When reporting on green building trends, I try to mix it up between grounded, modest efforts like pre-fab trailer homes with optional solar panel systems and audacious, large-scale, nearly improbable projects like an eco-park in New York City that boasts manmade mountains constructed from demolished buildings. It’s the tension between restraint and out-there innovation that makes green building so exciting. 

Off the bat, I must admit that a daring new conceptual design, EcoCoon Retreats, falls into the audacious category. It's certainly not grounded. And it’s also decidedly not for me. I sleepwalk and I get motion sickness.

London-based architect Mathieu Collos has envisioned this dizzying prefabricated mode of housing as a split-level cocoon-esque pod that’s suspended by steel suspension cables high up in the branches of a tree. The tree’s trunk serves as the foundation. I wouldn’t even make it up the stairs.

These polygon-shaped, super insulated prefab nests could accommodate two adults or even a small family. Collos also has a vision of a larger EcoCoon Retreat that could serve as a charming treetop hostel. One of the obvious perks of an EcoCoon Retreat? Living in an, umm, tree, would allow its inhabitants to bond more intimately with nature. A brisk wind would have me intimately bonding with the ground.

I jest, but EcoCoons do boast nifty green features like a rainwater catchement system, biomass heating, a greywater system, and possibly solar panels depending on the type of tree used and tree branch density. But as the folks over at the Treehouse by Design blog point out, the roof appears to be sealed to the tree trunk to prevent leaks. If the seal enters the tree's soggy, expanding bark too deeply, the tree will die. 

Again, Collos’ concept is definitely not for everyone (although I can imagine an EcoCoon commune working perfectly in Germany) it is a true, innovative work of architectural wizardry. And while many of us tend to get hung up on (important) things like energy bills and CFL bulb-replacement, it's okay to sit back, relax, and enjoy some cool designs.
Images via designboom

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Swiss Family Prefabinson
Step away from reality for a moment to admire EcoCoon Retreats, a new prefab design concept.