Tree house

Last updated

A tree house in the park of the Chateau de Langeais in the Loire Valley, France Arba domo en la parko de la Chateau de Langeais 02.jpg
A tree house in the park of the Château de Langeais in the Loire Valley, France

A tree house, tree fort or treeshed is a platform or building constructed around, next to or among the trunk or branches of one or more mature trees while above ground level. Tree houses can be used for recreation, work space, habitation, a hangout space and observation.



Papuan tree house in British New Guinea, 1885 Picturesque New Guinea Plate XIV - Tree House, Kolari Village.jpg
Papuan tree house in British New Guinea, 1885

Prehistoric hypotheses

Building tree platforms or nests as a shelter from dangers on the ground is a habit of all the great apes, and may have been inherited by humans. It is true that evidence of prehistoric man-made tree houses have never been found by paleoanthropologists, but remains of wooden tree houses would not remain. However, evidence for cave accommodation, terrestrial man-made rock shelters, and bonfires should be possible to find if they had existed, but are scarce from earlier than 40,000 years ago. This has led to a hypothesis that archaic humans may have lived in trees until about 40,000 years ago. [1] The skeletal changes due to the evolution of human bipedalism among started at least four million years ago, and may have happened while hominins still were living in the trees. According to the alternative savannah hypothesis, this evolution happened as an effect of that early humans settled on the ground in savannahs.

Among indigenous people

Even today, tree houses are built by some indigenous people in order to escape the danger and adversity on the ground in some parts of the tropics. It has been claimed that the majority of the Korowai clans, a Papuan tribe in the southeast of Irian Jaya, live in tree houses on their isolated territory as protection against a tribe of neighbouring head-hunters, the Citak.The BBC revealed in 2018 that the Korowai had constructed tree houses "for the benefit of overseas programme makers" and did not actually live in them. [2] However, the Korowai people still build tree houses, not elevated but fastened to trees in the tree trunks of tall trees, to protect occupants and store food from scavenging animals. [3]

In modern societies

Historically trees have been used as part of creating a building. For example the walls of a chapel, to hold platforms or houses built onto them or around them. Chêne chapelle is a striking example of a tree as part of the building. [4] Modern tree houses are usually built as play areas for children or for leisure purposes. Modern tree houses may also be integrated into existing hotel facilities. Some tree houses are built for living space. The main part of the structure is built with industrial materials. This is movement towards "living architecture". [4]

Along with subterranean and ground level houses, tree houses are an option for building eco-friendly houses in remote forest areas, because they do not require a clearing of a certain area of forest. However, the wildlife, climate and illumination on ground level in areas of dense close-canopy forest is not desirable to some people.[ citation needed ]

Support methods and technology

A stairway and roundwalk Treehouse access and roundwalk.jpg
A stairway and roundwalk

There are numerous techniques to fasten the structure to the tree which seek to minimize tree damage. [5]

The construction of modern tree houses usually starts with the creation of a rigid platform, on which the house will be placed; the platform will lean (possibly on the corners) on the branches. [6] In case there are not enough suitable supports, the methods to support the platform are:

Strutted treehouse utilizing tree attachment bolts in a public park in Burlington, Vermont BTV ForeverYoungTreehouse 20081015.jpg
Strutted treehouse utilizing tree attachment bolts in a public park in Burlington, Vermont

Struts and stilts are used for relieving weights on a lower elevation or straight to the ground; Tree houses supported by stilts weigh much less on the tree and help to prevent stress, potential strain, and injury caused by puncture holes. [7] Stilts are typically anchored into the ground with concrete although new designs such as the "Diamond Pier" speeds installation and are less invasive for the root system. [8] Stilts are considered the easiest method of supporting larger tree houses and can also increase structural support and safety.

Stay rods are used for relieving weights on a higher elevation. These systems are particularly useful to control movements caused by wind or tree growth. However they are used less often due to the natural limits of the system. Higher elevation and more branches tailing off decreases capacity and increases wind sensitivity. [9] Building materials for hanging include ropes, wire cables, tension fasteners, and springs.

