There is a gleaming white artificial tree house floating over Linton, New Zealand. It’s called the SkySphere, and its designer, Jono Williams, put it together over the course of three years for only $75000.
The club house is perched securely atop a 10 meter high steel tower, providing a wide view of the New Zealand countryside. Williams initially planned to build the structure in the trees, but a steel “tree” support makes it much more versatile–it can be placed almost anywhere..
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The walls are completely transparent: the living space is surrounded by 360 degrees of two-meter high polycarbonate windows, custom built for the SkySphere. The electronics and color-changing LED lighting are completely powered by the custom-built solar panels installed on the thin arches of the roof.
There’s only one room inside, but it’s spacious enough for a queen-sized bed, custom couch, and entertainment system. Everything inside the SkySphere, including lights, movie projector, and beer refrigerator, can be controlled by a smartphone application. The home’s entrance is also app-controlled, and the motorized front door opens with a fingerprint security system.
There are some improvements that Williams is considering as he designs the next version of the SkySphere. For one thing, there’s currently no bathroom on board. He built a small bathroom on the ground outside, but a toilet and shower weren’t feasible inside the SkySphere itself due to a lack of plumbing. Another drawback of the current design is the narrow entryway.
The steel column supporting the home is also its front door, and visitors must climb the ladder inside to access the living space. Because of the restricted size, Williams had to furnish the SkySphere from outside, lifting furniture in through the open windows before the polycarbonate was installed. There’s a pulley system in the column for lifting heavier supplies, but future SkySpheres may come with an elevator.
Focus on Energy Independence
Jono Williams is no stranger to minimalist green design. His previous project, the TreeBach, began as a simple bachelor’s tree house in the forest, built out of leftover materials from construction sites. By the end, it evolved into a small and comfortable getaway home running off of solar power, completely isolated from the world. There’s no plumbing in the house, because that would have made the home “permanent” and therefore illegal where it was built, but the outdoor propane-heated bathtub is easy to fill with collected rain water and has a lovely view.
Williams’ designs take energy independence and our environmental footprint very seriously. With the SkySphere, he’s built a beautiful modern living space with high-tech amenities that can exist in complete isolation from the rest of the world. Living “off-grid” doesn’t have to mean a tiny hut in the woods (although Williams’ TreeBach demonstrates that’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds) when the green technology exists to power all the necessities of modern life without needing to plug into a municipal power grid.
Jen MacCormack is a medical laboratory scientist and freelance writer with an interest in science communication and renewable, sustainable technologies. (Photos used with permission)
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