Returning to our roots: Scientists claim they will grow tree-homes in a decade

Humans may one day be returning to the forests to live in ecological homes grown from tree roots.

Scientists from the U.S and Israel have proposed building the ingenious 'tree-homes' in cities and towns as a way of saving the planet.

Using the advanced techniques of aeroponics, the green-fingered researchers are confident the first prototype home could be ready in just ten years.

Enlarge   'tree-home'

Barking mad? Scientists claim this tree-home design could be reality in as little as 10 years

Aeroponics is the science of growing plants in an air or mist environment - without soil. Some plants, such as orchids that grow on trees in tropical rainforests, grow this way naturally.

Plantware, the organisation behind the technology, said it has already enjoyed success creating bus-shelters, park benches and traffic lights using its unique growing techniques.

Each home would be constructed from actual tree roots to any design specification and come equipped with a host of eco-friendly features such as solar panels and wind-harvesting fans.

The homes, designed by researchers at Tel Aviv University and a branch of America's M.I.T, would draw their power from clean energy sources and even convert human waste into valuable nutrients for the living trees.

It is hoped that by re-connecting with our natural environment, pollution and carbon footprints could become a thing of the past.

'The concept behind Plantware stems from my ground-breaking research at the University of Tel Aviv which yielded incredible results with tree roots that do not harden and become rigid but remain supple without breaking when they bend,' Plantware chief Gordon Glaze said.

'The key to my discovery was my research in the area of aeroponics, which is like hydroponics where plant life is grown without soil.'

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A vertical cross-section of a 'tree home', which would take advantage of the plant's characteristics

Mr Glaze, 38, together with his two partners Yael Stav, 35 and Yaniv Naftaly, 35 have spent the past ten years developing and perfecting the science of aeroponics to the stage where Gordon believes that real life 'tree-house' could be possible within ten years.

'At a cellular level we can tell the tree how to grow to a template. This means that we can now mass produce roots and trees in an industrial building level, like steel girders.

'We can create a living building material now that enables you to cast trees like they are cement,' Glaze said.

Together with scientists at M.I.T. they have come up with designs that look like something out of Star Trek, but which technology has now made possible.

'Our ultimate aim is to build a house out of our trees from scratch  There are an incredible number of benefits that come with our tree homes. For a start all heating bills will be reduced, because in the winter, when the deciduous trees leaves fall away, homes will have more heat.

'And in the summer, the leaves will provide not only shade but a cooling effect will come from the leaves,' he said.

Mr Glaze said they would be ecologically responsible by matching tree-homes to their environment. So British tree-dwellers would live in sturdy oak or willow homes and those in California could have giant American redwood pads. 

Unfortunately, Mr Glaze said, at first the tree homes would prove to be prohibitively expensive to all but a few committed environmentalists.