Archive for ‘Bios’

August 19, 2010

Andrew Maynard’s Global Rescue Station

"""Global Rescue Station" Andrew Maynard"

The Styx Valley Forest in Tasmania

Some of the most talented designers in architecture have turned to treehouses as a fresh palette on which to indulge their creative instincts. From prefabricated designs to sweeping, interpretive creations, there is no end to the inventiveness of these treetop Michelangelos.
"" "Treehouse" Global Rescue Station"

The Rescue Station Design

Andrew Maynard designs prefab treehouses that are passionately inventive. Maynard created his Global Rescue Station to fasten semi-permanently to the body of three trees. The design shelters and protects environmental protestors during their demonstrations. If a logger dares to cut down its supports the structure will potentially harm anything beneath or around it. A pristine wilderness in southwestern Tasmania, the Styx Valley Forest is home to the tallest hardwoods in the world. Many of the trees are over four hundred years old. Less than 13 percent of the original forest remains. A large area of Tasmania’s wilderness is protected. Unfortunately the Styx Valley falls just outside of this area. Much of the wood that is logged is reduced to wood chips that are exported to Japan.

The Global Station Details

Andrew’s efforts are selfless and admirable and those of us who value nature’s miracles applaud him and urge him to continue the fight.

August 16, 2010

Horace Burgess and the Ultimate Found Object Treehouse

Horace Burgess' Found Object Tree House

Found objects make interesting materials to use in treehouse construction. Whether it’s a boat for a guest bedroom or a a small submarine for a bathroom the unique quality of a found object treehouse is defined by the objects used. Perhaps the most incredible example of this type of treehouse is Horace Burgess’ masterpiece in Tennessee. I had the privilege of talking with Horace while I was researching my book “Treehouses” and I found him to be a very engaging personality. And though Horace is well known in the treehouse community his story bears repeating for its inspiration and its vision. And I’m sure Horace would agree that anybody could do it if they are inspired and motivated to do so.

Construction was begun on his treehouse in 1993, but it is still a work in progress. He scavenged wood to create an intricate, eight-level structure enveloping the remnants of an old white oak. The way he tells it, some eighteen years ago, Burgess received “a mission from God.” A vision of an enormous treehouse church with almost every imaginable detail included. He estimates the construction to be eight to ten thousand square feet. He’s used approximately 258,000 nails, give or take a few hundred. It is now a destination in Crossville, Ttennessee.

“This is a praise tree” to quote Burgess. Up the enclosed spiral staircase to the first fork in the oak two limbs spread out like a preacher raising arms toward heaven. Scattered about various floors, about a dozen tiny brass plates hold the names of people important in the builder’s life. A sanctuary with pews pushed to the side takes up the third floor and also doubles as a basketball court at 22 feet above terra firma. Sunlight floods through a Plexiglas skylight about 29 feet above the sanctuary into this open room that contains a homemade cross, altar and podium. Burgess calls the altar, a cedar stump, “the old rugged altar. You can sit yourself down and get over it under the cross.” Sure enough, the altar rests against a 16-foot-high cross.

The treehouse church with all of its elements came to Burgess in a vision from God when he was “wide awake” and lasted for only four seconds. But the instructions were clear.We are all the better for it.

August 16, 2010

The Treehouse of the Future

Some of the most talented designers in architecture have turned to treehouses as a fresh palette on which to indulge their creative instincts. From prefabricated designs to sweeping, interpretive creations, there is no end to the inventiveness of these treetop Michelangelos.

Aerial view of futristic treehouse

The Sybarite treehouse project designed by Torquil McIntosh and Simon Mitchell conforms to the landscape, taking advantage of views and sunlight. The foundation and supports are designed to reduce impact on root systems. Rainwater collection, solar panels, and a wind energy system are also integrated, making the house mostly energy independent.

The flexible floor plans encourage an organic approach to country living. The Treehouse capitalizes on the beauty of its setting while minimizing its impact.

The layout, along with panoramic windows, maximizes the benefits of the sun’s path. The kitchen enjoys morning light while the living and bedroom spaces have the pleasure of sunset and twilight.

