Barbara Buter: Treehouse FOR KIDS!
Treehugger: A Discovery Company
March 31st, 2009
Beautiful, Durable Play Structures for Kids
I used to think treehouse were just for kids. But then I started writing for TreeHugger and was exposed to beautiful, elegant, grown-up versions like New Zealand Yellow Pages' Treehouse Restaurant, or this more controversial 'invisible' mirrored treehouse in Sweden. So it's kind of nice to see that people are still building treehouses for kids. Barbara Butler has been building treehouse since 1987 - offering custom built treehouse and play structures that allow kids to get out and experience nature.
As one might expect with a client like that includes celebrities like Robert Redford, Will Smith, Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, the structures are not cheap (prices seem to start at around $10,000) - but these things look like they are built to last. And Barbara's folks tell us that they are built with the environment firmly in mind:
"Barbara Butler structures are made from reusable, sustainable, biodegradable natural redwood lumber and treated with non-toxic stain. The wood construction heart grade or better, from second growth, well-managed forests. They also offer certified wood. The certification ensures that the wood comes from responsibly managed forests. Barbara never uproots trees and will customized her designs around existing landscape."
Of course the pedantic TreeHugger in me would be tempted to point out that most wood is biodegradable, and it would certainly be nice to see certified lumber being the default option - but it sounds like they are on the right track.
Durability is undoubtedly one of the central tenets of sustainability - and it appears they have that element sewn up.
Barbara herself added this to the conversation: "We use and recommend "Rubberific" mulch as the surfacing around our play structures. It's made from recycled tires and it's a fantastic product: kids really do bounce off it! We recycle our products: we help clients sell or donate to charity their structures when they move or when their kids grow up. We bring the structures back to our shop, completely refurbish them and then deliver the "almost new" structure to their new home.
While we don't start with recycled lumber, all our construction methods are geared to building a play structure that is long-lasting, repairable, and renewable so that they can endure for generations with very little care. For example: 12 years ago I built and delivered a playhouse for Lauren's 3rd birthday. She was thrilled and loved that playhouse for years. She just turned 16 and she wanted to give the playhouse to a family who might not be able to afford one. We partnered with Lauren and her family to refurbish the playhouse at no charge: we brought it back to our shop, cleaned and repaired it and then Lauren and her mom Ellen worked for several days with out staining crew to re-stain the structure and get it ready for delivery. Through the Bay Area chapter of Rebuilding Together, we found a family that takes in foster children to give the playhouse to. Next week we'll make the delivery, with Ellen and Lauren helping."