Danish architecture student and interior designer Konrad Wójcik has devised a concept for a prefabricated tree house that would leave no environmental footprint.

The project, dubbed Primeval Symbiosis (Single Pole House), was designed as part of the d3 Natural Systems 2013 international architectural design competition, which asked designers to create innovative sustainable proposals that study intrinsic environmental geometries, behaviours, and flows.

The home’s designer was inspired after studying the functionality and structure of different types of trees.

“For most animals, trees are the best natural shelters against predators, moisture and weather. Studying its nature allowed me to come up with ideas and solutions to create a completely self-sufficient construction,” he said.

tree shaped standing house

The house can adapt to almost any existing landscape without leaving any footprint.

The name Primeval Symbiosis refers to the connection between the house and its natural environment.

At present, traditional housing developments and urban sprawl necessitate massive deforestation around cities and urban areas. While some recent projects are making partial efforts to reduce deforestation, Wójcik’s idea proposes to eliminate deforestation by creating houses that can adapt to the existing landscape without leaving any footprint at all.

tree shaped standing house

The name Primeval Symbiosis refers to the connection between the house and the natural environment.

The pyramid-shaped building is 16.64 metres high and features only 61 square metres of floor space spread over four levels. The entrance is through an automatic folding metal ladder that connects the ground level to the first level, which is five metres up above the ground.

Levels are divided according to their functions; the bottom floor is the entry level and features access to the house, a mudroom, a storage area and a technical area. Level 1 is the ‘day level’ where the kitchen, living/dining area and the bathroom are located; level 2 is the mezzanine ‘work level’ featuring a desk and a storage area; and level 3 is the ‘night level’ or sleeping area.

3d Model.

3D model.

Inside the house, alternating tread wooden stairs helps to save space and ensure the interior areas step around the ‘technical core’ of the dwelling, which is like the trunk of a tree, offering structural support.

The structure itself consists of a light wooden frame built around the central pole, and the exterior walls/roof are covered in black Zink, a 100 per cent recyclable material that is highly resistant to weather extreme conditions. Windows are triple glazed to meet the standards required for passive heating and cooling, helping to make the house energy efficient.

Cross Sections.

Cross Sections. (Click on the image for a larger view)

The house’s exterior includes 40 square metres of solar panels  and the house was designed with a 25 degrees slope to maximise its efficiency. The façade also features a natural ventilation system, while below the entry level, a rain water storage tank holds enough water to meet the needs of the house’s occupants.

The Primeval Symbiosis model aims to remind people that nature is wise and that trees serve a purpose, while deforestation hinders the world from an environmental standpoint. The ultimate goal behind this idea is to create a community of these homes that can be located in any natural landscape, nullifying the need for massive deforestation and leaving zero carbon footprint.

  • This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I certainly hope that this green living movement actually sticks around this time.

  • Very cool! Do we know whether the houses were designed for a certain ground type, or should be structurally sound in all ground types?

  • Interesting idea. I am just wondering how it would be built/deposited. Surely building it in-situ would cause environmental damage such as tree felling and track/road building for materials access?

  • How much and where can i get one?

  • What do they cost? You mentioned that they were prefab, but not what they cost.

  • The trouble with these types of houses is getting people to believe that this is a better way of life, instead of the work/earn money/get things you don’t really need to support an economy that is detrimental to the rest of life on earth. Once we convince people they don’t need huge houses, huge cars, lots of “things” then this would be possible.

    • Indeed, Amy. All it would take to convince people to make such changes would be people purchasing these homes, living in them and inviting family over, and proving to them that you can be happy without living in major excess. Over time, when enough people begin to do this, and have children, who grow up only knowing such an environment, and not being conditioned to desire anything more, it won’t take long before the remainder of society decides to follow the lead. If possible, I’m definitely going to try to have a home like this built for me and any potential family I may build, in the future. It starts with us.

