settings. This fits with the recent storm of positive reactions worldwide of people from all sorts of backgrounds – from hippies to yuppies, housewives to CEOs, you name it.
If I wanted to buy one – how much would I have to pay?
The price of a house depends on the local building costs per m2 or m3 multiplied by the gross area of 160 m2 or 440 m3 (the basic unit model 1 as shown on oas1s.com with all the blueprints). Furthermore it depends on the local availability of all building materials and engineering services. The total costs of building a OAS1S house will be average.
OAS1S is still just a concept for now. When will we see the first one?
I plan to bring a good first client on board this summer. Since it was launched in early summer 2015, OAS1S has received a vast amount of enthusiastic reactions from all over the world – we have received project proposals from the USA, France, Portugal, Holland, Chili, Mexico and the Philippines, for example.
It would be great to celebrate next year's holiday in an OAS1S eco-resort where everybody could experience this new way of living!