This 'Half-Tree House' Is A Unique Upgrade To Traditional Log Cabins

An architecture firm that has a focus on sustainability has created the "Half-Tree House," which is mostly built from local materials and is heated with a Jotul stove.


May 17 2019, Updated 4:18 a.m. ET

The traditional log cabin has received a brilliant refresh in the form of a treehouse. JacobsChang Architecture has created the Half-Tree House, located the Beaver Brook Preserve in Sullivan County, New York. Even better? The majority of the materials needed for the home were on location, and it was constructed with a strict budget of $20,000.

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Isolated in a 60-acre remote location, the Half-Tree House is 360 square feet and rests on a steep hill. The name comes from being held up by trees surrounding the property, which contributes to lifting half the weight. The other half is distributed to the sonotube footings at the other end.

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“The topography presented a difficult challenge,” the firm explained on the project website. “In an effort to minimize sitework (in this case, shovels by hand) and to eliminate the need for large footings, retaining walls and pumped concrete, the architecture is lifted above the ground and relies upon support from the trees.”

JacobsChang Architecture’s goal was to create a structure that was easy to assemble and it would fit inside of a $20,000 budget. In order to achieve this, most of the wooden exterior and interior comes from the local Eastern Pines. To protect the entire structure from weather elements, Scandinavian pine tar is applied to the exterior. The inside features protection from paint and a clear matte sealant on the floor.

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While the housing is off-grid, there is no water plumbing or electricity wired to the location. There is also no direct access with vehicles. It’s still able to be occupied during colder months with a Jotul wood stove. If needed, there’s a backup portable generator. Other accessories include a cooktop for the stove, one multipurpose table, storage, and a mattress.

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Three eight-by-eight steel-tube pivot doors provide access to the treehouse. All three contain dual-insulated glass and were manufactured offsite. These windows provide a way to open up the one-room building. This insulation also aids the wood stove to heat up the cabin while also protecting visitors from weather elements.

Since being completed last year, the Half-Tree House has won numerous awards. Last year, it received the “Outbuilding” award under Residential Architect Design. This year, it received a grand award in “Accessory Building” under Builder’s Choice and Custom Home Design. One of the jurors, Sebastian Schmaling, noted that the structure was “well-detailed and sculptural” and that “it blends beautifully into the forested landscape.”

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