  • It would have been nice to show a picture of how you actually get inside of it. You know, like the front door or something!
    Yes, I see the side-view automatic folding ladder diagram but that doesn’t show too much. Yes, it looks cool, but the entry way would be highly impractical if not impossible for many people. I’m all for alternative ideas, but real-world functionality is necessary.

  • Imagine an office park full of these, and stacked two or three high! This has real promise. Water from rainfall, captured in tiny gutters too small to catch most leaves and filtered against particulates. Energy supplied by solar cells charges a dual battery system that sends out an alert for a replacement during especially cloudy times. So much potential…

  • So why are all these ego friendly homes only for single people?

    • Good question, one I’ve been pondering over too. I suppose the design could be adjusted to accommodate couples and family units… unless there is some kind of loading constraint with respect to the materials? Look forward to finding out more about the mechanical/physical/practical details on this very intriguing design. Thanks 🙂

  • I love alternative residential architecture. This is an interesting looking structure, but it seems the practicality of living in such a space is poor. There is basically a different room on each floor. I guess it would keep one in shape running up and down the stairs, but my bum knee would be screaming by the end of the first day!

  • I always find these ideas very interesting and I also think that living in a place like this would feel very cozy (not to mention the awesome views you would have). However, I have several practical questions that don’t seem to be answered in this article.

    (1) Call me “conceited” or whatever term you want to use, but I need internet. How would you get internet service in a house like this? You clearly cannot run a cable line (or perhaps you could when there are enough “tree houses” around you). You might be able to use cell phone towers, but what if your tree house is in a spot where you don’t get reception…? This leaves you with satellite internet, which is spotty at best, as well as VERY expensive.

    (2) The article makes no mention as to how waste water / sewage is taken care of? Does it have a septic tank? If so, you need to have roadway access for a removal truck to come in and well… deal with your dirty problem. If it actually has sewage lines, then you need to actually deforest a lot of land to get the lines in place for all of the tree houses.

    (3) What happens when a pine beetle infestation sweeps through the tree house utopia?

    (4) I know it’s dark, but what happens if the land your tree house is on gets sold to a lumber company. Now you lose your house…

    (5) The pictures make it look like a winter wonderland / remote living experience. If this is the case, do you keep your vehicle to get to work? If you can work from home, where is your internet (see point 1)? You still need to eat / get toiletries.

    (6) As others have said, how much does this cost?

    (7) What happens if you (or loved one) has some sort of emergency (e.g. heart attack, fire, stroke, accident of some sort)? Will you have cell phone reception to make a call (again, see point 1)? Will you have access to a road so that emergency personnel can access your home? Clearly a helicopter cannot land (based on pictures) to render assistance.

    Anyway, just some thinking / talking points. Like I said above, I think it’s a fantastic idea, however there are several flaws.

  • According to the sketches provided, I can see how this design is possible yet the physics in this situation are questionable.

  • Have fun hauling your furniture up a ladder

  • Very cool concept, except for the foundation. It would be impossible to dig +2m down without damaging the trees roots. Also a slight problem with the danger of trees being knocked over in storms, but hey! Maybe the close surrounding trees could be stabilized with wires, so that they can only fall over away from the house …

  • The model is too functional for living inside but what about cars and transport, streets, and services like water, energy, and residual water? I’d love to see the whole functional complex.

  • It would need a huge anchor underground to withstand wind earthquake etc – so wouldn’t be easy on the area…. i do like the idea though

  • I like the idea, but solar cells in the forest… It is stated that the house is partially covered in solar cells, which is nice, but it will never work in a forest due to shadows from the surrounding trees. I assume the solar cells are meant to play a big part in the no foot print idea and sustainability meaning this is a fail.

  • After the micro piles or the helical piers are installed we can inject geo-polymers to fill in the loosely compacted soils to ensure a firm hold on this forest skyscraper!!!

  • i would love to have this built for me and my family. I GO FOR GREEN, eco friendly stuff and solar panels.

