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Tree House, Clapham

If you imagined a place where someone would build a zero carbon house, you’d probably picture a woodland glade or a quiet corner in the country.  You wouldn’t think of a neglected wilderness on an otherwise built up street in Clapham.  But this is where you’ll find Tree House, the brainchild of Will Anderson and Ford Hickson.


Tree House Clapham

From September 2004 when the clearing of the site began, a dedicated team of workers helped to create their vision of a house which would work in harmony with the nature already in residence. 

The central inspiration for the design was the sycamore tree on the site.  The aim was for the building to work like a tree, being an adaptable and beautiful timber structure taking its energy from the sun.  The timber clad staircase curving up the front of the house creates a trunk-like form and at the top of the house exposed branch-like trusses hold up the roof.

The house was built using many reclaimed, recycled and second hand materials and products.  Sustainable timber was used for the main structure and the roof tiles were made using recycled plastic.  Recycled newspaper forms the wall insulation and reclaimed teak the flooring material.   Even the paints used were environmentally sound, being fully organic and therefore containing none of the toxic ingredients of more traditional products.

The house was designed to be as insulated and airtight as possible.  What heating and hot water is needed is supplied by the solar thermal panel on the roof and the ground source heat pump in conjunction with the underfloor heating system.  Electricity comes from photovoltaic panels, also on the roof.

To cut down on water needs, ultra-low flush toilets were fitted along with efficient taps, showers and appliances.  Rainwater fills an underground cistern and is used in the garden.

The aim was for more energy to be generated by the house than it consumed, with the surplus being exported to the grid.  This was achieved in the first year, with a net total of 25KWh going to the grid.  In year 2 this increased to 104KWh. Water consumption was calculated as being 90 litres less per person that the national average, a total of 62 litres per person per day instead of 152 litres.

Although energy efficiency and function were central concerns in the design of the house, purely decorative elements were added as well.  Both contemporary and reclaimed stained glass was used in the house itself and reclaimed metal was used to make the fire inspired garden fence (pictured).

The house takes up only a third of the plot, leaving plenty of room for the existing animal residents in an organic garden with flowers to attract bees, butterflies and other insects and places to nest for birds, bats, bees and wasps.  A small pond was also built to bring even more wildlife into the garden.

For more information on the house go to .  The site includes Will Anderson’s diary notes detailing the whole project, information on suppliers and photos and drawings to inspire your own self build ambitions.

Thanks to Will Anderson for permission to use material from the Tree House website.


Author Rebecca Laird

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