Dead Trees Make Good Homes: The L41 Proves Less Can Be More

Speaking of green prefab houses, how many square feet, exactly, do you require before you’ll call it home? What about 220? I realize that, as a recently apartment-searching New Yorker wrung through the NYC rental market – where brokers use the term “bedroom” to describe a closet into which a bed can be jammed – my perspective may be a bit skewed. But I actually think this teensy home looks perfectly cozy. So did its creator and architect Michael Katz, and artist Janet Corne.


The L41 (“home for all”), is, according to the company’s website, designed with “the millions of people who otherwise could not afford to buy a house” in mind. They imagine it will fill a housing gap and serve (their list, not mine): first-time buyers, students, seniors, hotels, special-needs folks, the homeless, the military, and towns in need of emergency housing, among other groups.

Treehugger says the L41 is also partly a product of Vancouver’s decision to allow “back lane” building (here’s an explanation of the term), or homes in previously designated vacant lots. At a tidy, boxlike 220 square feet, sure, it could probably fit in any back lane – but I can also see the L41 standing alone in lots of rural settings. Who wouldn't like to escape to one of these open, breezy, compact units in some coniferous forest somewhere?

My favorite green detail about the L41 is that it’s made of “beetle-killed, cross-laminated timber,” which means that only dead trees are used in construction. Building a home of deceased trees sounds about as wise as taking a page out of the first little piggie’s book and building with straw (people are doing that, too), but actually, the stuff is “so strong, earthquake and fire-proof that it can be used as a substitute for Concrete in medium-rise buildings.”  

The tree-assassin in this case is the pine beetle; it’s already killed enough trees in British Columbia alone that L41 could build 100 million units before running out of sustainable timber. And if no one finds a way to use all this perfectly good (albeit dead) timber, it’ll rot within the next 10-15 years. What a waste that would be.

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less