  • I would like to know more about this project.

  • This idea is really amazing but do you really think that the people who actually buy such houses will keep the forest clean and won’t interfere with the life in it?

  • cool!!!!! one day I will live in an ecological house.. this is awesome

  • hmm cute, but cant imagine it as being functional for a family (eg being pregnant and having to climb everywhere!!, trying to clean, get supplies to rooms like linen, washing or even what people would do when the get older, have less balance and arm strength. – like all design it looks very cool but needs some more thought in day to day living.

  • Would these houses have, heating, electricity, and sewage. Many people would say they don’t need running bathrooms, but when push comes to shove, its a feature that many, once they lose, would be missed dearly. I’m not a architect or any kind of designer, but the house doesn’t look very efficant when it comes to waste management and other basic utilities. If living like its the 1700s is the plan, there would be many other options as well.

  • Are they for permanent residence? Because I am wondering how the waste management would be done.

  • awesome! Im wondering though does this use land more efficiently than a traditional apartment building. Surely it looks better but im interested in efficiency.

  • This would mostly be a 1-2 person place. Not friendly for families. Just maybe for a young couple or bachelor/bachelorette. The problem with the stairs is older people would not walk up & down them. Is this meant to be only aimed towards the younger people? I love the idea though. I’m 20 & I’d love to live there. I love this. How amazing would it be to say I live in that? 🙂

  • Very nice! How about the impact of production? Solar panels for example use materials from all over the world that need to be mined, transported, processed, assembled etc…
    And how about construction of these houses, the machinery to bring the pieces or pre-assembled parts to their locations?

  • if I were a single adult, or husband and wife, this seems ideal. but as a parent, this doesn’t seem very child friendly.

  • Hey I’m just wondering how you’ll manage to built or bring the house on site without any foot print ? If people will walk back home through the forest,
    Will you use a helicopter to drop the house on the right spot ? Sounds ridiculous to ask, is it at the end a totally environmentaly friendly project ?
    Beautiful concept

  • awsome but to claim they will leave no environmental footprint is a straight up lie or hes that dumb, the manufacturing, the human presence where other animals live, the yuppies that will buy them and party and destroy whats near their “foot print free home”and so forth, oh and commute to where ever will cause more pollution

  • I love this design from the point of view of an environmentalist and being in a couple without kids. You could easily have a black water sewage system and would be able to use solar thermal for hot water (there would be parts of the day where there’d be enough sun – depending on where you are). Not sure about PV for electricity, would depend on the surrounding canopy. You would also need a pump to get water from the tanks up into the kitchen/bathroom, integrating some kind of gravity fed system would be better to reduce energy use. My biggest concern though in an Australian context would be bushfires. How is the house protected against bushfires?

  • I’d love to see one of these in use.
    Where’s the bathroom (or are we to follow the example of the bears?)
    Not much accommodation for art. (As an artist I would want wallspace – and studio space)
    I suppose two or three of these structures could be clustered and bridged to allow for greater occupancy.

  • Beautiful design but I think I see a problem. The windows are opposite the solar panels. For maximum natural light/warmth the windows need to face south (assuming the building is in the northern hemisphere, reverse this if in southern hemisphere). That means the solar panels are facing north where they will get almost no light to make power. If you turn the building around so the panels face the sun then you lose the benefit of those big windows for natural light and heat. If you put the panels on the side you would get some sunlight early and late in the day which is better than none at all. You may want to shift them around before you go into production.

    • After reading some of the other posts I see I am not the only person that has found issues with the design. I do think I have a good idea for where this design might just work. I think they could make excellent “cabins” at a ski lodge or other outdoorsy vacation spot where they could relatively easily be added to the existing grid for waste removal, power, internet, etc. Best of luck with this, where ever it gets built.

  • I love this and would equally love to have a home like this built amongst the eucalypts and huon pines of Tasmania (Australia).