Friction and tension fasteners are the most common noninvasive methods of securing tree houses. They do not use nails, screws or bolts, but instead grip the beams to the trunk by means of counter-beam, threaded bars, or tying.

Invasive methods are all methods that use nails, screws, bolts, kingpins, etc. Because these methods require punctures in the tree, they must be planned properly in order to minimize stress. [10] Not all species of plants suffer from puncture in the same way, depending partly on whether the sap conduits run in the pith or in the bark. Nails are generally not recommended. [11] A special kind of bolt developed in the 1990s called a treehouse attachment bolt (TAB) can support greater weights than earlier methods. [12] [13] [14]


Treehouse at The Alnwick Gardens in the United Kingdom, with walkways through the tree canopy The Treehouse - - 32426.jpg
Treehouse at The Alnwick Gardens in the United Kingdom, with walkways through the tree canopy

Since the mid-1990s, recreational tree houses have enjoyed a rise in popularity in countries such as the United States and parts of Europe. [15] This has been due to increased disposable income, better technology for builders, research into safe building practices and an increased interest in environmental issues, particularly sustainable living. This growing popularity is also reflected in a rise of social media channels, websites, and television shows specially dedicated to featuring remarkable tree houses around the world. [16]

Increased popularity has, in turn, given rise to demand for businesses covering all building and design work for clients. There are over 30 businesses in Europe and the US [17] specializing in the construction of tree houses of various degrees of permanence and sophistication, from children's play structures to fully functioning homes.

Popularity of tree house hotels is equally growing,[ when? ] with a number of booking websites offering accommodation in tree houses.

Building regulations

Many areas of the world have no specific planning laws for tree houses, so the legal issues can be confusing to both the builder and the local planning departments. Treehouses can be exempt, partially regulated or fully regulated - depending on the locale.[ citation needed ]

In some cases, tree houses are exempted from standard building regulations, as they are considered outside of the regulations specification. An exemption may be given to a builder if the tree house is in a remote or non-urban location. Alternatively, a tree house may be included in the same category as structures such as garden sheds, sometimes called a "temporary structure". There may be restrictions on height, distance from boundary and privacy for nearby properties. There are various grey areas in these laws, as they were not specifically designed for tree-borne structures. A very small number of planning departments have specific regulations for tree houses, which set out clearly what may be built and where. For safety during the tree house construction, it is usually best to do as much work as possible on the ground, taking long-term viability into consideration.[ citation needed ]

Protest communities

The tree house has been central to various environmental protest communities around the world, in a technique, popularized, known as tree sitting. This method may be used in protests against proposed road building or old growth forestry operations. Tree houses are used as a method of defence from which it is difficult and costly to safely evict the protesters and begin work. Julia Butterfly Hill is a particularly well known tree sitter who occupied a Californian Redwood for 738 days (from December 1997 to December 1999), saving the tree and others in the immediate area. Her accommodation consisted of two 3 square metres (32 sq ft) platforms 60 metres (200 ft) above the ground. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Bungalow House, primarily of a single storey

A bungalow is a small house or cottage that is either single-story or has a second story built into a sloping roof, and may be surrounded by wide verandas.

Korowai people Indigenous ethnic group of Indonesia

The Korowai, also called the Kolufo, are the people who live in southeastern West Papua in the Indonesian province of Papua, close to the border with Papua New Guinea. They number about 3,000.

Rivet Permanent mechanical fastener

A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener. Before being installed, a rivet consists of a smooth cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. The end opposite to the head is called the tail. On installation, the rivet is placed in a punched or drilled hole, and the tail is upset, or bucked, so that it expands to about 1.5 times the original shaft diameter, holding the rivet in place. In other words, the pounding or pulling creates a new "head" on the tail end by smashing the "tail" material flatter, resulting in a rivet that is roughly a dumbbell shape. To distinguish between the two ends of the rivet, the original head is called the factory head and the deformed end is called the shop head or buck-tail.

