"Working at heights is risky," affirms Geoff de Ruiter when quizzed by Gizmag on the challenges he faced while building a tiny treehouse perched 5.1 m (17 ft) off the ground in British Columbia. Happily though, the University of Northern British Columbia PhD student recently completed the Raven Loft treehouse without incident for just US$8,200, plus land costs, leaving him with a mortgage- and debt-free tiny retreat.
The plan to construct a tiny treehouse was some time in the making. Inspired by the small living movement and interested in living sustainably, de Ruiter also liked the idea of owning a bolthole suitable for vacations or even full-time living if circumstances required. The thinking being that, if he ever fell on hard times, he wouldn't be in dire straits as long as he had a roof over his head.
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To turn this vision into a viable home, de Ruiter first bought a 0.2 hectare (0.5 acre) plot of rural land on Pender Island, British Columbia, for the bargain price of $35,000. Then the real hard work began.
"Walking around roofing, siding, windows, all had my mind constantly thinking oh God watch out!" says de Ruiter. "But I rock climb and that definitely helped me negotiate the risk of working at height. It was a great feeling when I had the four main walls up. I could relax a lot more then. My recommendation [is] unless you are a professional treehouse builder, there is no need to build so high in the air. Everything takes longer and is harder to do."
Constructed from wood and clad with multiple sidings, including cedar and cedar shingles, the Raven Loft sports a SIP (structurally insulated panel) floor, supported by a ground support pole. It's secured to a large cedar tree with a triangle brace and some brackets manufactured for the purpose.
The treehouse measures just 2.4 x 4 m (8 x 13 ft), and access is gained by steep wooden stairs which are set on wheels and a small track to allow slight movement when it shifts in the wind. The front door sports a combination lock and opens onto a snug living and dining area that includes a bed couch and a small bathroom with composting toilet, but no shower or bath. The kitchen features an inductive stove (heated by an element so no dangerous flames), mini-fridge, drawers, and a sink (the latter being acquired free of charge).
The local harsh winters notwithstanding, required heating comes from the lighting, a tea candle-based heater, and a more standard electric heater.
Steps with integrated storage lead from the living area to a loft space with a double bed. The loft also contains a small water "reservoir," in truth a large water bottle, that feeds the kitchen tap on the floor below. Yet another loft, little more than a crawl space, is reached by a few more steps.
de Ruiter told Gizmag that solar power wasn't a practical option given the forest location. Plus, the fact that the local grid is fed by hydro power means that grid-based juice is relatively green anyway. So the treehouse is powered by an extension from a friendly neighbor. Additional water comes from the neighbors too, as did some windows for the treehouse. Indeed, much of the construction materials were salvaged, reused, or secondhand. Due to the size and kind of building, the Raven Loft is classed as a non-permitted structure, again saving money.
For his next project, de Ruiter reports that he's building another treehouse at his mother's property that will serve as an Airbnb rental. Check out the video below for a tour around the treehouse and some further details on its construction.