Architecture Houses: Treehouse is a single family residence located on a park in Seattle, WA.  Built on an inaccessible, steep slope lot, the project overcame significant design and construction challenges to create a unique home elevated in the trees.

The project had three primary design objectives: 1) minimize long term site impacts; 2) design a cost effective and resource efficient building; 3) use view, light and enclosure to accentuate the experience of living in the tree canopy.

In 1999, the owners discovered an “un-buildable” lot while searching the internet for cheap vacant lots in Seattle. 

Site conditions generated design solutions.
•    Site accessibility and zoning restrictions necessitated a compact floor plan
•    Design solution worked within the limitations of crane to facilitate construction
•    Auger cast piles anchor the building to the slope and preserve the natural drainage/slope
•    Steel framing support the house and carport above the slope and in the trees

Design solutions addressed basic questions of living, DIY opportunities and common materials.

•    House emphasizes natural light and quality of space over expensive products / finishes
•    Simple plan with a developed, double height section creates the sense of a large house
•    Openings accentuate experience of and connection to park, tree canopy and sky
•    Skylight is centrally located, and functions as a “hearth” that connects house interiors
•    Furniture designed and built by owner or friends, or purchased vintage pieces
•    Multi-colored asphalt siding used to evoke tree bark and camouflage exterior

Budget drove design decisions.

•    Compact 24’ x 30’ footprint on three levels used to create 1644 SF of living area
•    Elemental material palette: GWB, cork, plywood, PLAM, tile
•    Pragmatic/direct detailing for all building assemblies
•    Salvaged and/or re-used materials
•    Ikea kitchen cabinets, appliances, and countertops were purchased for $4700
•    Asphalt siding: material cost of $1,000
•    Sweat equity

The project pursued sustainable design solutions.

•    Compact footprint reduces site impact, as well as material costs / long term energy use
•    SIPS roof panels / BIBS insulation used to create a thermally efficient envelope
•    Pre-installed Solar Thermal hot water tank, water lines and LV control wire (Budget prevented immediate installation of this system)
•    Future PV system planned for the carport roof (budget prevented installation)
•    Operable skylight passively cools/ventilates the house / reduces lighting requirements
•    Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system supplies all mechanical fresh air
•    Hydronic radiators used for primary heating system
•    Water conserving fixtures and dual flush toilets
•    Energy Star appliances
•    All paints and finishes low/no voc
•    Vintage/salvage materials and furnishings

Type: Residential - Single family residence
Location: Seattle, Washington
                    United States
A project by: SHED


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