Can architecture, urbanism and nature work together to deliver environmental sustainability, greater quality of life for communities, as well as aestethically pleasing cityscapes? This visionary project is showing us just how this is possible.
“Houses inspired by trees and communities inspired by forests” is the underpinning philosophy of OAS1S, a Dutch green-architecture initiative that wants to transform typically stressful, alienating, congested and polluted urban landscapes, into places where communities can have a more harmonious relationship with nature, and lead happier and healthier lives. That is, architecture through which people can live both in cities and in nature at the same time.
As cities grow bigger, urban populations swell, and natural environments shrink to accommodate the land changes required by this rapid urbanisation process, so does the relationship between people and planet change and weaken, at a time when action is urgently needed to mitigate the impact of climate change.
OAS1S wants to offer the green-architecture sector a vision that seeks to go beyond current regulatory standards, or forthcoming ones, demonstrating that building sustainable houses (and cities) needn't be difficult, nor expensive, and that the results can be stunning too.
Made of environmentally friendly materials, an OAS1S house is four floors tall (6x6x12m), and fitted with luscious vegetation facades. On the inside, a bright, spacious and comfortable feel is achieved thanks to glass halls, skylights, large windows and French balconies. According to its website: “The OAS1S™ constructions are 100 per cent cradle-to-cradle prefabricated of biobased and recycled elements”. Completely off-grid, they rely on green technology such as “solar panels and boilers, gray water and filtration systems, water and heat storage, heat pumps and infrared heating”.
Their design reflects OAS1S founder's - architect Raimond de Hullu - city of the future vision, a place where “people live in tree-scrapers that are set in a city woodland. There is no sign of cars or power lines around the homes, which are energy and water self-sufficient”.
Since its website launch in 2015, the company, which works with local partners (construction and engineering firms, suppliers) to ensure maximum local economic and environmental benefits, has received a number of pilot project proposals for eco-resorts in Canada and the Caribbean, as well as in Europe. According to a piece in Fast Coexist, de Hullu wants to keep the houses affordable by adopting a community land trust model that would see a non-profit own the land and dwellers own (and sell) the building on top of the land.
These buildings' clever and beautiful designs can certainly bring the issue of sustainable urban planning and architecture to the fore. With some 66 percent of the world population forecast to live in cities by 2050 , supporting solutions that minimise our cities' impact on the environment, while promoting sustainable development opportunities for its residents, is of paramount importance. Clearly, integrated green transport systems alongside such eco-design in buildings will be key in ensuring that any environmental, as well as quality of life benefits, can be fully tapped into.
It will be interesting to see how quickly projects like OAS1S can grow and develop, and how 'treescapes' can become integral elements – rather than just small green pockets - within our urban architecture.