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Castles in the Sky

World Treehouses Builds Tree Homes

Article by Tiffany Carlos

Photography by Claire Johnson

Originally published in Asheville Lifestyle

“The magic of treehouses is the connection to the outside world, which is essential to our health and to our humanity. If you slow down enough, you may hear the voice of the mountain,” says Adam Lauder, builder and owner of World Treehouses.  

Adam began working on his carpentry skills when he was 18 years old. He taught yoga for 12 years and admittedly did construction to support his yoga habit. He then took a job building zip lines, and high in the canopy of the trees, his inspiration began. Since 2010, he has been on the road building zip lines, tree platforms and recently, houses in the trees!

“My main focus is to bring some sort of healing through whatever I’m doing,” Adam says. “I am trying to heal people through treehouses.”

As a builder, Adam’s mind functions in "nuts, bolts and puzzles." He talks of how being in the trees, he is working with a living being that is so much wiser than us.

Do you have your own treehouse?

I do have a platform in my yard that is 65 feet up, and I climb up there with a harness. It’s there where I can really think about how there’s something that the tree does. It’s an amazing creature that gives us oxygen, building supplies and firewood. I wouldn’t mind living in one myself. There is something about downsizing and only having exactly what you need. I like the idea of living high up and feeling the trees move beneath me. The most important part of any structure, including ourselves, is its relationship to the outside. I feel like you are a lot more tuned in to the world if you can be connected to the outside. Every time we get too comfortable, we get a little more disconnected.

Have you built for kids or adults or both?

The treehouses I have built have been for adults, mainly because the hardware is so expensive that it can cost $5,000 for the bolts. The reason is they have the least impact on the trees, and they are the strongest and could hold 8,000 pounds per bolt! Currently, there is one I am installing a wood stove in. It is important to use the right hardware and engineer it to be able to withstand both the structure and any type of inclement weather. I am focused on building quality; with anything that is well made, well done and well harvested, you can tell there’s something magical, with care and love put into it.

Is there a standard size of treehouse? What’s the most elaborate one you’ve built?

They are all so unique in different ways. In terms of elaborate, each one has been a unique creation. One might be bigger or have this feature but doesn’t have that feature. It depends on the size of the tree. My building partner built one with bathrooms! Although it is possible to plumb them, it is very tricky because you have to be super sensitive to the root system of the tree and how to get plumbing up and down without freezing. Electricity can be common, depending on how close it is to the house on the property. I have built two with suspension bridges. One has insulation and a gas stove. My business partner has built an Airbnb. There is often deck all around, a living room and a bedroom. It’s kind of like a tiny house in the trees.

What’s the most amazing part?

My favorite part is meeting the trees and figuring out what can be there and then creating the foundation and the rigging. Once the foundation is set, then the structure can proceed. Unlike conventional homebuilding where you find a spot, pour concrete and build up, with treehouses, the structure of the tree dictates what it will allow you to build.  

I built one treehouse that is 35 feet off the ground on the first floor, and the second floor is 45 feet high. You can still feel the trees move, and the structure moves with it. It’s like being in a ship. In some ways, I compare it to how it must feel to people who are building churches—creating a space to be in touch with what they call sacred. It brings them to a place where something feels special, and that’s how I feel building these.

Another amazing part is the team I work with. Depending on the project, I work with independent contractors, but we collaborate. I have a welder, fabricator, designer, another amazing treehouse builder and several other carpenters. There’s a lot of rigging and climbing in this industry, and it requires a set of skills that most normal builders do not have. There are plenty of things that are pretty standard, like metal fabrication or fine furniture, and I use other contractors for those.

What’s the hardest part of what you do?

The hardest part is actually a very nice part. There are guidelines that will work when building in the trees versus building on the ground you can pretty much do whatever you want. With the trees, you can only build so big of a structure. There’s something nice about that. I worked for an architect just to do the foundation and the rigging of one project. I recommended an arborist, and they ignored the recommendation and then they found a big hollow in a tree, so it had to be changed. There are plenty of times where I’ve been on site visits where there either isn’t the most adequate size tree or the arborist finds decay. It is then that I have to get creative to figure out what can I do to make something happen, and it causes a redesign. 

Helping People

Adam’s larger work is in helping people. He makes annual trips to Mexico to study and learn about healing arts and ancient medicines. With the treehouses, he hopes to bring people a different perspective and help build upon their connection to nature.

“It took me a long time to get to this place, and now I realize it was all in order. We are always being led to the next step if we slow down and listen enough."

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