Longhouse Type of house

A longhouse or long house is a type of long, proportionately narrow, single-room building built by peoples in various parts of the world including Asia, Europe, and North America.

Bolted joint Mechanical joint secured by a threaded fastener

A bolted joint is one of the most common elements in construction and machine design. It consist of a male threaded fastener that captures and joins other parts, secured with a matching female screw thread. There are two main types of bolted joint designs: tension joints and shear joints.

Treenail Wooden fastener

A treenail, also trenail, trennel, or trunnel, is a wooden peg, pin, or dowel used to fasten pieces of wood together, especially in timber frames, covered bridges, wooden shipbuilding and boat building. It is driven into a hole bored through two pieces of structural wood.

Stilt house Houses raised on piles over the surface of the soil or a body of water

Stilt houses are houses raised on stilts over the surface of the soil or a body of water. Stilt houses are built primarily as a protection against flooding; they also keep out vermin. The shady space under the house can be used for work or storage.

Malay house

Malay houses refer to the vernacular dwellings of the Malays, an ethno-linguistic group inhabiting Sumatra, coastal Borneo and the Malay Peninsula.

Framing (construction) Construction techique

Framing, in construction, is the fitting together of pieces to give a structure support and shape. Framing materials are usually wood, engineered wood, or structural steel. The alternative to framed construction is generally called mass wall construction, where horizontal layers of stacked materials such as log building, masonry, rammed earth, adobe, etc. are used without framing.

Traditional Thai house

The traditional Thai house is a loose collection of vernacular architectural styles employed throughout the different regions of Thailand. Thai houses usually feature a bamboo or wooden structure, raised on stilts and topped with a steep gabled roof. The houses from each of Thailand's regions have distinctive styles, which reflect the people's living style, including social and cultural beliefs or religious customs and occupations.

Wall plate A horizontal, structural, load-bearing member in wooden building framing

A plate or wall plate is a horizontal, structural, load-bearing member in wooden building framing.

The Kombai are a Papuan people of Melanesia living in the Indonesian province of Papua in Western New Guinea.

Architecture of Thailand

The architecture of Thailand is a major part of the country's cultural legacy and reflects both the challenges of living in Thailand's sometimes extreme climate as well as, historically, the importance of architecture to the Thai people's sense of community and religious beliefs. Influenced by the architectural traditions of many of Thailand's neighbors, it has also developed significant regional variation within its vernacular and religious buildings. Although Siam urged to identify themselves as a modernized state, Western culture and influence was undesirable and inevitable. In an attempt to become distinguished, Thailand's ruling elite gravitated toward selective Modernization to avoid the undesired Western influence.

Architecture of Malaysia

Architecture in Malaysia is a combination of many styles, from Islamic and Chinese styles to those brought by European colonists. Malay architecture has changed due to these influences. Houses in the north are similar to those in Thailand, while those in the south are similar to those in Java. New materials, such as glasses and nails, were brought in by Europeans, changing the architecture. Houses are built for tropical conditions, raised on stilts with high roofs and large windows, allowing air to flow through the house and cool it down. Wood has been the main building material for much of Malaysia's history; it is used for everything from the simple kampung to royal palaces. In Negeri Sembilan traditional houses are entirely free of nails. Besides wood, other common materials such as bamboo and leaves were used. The Istana Kenangan in Kuala Kangsar was built in 1926, and it the only Malay palace with bamboo walls. The Orang Asal of East Malaysia live in longhouses and water villages. Longhouses are elevated and on stilts, and can house 20 to 100 families. Water villages are also built on stilts, with houses connected with planks and most transport by boats.

Bush carpentry

Bush carpentry is an expression used in Australia and New Zealand that refers to improvised methods of building or repair, using available materials and an ad hoc design, usually in a pioneering or rural context.