The modular prefabricated sections allow for configurations ranging from one to five bedrooms.

The Treehouse is designed to be 70 percent energy self-sufficient.

August 15, 2010

Don’t Harm The Trees in Scotts Valley

Sometimes I find people actions beyond comprehension. It’s hard for me to figure out why the man in this story was motivated to take the actions he did, but I’m sure in his mind he was justified. However, being a lover of the outdoors and especially of trees I find the actions of the man in this story reprehensible, foolish and comes under the heading of attacking those that cannot defend themselves. So I decided to relate the facts as I know them and let you the readers decide for yourselves.

Welcome to Scott’s Valley home of people who care about their environment and the trees that surround their bedroom community. The City of Scotts Valley, incorporated on August 2, 1966, is a general law city with a population of approximately 11,680. Scotts Valley is located in Santa Cruz County and is six miles north of the City of Santa Cruz and 26 miles southwest of San Jose.

Charles Storey was arrested in December ’09 after a neighbor complained that forty-five trees on the land he owns below Storey’s home had been cut in half. had crowns lopped off and branches stripped. Apparently Mr. Storey decided to defy Scott’s Valley’s long tradition of proctecting trees and write a new chapter into the city’s history. He was sentenced to sixty days in jail after pleading guilty to vandalizing his neighbor’s trees.

Hiram Scott

This community is named for it’s most famous citizen Hiram Scott. Scott, a young Maine seaman turned gold miner, purchase a ranch called San Agustin in Alta California. Scott started making payments on the San Agustin in 1852 and soon sent for his relatives in Maine. During the 1850s the valley was inhabited solely by the Scotts and the region become known as Scotts Valley. Since that time the city has perserved the many trees that thrive in their community. So much so that they created protective laws that govern treament of trees.

The City’s Tree protection regulations define protected, Heritage Trees as:“Trees which have been identified because of unique quality and/orsize as the most significant and noteworthy in the City, and which have been listed in an adopted resolution of the City Council as to common name, location and the reason for listing.”

The Judge in this case ordered Storey to pay nearly $30,000 in fines, court fees and clean up costs and other charges, and to stay off his neighbor’s property.

August 14, 2010

Tools of the Trade

One of the best ways to create your treehouse vision is to check out other treehouses. If you’re fortunate to know where to find some then jump in your car or local train and check it out. If not research online or in books or just ask the Treehouser and he’ll send you some examples. Here are a few of my favorites.

OK, you’ve done your research and come up with a look that will satisfy your needs. The plans are drawn and the tree has been chosen. The lumber’s delivered and the tree has been checked by a professional arborist. Before construction begins, however, the prudent treehouse builder needs to go through his tools, verifying that everything he or she will need is close at hand and in working order. Lay out the tools you think you’ll need on the ground and make a list. If you’re missing something, ask a friendly neighbor if you might borrow it for a while. If not, go ahead and buy it; you’ll probably need it again.
A strap-on tool bag is perhaps the most important piece of equipment a builder can have. It has easy-access pockets and holsters and holds your most important items, leaving the hands free for climbing and other tasks.
A basic set of hand tools will consist of hammers, nails and screws, a tape measure, crowbar, a small square, a couple of carpenter’s pencils, hand saw, and a level. Since it’s awkward and difficult to fit all of these items in a tool belt at the same time, pack only the tools you need for the job at hand.
The kinds of power tools needed will vary depending on the style of treehouse being built. It’s a good idea to use cordless power tools when possible, but always with a back-up battery pack charged and ready at hand. Some power tools, of course, are only available as electric or gas powered. For most treehouses, a builder will need a circular saw, a jigsaw, disc grinder, drill with various-sized bits, chain saw, reciprocating saw, and a table saw.
Lastly, make sure there are plenty of power cords with enough length to reach from the power source to the platform. There’s nothing worse than climbing up a tree getting yourself in position and finding out the cord is too short.

