THROWBACK THURSDAY: Plant Yourself A New Facility

Street - illustration by Efrat Gommeh
Street – illustration by Efrat Gommeh

Posted by Heidi Schwartz
Originally published on 9/17/2008, this story is part of FacilityBlog’s Throwback Thursday offering.

An international firm comprised of scientists, horticulturists, and designers is going back to its roots—literally—in its quest to create structures that are truly “one with nature.” Headed up by three pioneers with a single vision, Plantware is taking the idea of eco-building to a new level.

By controlling the shape in which trees grow, Plantware creates products that are made of living trees. Modern design styles combined with advanced horticultural techniques allow the company to produce elegant products that are also eco-positive. Today the company’s leaders, Gordon E. Glaze, Yael Stav, and Yaniv Naftaly, are shaping trees into useful, practical structures like street lamps, bus stops, and playgrounds through the latest engineering and scientific modeling techniques.

Eventually, the long-term goal is to create dwellings and other larger structures that are inherently “storm proof,” useful, and self sustaining since they will be made out of pliable tree roots. Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience reporter for writes:

A home built from trees, the researchers said, would be a natural storm protector. “After earthquakes and after tsunamis the only structures that still survive are trees,” said Yaniv Naftaly, director of operations at Plantware, a company founded in 2002. Naftaly told LiveScience the same sturdiness should apply to tree-made homes.

How does it work? Bryner explains,

The team found that certain tree species grown aeroponically (in air instead of soil and water) have roots that don’t harden. Once the malleable, so-called soft roots grow long enough in the lab, they are molded around metal frames in the shape of a playground or park bench.

Then the root tips get tucked into the ground, a process that triggers so-called lignification in which the roots start to harden and grow thicker and thicker. The leafy buds supported by the roots begin to grow taller and bushier.

Plantware’s vision is to turn living trees into a new building material, making effective contributions to the ecosystem. The hope is that the company will influence initiatives for global warming prevention and eco-living.