adam shephard uses energy from tree growth for production
adam shephard uses energy from tree growth for production adam shephard uses energy from tree growth for production
jul 02, 2013

adam shephard uses energy from tree growth for production

adam shephard uses energy from tree growth for production




our present day currencies of manufacturing are often centered around speed and cost, often at the expense of ‘responsible’ production. taking this into account, designer adam shephard proposes ‘arbor facere’ (tree factories), in which he challenges the culture of high-speed fabrication and consumption, by suggesting a ‘slow’ system of assembly.


trees have been used as a material in the grander network of our production economy as part of paper and furniture manufacturing, as well in the ship-building industry, for centuries. shephard’s aim is create a direct link between the woody perennials, and what they are capable of producing. the british designer has conceived a system in collaboration with engineer bill ballard, in which he outfits trees with technological devices that are used to harness the energy from their growth–the naturally occurring forces of pressure that develop over an extended period of time–to produce objects normally associated with high-speed and often ecologically irresponsible production, in this case injection moulding, changing our perception of a tree as a part of nature, into one that envisions them as industrial machines, essentially, the forest as factory.



a band of webbing is wrapped around a tree trunk which is spooled on a central axel, drawing outwards as the tree grows compressing a piston



‘arbor facere’ explores two aspects:
the first is that of the trees and their now direct and obvious connection to their industrial role as mechanical and technological entities. the second is the forced consideration of extended timescales in the scheme of the manufacturing processes, wavering between being a critique of modernization, and a proposed alternative system of production.


the basis of shephard’s system draws on the gradual increase of pressure that is generated from the growing diameter of a tree trunk. each tree in shephard’s factory is surrounded by a band of webbing, spooled on a central axel that draws outwards as the tree grows, compressing a piston. his first iterations will use a cylinder with a capacity of 15cc and target pressure of 300bar, in which the collected energy will be used to injection mould two small plastic trees, each with the volume of 7.5cc. the resulting pieces will each have a range of inherent characteristics as a result of their creation of time, with the tree’s rate of growth engrained into the resulting objects as evidenced through the change in the plastic’s coloration over time. with this, the growth of the tree will be established into the objects through the change in the employed plastic material’s coloration over time. in doing so, shephard hopes to shed light on ways in which objects can be mass produced in the future; each one unique and old at the point of their materialization, intrinsically linked with histories of their place and period of development. with genetically modified trees becoming more commonplace (some reaching heights of 30 metres in approximately 5 and a half years), places ‘arbor facere’ offers a much more viable method of production, that rivals current ones in a more sustainable fashion.


up close of the device which harnesses energy from the growth of a tree





shephard’s ‘arbor facere’ opposes today’s need for quick and easy production



tree testing device



projected tree factory scale



output render


  • This is a great representation of the age of modernity we are living in – the new renaissance.

    Alexander Kandisaputro says:
  • so silly and funny 🙂
    but the trees are smarter than that: if you expected to harness greater forces from such a contraption, the trunks would grow thicker above and below the ring, escaping your clever energy traps…

    Quelava says:
  • Interestingly funny!
    But why not attach the band of webbing vertically? I am pretty sure the tree expenses a lot more in that direction…

    Sjoerd says:
  • Vertically would do nothing because trees grow in diameter. As the tree grows in height a limb at 10′ remains at 10′.
    I’ll go with silly and funny.
    I prefer the method of making square bamboo by forcing it to grow in an elongated square box.

    Dan says:
  • its a lovely idea but it looks like the fabrication of this would be really bad for the environment – would so much energy to setup im not sure if it would be efficient…

    alice says:
  • its a lovely idea but it looks like the fabrication of this would be really bad for the environment – would use so much energy to setup im not sure if it would be efficient…

    alice says:
  • well each peace would need to be priced at $100 + each to get any return on investment, sure that would work, anyone there want to pay that much for a lego tree?

    morgan says:
  • An interesting way of thinking nonetheless..

    K says:
  • I like the innovative thinking behind this. There may be plenty of details to nail out and yes it may or may not be commercially viable in the long run but most importantly it challenges the current practises.

    Max Pieters says:
  • Fascinating and smart commentary on our relationship to the earth, production, and consumption. It’s as much conceptual art as it is an actual sustainable method of fabrication. I wonder if there is a feasible application of this idea to a rapidly growing plant like bamboo.

    dan zimmerman says:
  • adam shephard could harness more energy by harvesting its own farts

    dick says:
  • bravo!

    fotis says:

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