The Basic Tools



Curved claw hammers are the most familiar type of hammer, and what most builders use for driving and pulling nails. A roofing axe hammer is useful for rough framing, valued for its cutting and hacking ability. A mallet hammer is typically used to form sheet metal and to force tightfitting metal parts together. Sledgehammers, available in a variety of weights, are often used in construction work, useful for driving posts or dislodging trapped objects.

Square and Levels

Dan Wright uses a level

A bubble level can measure all angles in a 360 degree range. The good ones have impact resistant vials and durable vial covers.

A laser level projects a bright, level, and plumb “laser ‘chalk line” instantly. They self-level and are extremely accurate. A square is a multi-purpose, easy-to-handle tool that provides a precisely angled rule. The better ones have a 45-degree miter, a depth gauge, and a level. Squares typically feature easy-to-read length marks – most often in eighths, sixteenths, thirty-seconds and sixty-fourths.

Hand Saws
The crosscut teeth are typically set in alternate rows to the right and left of center, which helps reduce binding while sawing.

Most hand saws are rust resistant or have a Teflon finish, reducing problems with binding and residue buildup. Keyhole saws have very thin, pointed blades mounted on a pistol style grip. They are used for cutting holes and small radius curves. Miter saws are fixed on rollers inside a metal guide, allowing for accurate crosscuts and miter cuts.

Tape Measures

Measuring framing

Hooking to a tool belt, the spring-loaded retractable tape and hooked nose make a good tape measure an essential part of any builder’s tool box. A plastic-coiled tape measure can take measurements around tree trunks and other difficult shapes. Most tape measures can take measurements down to one-thirty-seconds of an inch. A high tech advance in building, laser-measuring tools are fast, accurate, and easy to operate. Just point and shoot.

Ropes and Pulleys

A fixed pulley system is a simple and effective way to bring tools and materials to the treehouse platform. In coordination with carabiners, a more robust rope and pulley system is used to harness a worker like Dan Wright pictured here.
A comfortable harness is a key component of any rope and pulley system. Harnesses are typically seamless, with a mesh padding for maximum comfort. Harnesses often come with gear loops, including a small loop for a chalk bag and another to
accommodate a gear-organizing carabiner.

August 13, 2010

Alnwick Gardens

Sometimes when I do research I come across something so spectacular I have to sit and wonder why we most of the world is crammed into a tiny fraction of the earth’s land mass. I had that feeling when I walked through Longwood Gardens during the Winter of 09. It was a cold crisp day but I felt the warmth of nature all around me. The treehouses, the fields and streams were inspiring and the botanical indoor gardens were beyond anything I could imagine. But I diverge, Alnwick Gardens is in the spotlight today. The treehouse(s) on the premises is well not easily describe because to do so would not do justice to what the experience of being there really is, but I will try.
Alnwick Garden Treehouse is the world’s largest, all-wood treehouse. It is six thousand square feet. It’s comprised of walkways, cottages, shops, a restaurant, and play areas. It holds close to one thousand people. More than thirty lime trees support the structure.
The main building sits on a plat-form of yellow balau hardwood decking. Freeform sketches were used rather than CAD architectural renderings. Which is possibly the reason it has such an organic feel. Ok those are the facts.

Top photo is from the collection of Ed O’ Keefe.

August 12, 2010

A Slight Diversion

Combining architecture and landscaping, imaginative builders create treehouses which mix into their surroundings and preserve the health of the trees that support them. Some treehouses blend a classic look with contemporary angles, clean lines and modern design elements. These treetop dwellings mix with their natural settings and are often customized to client specifications.

Biotecture Treehouse

German landscape architect, Rudolf Doernach, developed treehouse-building techniques that he broadly called “biotecture” or “agritecture”
These methods are set up to be largely self-sustaining. Once the initial planting and early training of the branches is complete, the structures continue to grow on their own. Eco-friendly treehouses use minimal external energy while providing maximum agricultural yield.