Rumah adat

Rumah adat are traditional houses built in any of the vernacular architecture styles of Indonesia, collectively belonging to the Austronesian architecture. The traditional houses and settlements of the several hundreds ethnic groups of Indonesia are extremely varied and all have their own specific history. It is the Indonesian variants of the whole Austronesian architecture found all over places where Austronesian people inhabited from the Pacific to Madagascar each having their own history, culture and style.

Treehouse attachment bolt

Treehouse attachment bolts or TABs are specialized bolts engineered for treehouse construction. Various models and trademarks exist, with names such as Garnier limbs (GLs); tree anchor bolts; artificial limbs; heavy limbs or hyper limbs (HLs); special tree fastener or stud tree fastener (STFs).

Architecture of Kerala

Kerala architecture is a kind of architectural style that is found mostly in the Indian state of Kerala. Kerala's style of architecture is a unique Hindu temple architecture that emerged in the southwest part of India, in contrast to Dravidian architecture which is normally practised in other parts of South India. The architecture of Kerala has been followed according to Indian Vedic architectural science and a part of the Dravidian architecture, one of the three styles of temples mentioned in the ancient books of Vastu Shastra. The Tantrasamuchaya, Thachu-Shastra, Manushyalaya-Chandrika, and Silparatna are architectural sciences, which have had a impact on Kerala Architecture style. The Manushyalaya-Chandrika, a work devoted to domestic architecture is one such science that has its roots in Kerala.

Stilts (architecture) Poles, posts or pillars that raise a structure above ground or water level

Stilts are poles, posts or pillars used to allow a structure or building to stand at a distance above the ground or water. In flood plains, and on beaches or unstable ground, buildings are often constructed on stilts to protect them from damage by water, waves or shifting soil or sand. As these issues were commonly faced by many societies around the world, stilts have become synonymous with various places and cultures, particularly in South East Asia and Venice.

Horace Burgess's Treehouse was a treehouse and church in Crossville, Tennessee, United States. Construction began in 1993, mostly by Burgess who says that, in a vision, God commanded him to build a treehouse. It became a popular local attraction and was unofficially called the largest tree house in the world. It was closed by the state on August 30, 2012, for fire code violations. On October 22, 2019, the tree house completely burned to the ground under unknown circumstances.


  1. Donald R Perry, Interpreting evidence: Tree houses, 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook, SAGE Publications, 2010, page 365-366
  2. BBC admits treehouse scene from Human Planet series was faked. The Guardian.
  3. Head-Hunters Drove Papuan Tribe Into Tree-Houses
  4. 1 2 Thomas Vallas (25 May 2017). peer reviewer Luc Courard. "Using nature in architecture Building a living house with mycelium and trees". Frontiers of Architectural Research.
  5. "Architecture Thesis, bachelor degree".
  6. "Garden Tree House Design". Cheeky Monkey Tree Houses. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  7. "Tree injury" . Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  8. "Diamond Pier" . Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  9. Bahamon, Alejandro (2007). Treehouses Living a Dream. New York, NY: Collins Design. p. 8. ISBN   9780060780012.
  10. "friction fastening advice" . Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  11. "Danger of nails" . Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  12. Miskimon, Robert; Chmienlnicki, Steven (2008). The Complete Guide to Building Your Own Tree House: For Parents and Adults Who Are Kids at Heart. Atlantic Publishing Company. pp. 88–89. ISBN   978-1-60138-244-3 . Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  13. "Creation of the TAB" . Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  14. Garnier, Michael. "Official Garnier Limb Origin and Histree". Out'n'About Treesort, LLC. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  15. Henderson, Paula; Mornement, Adam (2005). Treehouses. London, UK: Frances Lincoln Ltd. p. 7. ISBN   0-7112-2437-4.
  16. "Treehouses around the world on a map". Treehouse Map. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  17. "Commercial treehouse builder list" . Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  18. Henderson, Paula; Adam Mornement (2005). Treehouses. London, UK: Frances Lincoln Ltd. p. 65. ISBN   0-7112-2437-4.
  19. "List of Treehouses in Kerala, India".

Further reading