By Katy Scott
Quickly, the platforms built in the trees were transformed into distant lands, fortresses and hiding places.
Brothers Andy and Simon Payne were no different. They grew up in Kenya and both spent a lot of time building zip lines, jungle swings and treetop houses.
Maybe that's why the Paynes didn't give up on their childhood dream and now design and build impressive tree houses, all eco-friendly and environmentally friendly. They are houses that also make people feel young again.
"One of the reasons people decide to build a tree house is to fondly remember how much fun they had as children," Simon Payne told CNN.
Now the two brothers run the largest treehouse company, Blue Forest, named for the bluish hue of distant pine forests in a mountainous region of Japan, and born out of a desire to bring people closer together. people with nature.
Reflection of the environment
Blue Forest has built hundreds of tree houses that reflect the environment around them through the use of sustainable building materials, such as wood. "I think people love tree houses because of the warmth of the wood and because when you walk inside the house you smell the lovely smell of wood."
The company works with the world's largest forest certification system (PEFC) to ensure that its wood comes from sustainable land.
"You can find out exactly where the tree came from, when it was cut down, and how many trees were planted to replace it," says Payne.
Blue Forest also motivates clients to build with high levels of insulation and renewable energy. However, it's not easy for tree houses to be completely off the grid, and according to Payne, the elements that make them most sustainable are often the simplest.
“Although everyone says they want to know about renewable energy solutions, today the real difference is made by simple changes, such as a lighting system of energy saving bulbs and not so much thinking about insulating the construction very well using natural sources of sun and wind to heat and cool the house ”.
Off the grid
On the other end of the spectrum, in the jungle in Costa Rica is Finca Bellavista, a community suspended in the trees.
It is about 600 hectares of land that house about 40 houses in trees, where everything works thanks to solar energy and there is no "waste".
Matt Hogan and Erica Elise Andrews first came across this little piece of paradise in a coastal region that overlooks the Pacific 10 years ago, and since then they felt compelled to care for that rainforest and wanted to build a house for themselves in the trees.
"We try to design the houses in the middle of the natural environment, we don't allow people to cut down the trees to build their houses," Hogan told CNN. ? In fact, community members are encouraged to use other locally grown hardwoods, such as teak.
The houses are built around the trees with the help of piles or use hybrid systems that make the widest part of the house rest on a base made of posts and the trees themselves.
Additionally, all houses are built on long-lived, broad-rooted trees that have been previously licensed as the best for that by a local botanist.
Finca Bellavista is a pedestrianized community, which means that the tree houses can be reached via zip lines, suspension bridges, and 11-kilometer hiking trails.
All the water comes from hand-dug fountains that are on the property. Each house also has a biodigester system to break down wastewater with human excrement. They also have a special irrigation system for showers and sinks. “Everything is very well connected and we produce very little waste,” explains Hogan. "We recycle and use everything the best we can."
The good life
Most tree house owners retire to Finca Bellavista for a few weeks or months each year. The rest of the time they rent them to other people.
“It is something very attractive for many people, both for vacations and for a change of life. Most of those who end up buying these properties do so because of the connection they have with nature, ”says Hogan.
In a tree house "you are completely immersed in nature, you have to go to bed listening to insects and frogs and you wake up to the singing of birds," he explains. "It's as if you live in one of those records with jungle sounds that they play in spas."
Blue Forest also believes that its clients seek to reconnect with nature. And it's that love of nature that makes sustainability a priority, if not luxury, in the treehouse business.
Not so sustainable?
But it is not always easy to meet a client looking for the most sustainable materials to make their tree house.
"The hardest thing is when the customer wants stone finishes," says Payne. "We have the best suppliers and manufacturers, we don't use cheap materials that end up coming from China and places that are probably not so sustainable."
In the same way, Hogan explains how the owners are starting to build with steel, since it lasts longer than wood. "There are some people who don't necessarily trust the long-term viability of certain types of wood, in an increasingly challenging environment," he says.