With proper knowledge, the architect believes, you can grow your own house. These are the ultimate in low-cost, low-maintenance, zero-energy homes

August 12, 2010

Planning, Designing, Dreaming

S.Peter Lewis' Dream Treehouse

Once a tree or trees to be built in is chosen and its been check by a professional, you’re ready to move on. Get familiar with as many types of treehouses as you can. There are books, websites and local treehouses you can look at. Talk to a local treehouse builder or an architect and let them access the treehouse site. The more knowledge that is gained before starting the better the process will go. Try sketching ideas out on paper and don’t worry about how good the drawing looks. This is a time for imaging things, of taking the dream of a treetop dwelling and turning it into a reality. A good architect, designer or a builder can take a bunch of scribbles and turn it into something terrific, so don’t be self-conscious, start dreaming.

Perhaps one of the best examples of planning a treehouse is S. Peter Lewis who wrote a book called “Treehouse Chronicles” about his inspiring effort to build the treehouse of his dreams. He met with structural engineers, had architectural drawings done and visualization sketches of what his treehouse would ultimately look like. The result was a spectacular structure that took four years to build.

Shoulder Bracing

Building a structure that detailed and big is not for most people. Most of us want to build a treehouse that the family can enjoy and it doesn’t cost much or take too long to erect. That still requires a plan and as detailed a sketch as possible of the overall structure and sketches of structure details if needed. From those sketches you will be making a list of lumber, fasteners and tools needed to do the job.

S.Peter Lewis' Treehouse

If the treehouse vision is too much to handle by alone you may want to hire a builder. Show him your sketches. Make sure the builder shows some of his past work and gives references. Interview a few, time that is spent organizing in the beginning will save headaches along the way.

August 11, 2010

Tree Tents

One of the most exciting ideas to come along in a long time is Tree Tents. Sylvan Housing expands the possibilities of treehouse design with wonderful dewdrop-shaped Treetents created by Dutch sculptor and designer Dré Wapenaar. The distinctive tent design was originally made to ease the lives of tree-sitting activists. However, they also make excellent treetop retreats for campers and kids. Each droplet attaches directly to a tree trunk and is roomy enough to sleep a family of four.

Dre Wapenaar's Tree Tents

Dutch artist Dré Wapenaar created treetents that, when clustered together, look like a colony of wild mushrooms.
Canvas tents in warm earth tones are arranged on multi-level platforms. They form both an autonomous sculpture and a functioning campsite. Initially sold to four campgrounds in the Netherlands, one cluster of the Tentvillage was repurchased and refurbished by the artist.

The refurbished tents were used as a hang out and chill site during the city of Nantes’ famous biennial.

August 10, 2010

Treehouse Support Systems

Dan Wright explains cabling

A builder should look first to the tree to dictate what type of support system to use. If the treehouse to be built is more than a basic rectangular platform, the best choice for support is probably a flexible support system. The weight or size of the treehouse doesn’t necessarily determine whether joints need to be flexible or not, it is the tree. Flexible supports allow for the tree to move in the wind, lessening the stress of your structure. The biggest concern is when the building is done closer to the ground. The wind that a tree catches can swing the whole tree around quite a bit. In some parts of the world, the leaning and bending that a tree is subjected to is quite powerful. Nearer the ground, the trunk acts like a giant lever, magnifying the strength of the wind into an incredibly powerful force that only moves an inch or two.

Beams to be used in a spoked platform

An inch or two, however, is actually a relatively large movement, translating to a force that’s large enough to lift a ton of weight. A fixed system will be under immense pressure, and will easily break. If a treehouse will be subjected to these type of forces, a flexible system is the way to go.

When a support system employs one end of a beam that is fixed while the other end allows for tree movement, there is no build up of pressure and the platform will withstand strong movement. During a violent storm or high winds the treehouse itself may get damaged, but that is a design concern specific to the house and not to be confused with tree movement. When in doubt ask a professional builder or structural engineer.

Building the Platform

If you have any doubts about what bracket to use don’t hesitate to run your plan by an engineer familiar with treehouses. Let them give your plans a solid review for just the cost of a few hours time. A few dollars spent beforehand could save a lot of money and frustration down the road.

Octagonal Platform Undercarriage