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Monday, February 4, 2013

Sustainable Living


By: Marina Correa
Photography: Markus Bollen; courtesy Baumraum Architects

Tree House, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel, Proximity BBDO, Sustainability, Baumraum Architects, environment-friendly , Hechtel-Eksel

Imagine discussing sustainability issues in a tree house nestled among pine and birch trees? Not only does it sound fantastic but also drives home the point, pronto!

That’s precisely what four organizations namely, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel and Proximity BBDO set out to do by joining forces to build a conference space that would inspire organizations to embrace sustainable living.

Tree House, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel, Proximity BBDO, Sustainability, Baumraum Architects, environment-friendly , Hechtel-Eksel
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Having hired Germany-based architectural firm Baumraum, who specialize in arboreal abodes, the tree house design is based on a pleated sheet of paper that encloses both interior and exterior spaces. It features two cabins on different levels, connecting terraces and a central staircase. The first landing is elegantly suspended from pine trees via steel cables. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, it is the ideal place to hold seminars for building a ‘green’ planet.

Tree House, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel, Proximity BBDO, Sustainability, Baumraum Architects, environment-friendly , Hechtel-Eksel
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At first glance, the tree house conjures up images of a UFO that has just landed amongst a canopy of trees. On closer scrutiny, the cabins and upper terraces rest sturdily on 19 angled steel stilts; and the capsule of steel framework with wooden flanks and oxidized zinc sheets is finished sleekly with minimal but snug amenities.

Tree House, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel, Proximity BBDO, Sustainability, Baumraum Architects, environment-friendly , Hechtel-Eksel
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Being a centre for encouraging environment-friendly discussions, the makers have walked the talk by preserving ecology. For instance, the tree house is not anchored with bolts or nails that might injure trees, but with materials such as strong textile belts and adjustable steel cables. This method protects the trunk from fungal decay, while the belts allow the tree unobstructed growth. Even each of the steel stilts is connected to the ground below with foundation screws that have a minimal impact on the forest floor.

Tree House, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel, Proximity BBDO, Sustainability, Baumraum Architects, environment-friendly , Hechtel-Eksel
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The structure draws on supplies from the neighbouring museum using the newest techniques for heating and cooling. The resultant CO2 neutral system and the ventilation system together create a comfortable controlled climate. Large windows flood the space with sunlight during daytime while LEDs and movement-sensors in the evenings keep electricity costs low.

Tree House, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel, Proximity BBDO, Sustainability, Baumraum Architects, environment-friendly , Hechtel-Eksel
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So while sustainability issues are tackled deftly within an ecologically-sensitive microcosm, you finally get to relive your long-cherished childhood fantasy of actually living in a tree house! What more can you ask for?

Tree House, paper producer Sappi, The Flemish Forest and Nature Agency, the commune of Hechtel-Eksel, Proximity BBDO, Sustainability, Baumraum Architects, environment-friendly , Hechtel-Eksel
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