This conversation is closed.

Could you grow a house?

Could you print a scaffold in the shape of a house, and then use the same techniques discussed in Anthony Atala's TED Talk to coat the scaffold with tree cells? Possibly spraying it on as seen on this video:

Keeping the structure alive would of course require a root structure. Perhaps one that already exist, or one that is fabricated in a similar manner. Imagine durable, self sustained, self repairing, eco friendly structures.

  • thumb
    Nov 5 2012: Hi Jerry!
    Durable, self sustained, self repairing, eco friendly structures are a GREAT idea. Along the same brother-in-law built his home years ago into a rock ledge. The rock ledge was actually the entire back wall of the home, and the front was all glass...facing south of course:>) So, the sun heated the rock ledge, which radiated heat back into the home. There was also a natural spring coming out of the ledge, which he piped into the home for their water source. They were off the grid, using lanterns for light, and a woodstove for cooking and another source of heat. It is a very clever and lovely, all natural structure, which is about an 1/8th of a mile from the road on the side of the mountain, and you can only drive up a little way, so one has to be hardy to live there. They back-packed everything they needed. Bringing in the supplies was not exactly an easy event!!!
  • Nov 5 2012: If you're a snail................yes!!!!!!
  • Nov 1 2012: This idea would be a great alternative to creating a cleaner, green future one where your carbon admission are offset by the continual survival of your house... providing there was no fire danger regarding the kitchen and electrical appliances.
  • thumb
    Oct 15 2012: That is truly amazing what an incredible technology that will be for the most painful type of injury.

    I have seen videos where they train a tree to grow a bridge

    It seems to me that nano engineering has the most potential in this area.
  • thumb
    Nov 11 2012: I like to think TED members are not geeks. In real life, are there really any geeks? Most superficially geeky people have a real life story if you get to know them. Geeks in fiction are somewhat obsessive, statistics-oriented, narrow-focused. I'd like to think TEDsters try to have the bigger picture, try to connect to people and the environment, try to speak to the soul.
  • Nov 11 2012: If your definition of a house is somewhere comfortable to live, then throughout history nature has provided many a person a house.
    • Nov 11 2012: Yes but currently most people are provided with shelter by taking from nature. I would prefer a more symbiotic relationship. Not many people are living in caves, igloos, or dung huts anymore. The world population and economy is growing by leaps and bounds. People who go from third to first world status will put a higher demand on the environment. However crude this idea may start out, there are clever people who could refine the methods used for construction. Technology is not just about nanobots and such anymore. Today there are several biohacker hacker spaces. Biohackers are thinking of a future where living cells are a part of our everyday lives. From bio-luminescent lighting to the fusion of the living and the electronic. There are already many species that coexist with nature in such a way that they could not live without each other. A relationship built on nurturing each other. Imagine a house that would grow leaves in the summer allowing the house to stay cooler. A house capable of providing shelter for several hundred years with little maintenance. Nature has provided us with so much, but will we eventually outpace nature?
  • thumb
    Nov 9 2012: Here are some 'shaping' attempts to form house structures out of ash, lime and willow trees:

    Video 1 (German):

    Video 2 (English)

    Video 3
  • Nov 9 2012: I guess so, Cartman used stem cells to clone a Shakey's!
  • thumb
    Nov 8 2012: Depends where you live, hard to grow a house in the artic
    • Nov 8 2012: Hard to build an igloo in South Africa too. Who knows, maybe trees could one day be genetically modified to tolerate extreme temperatures. There has been a lot of research into extremophiles. Perhaps the solution lies within their genes.
      I think it should be taken into consideration the number of pollutants that are created manufacturing the items to build a house. Manufacturing, transportation, deforestation, work related accidents, coal burned to produce electricity, strip mining for the coal, oil needed to run all of these machines, and the actual construction with large machinery could all be reduced. As a society we are breaking a lot of ground on energy conservation. Imagine how much energy would be saved by producing a home this way. I would love to see a cost analysis on this. Maybe this would make the dream of owning a home attainable by everyone. Imagine driving through a neighborhood that looks like a forest.
      • thumb
        Nov 9 2012: Hi Jerry, I have by proxy, likes lots of others globally who use local resources, I used timber from trees grown in Ireland, where i live, that were harvested in in a sustainable forest. They constitute 3/4 of house, rest is made from clay bricks, albeit not sourced locally.
  • Nov 5 2012: It would be great if the government promoted off the grid housing more than they do. You would think that they would experiment more with public housing. Save the taxpayers money, and help the environment at the same time. I wonder how many public houses there are in the United States?
  • thumb
    Nov 2 2012: Yeah, agree. That is more eco-friendly
    But have to add something to stand Hurrican Sandy ^ ^
    • Nov 5 2012: Well the roots would help anchor the house. Perhaps rebar could be wrapped around the house, and then anchored to the ground. Over time the bark would grow around the metal. Let us say that the house was damaged. Would it be relatively easy to repair using the same techniques that were used to build it?
      • thumb
        Nov 5 2012: lol, are you some kind of guy like micheal scoffield? so sientific~
        • Nov 5 2012: From Prison Break? Yes, I have a tattoo of everything described in this post on my arms and back. :) Really I just enjoy when people punch holes in my ideas. It allows me to look at things from a different perspective, and reevaluate those ideas. I enjoy finding solutions to problems. A forum like TED allows me to bounce those ideas off of other geeks. I hit the jackpot when someone with real resources finds an idea interesting enough to pursue. I have seen several TED talks that were ideas that I had thought of in the past. Enough that I thought I would start posting them as I had them. When I was a child I came up with the idea of trapping light with mirrors. All of my science teachers said that it was impossible. Later in life I came upon an article were students at MIT were trapping light. I had envisioned this as a way to provide solar energy at night. I never stopped asking every single science teacher about this idea. I do not believe you have to be a scientist to come up with ideas. An imagination and a love for science can go a long way. Unfortunately there aren't many places for people like that to vent their ideas.
      • thumb
        Nov 8 2012: Good job~Keep working on that!
        I also like the conversation here. For one reason, it helps me think and thanks to it i did good on GRE issue^ ^
  • thumb
    Nov 1 2012: i will be too scared to live a house made by my own cell.
    how can someone think about that....
    • Nov 1 2012: If you are referring to Mr. Joachim's article, I believe he is using pig cells. He made a few jokes in the video that might lead you to believe that he wanted to use human cells. He does clarify this in the comments of that article. I think that using tree cells would be a more practical approach. If you have ever owned a leather jacket, then you know that you have to condition the leather a lot. I can not imagine what it would take to maintain an entire house made of skin cells that are constantly exposed to UV rays. On the other hand trees love the sun.
      • thumb
        Nov 2 2012: Yeah, cell from tree would be confortable to me.
        Will the cell still living when they are cultivated to become our house? If they are dead, the tree house will not use the sun. If they are not, then it will attract pest and other living form.
        • Nov 2 2012: That would be my preference. Producing a living tree would have many benefits. Even if that were not possible on sight, perhaps they could farm the houses. The house might not be alive when delivered, but it would be a wood structure just like many people already live in.
  • Oct 31 2012: I like this idea very much.. It woudl be amazing if is it possible to "grow my home" when I am ready to build my own small, environmentally friendly home. It would be nice to have a home that was part of the natural landscape!
  • Oct 26 2012: This is a question of degree. Yes, grow a part of a house, or something that has a symbiotic relationship with the house.
  • thumb
    Oct 24 2012: Jerry, There is a TED talk by Mitchell Joachim about sustainable architecture titled "Don't build your home, grow it! ".
    • Oct 24 2012: Thank you Madhavi for the link. That was the closest idea to what I have in my head so far. I linked back to this conversation. With any luck Mr. Joachim will read this post, and give me some feed back. I would think that the cell structure of a tree would be pretty simple. An added benefit is that every year your house would be more energy efficient and stronger than the previous years since the house would add a new growth ring.

      I pointed out on his post that the meat house was pretty much a tipi. There seemed to be a lot of revulsion at the idea of living in a meat home. Perhaps this idea would be more acceptable in people's minds.
      • thumb
        Oct 25 2012: I do like the idea of a house with the cell structure of a tree, Jerry!
      • Oct 31 2012: A MEAT home!! Imagine the flies and what if the neighbors wanted to come over for a BBQ?? .. with their eyes set longingly on your house! I suppose it woudl be best to live by vegetarians in such a case.
  • thumb
    Oct 24 2012: I believe and if I can find where I saw it, they are trying to create a "giant" 3d printer that prints with "concrete" or a concrete like material. If I can find it I will post on here

    concrete printer
  • thumb
    Oct 21 2012: One of my all time favorite authors, Rudy Rucker, wrote a science fiction book called Frek and the Elixer which describes pretty much exactly that kind of world. You might enjoy it.
  • Mats K

    • 0
    Oct 17 2012: "Imagine durable, self sustained, self repairing, eco friendly structures."

    Are you familiar with shape-memory alloy? Here is a video demonstrating the concept, that could applied to houses:
    • Oct 19 2012: I am aware of that technology. When it first came out there was talk of car bodies that would repair themselves by spraying hot water on them. I believe it is used in robots for muscle wire also. It is definitely a great technological achievement that I always thought would be very useful in outer space, or battle ships perhaps.
      Imagine a tanker truck pulling up into a yard, pulling out a hose, and spraying a structure with LOW COST tree cells. Heck why limit it to houses. You could make furniture and boats too. No need to cut down a forest. You would be creating an artificial forest instead. Perhaps interior design might be possible too for things like counter tops and stairs.
  • Oct 17 2012: I've seen the living bridge photos and they work because they are part of an ecosystem. So we would have to adjust our way of living with nature because now we would have a new level of intimacy with "all" the flora and fauna associated with tree's. And nature needs time since most of what we force feed or grow seems to quickly wither and die. (Quite the psycho-social adjustment. Have a baby and start to grow a house and save for post secondary education! Culture defined by a symbiotic relationship with living things.) Your home as an ecosystem rather than one or two types of plants might grow faster/stronger and be more self sustaining over time and seasonal changes.
  • Oct 15 2012: Thank you for sharing that video with me Pat. The people of that village have an enormous amount of patience. Now I have to wonder if you could print a scaffold in the shape of a bridge, and then coat it with the cells from the roots. Maybe speed things up considerably.
  • Oct 15 2012: Folks have done this with Banyon trees for years. Their root system is, in part, above ground and with the right forms, rooms, upper levels, etc. can be formed. Takes a lot of time though but they sure look nice.
    • Oct 15 2012: Googling "Banyon tree house" turned up some very interesting pictures. I would like to see if it is possible to form a solid shell, like a huge hollow trunk, or "tree skin" sprayed onto a supporting artificial endoskeleton. Every year the bark would thicken.
  • thumb
    Oct 15 2012: i want to know where is my comments ? is it flying ?