Frequently Asked Questions
Tom Chudleigh: Inventor and Manufacturer of Free Spirit Spheres answers the most commonly asked questions about our Spherical Treehouses.
Where can we eat?
There is a wide variety of restaurants and eateries – everything from neighbourhood pubs to fine dining – within 5 to 25 kms of Free Spirit Spheres. The two main local tourism and chamber of commerce websites have fairly comprehensive lists of food service providers in our area. We are happy to point you in the right direction once you arrive.
How do we get there?
We are located approximately 60 km north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The island is serviced by three international airports and numerous ferry routes that transport vehicles and passengers to and from mainland British Columbia and Washington State. Click here for more information regarding how to plan your trip to stay with us.
Do you serve breakfast?
We do not serve breakfast. A complimentary snack basket is provided on your day of arrival.
Do we bring our own bedding and towels?
Even though you will be communing with nature, you won’t be ‘roughing it’. We supply bedding, towels, housecoats, hot showers and a sauna.
Are there bathrooms in the spheres?
The are no bathroom facilities within the spheres. There is a composting toilet outhouse at the base of each sphere, and each sphere has its own private 3-piece bathroom in the bathhouse, located approximately 50m from the base of each sphere.
Can the spheres be used in the cold?
Our spheres are equipped with electric heaters controlled by wall mounted thermostats. They can be used in temperatures down to about – 20 C without any modification. Better insulation could be installed as well as a better heater if the sphere was to be used in a colder climate.
What’s the height from the ground?
They can be sitting on the ground in a cradle or as high up in the air as the trees will permit. Currently Eve is nestled 3.1 meters (10′) off the forest floor, Eryn 4.6 meters (15′) and Melody 4.3 meters (14′). The limiting factors are the size and spacing of the trees. The grander the forest, the more opportunities for siting spheres and other canopy infrastructure.
What kind of wood do you use to build spheres?
I use wood that is local light, bendy and takes the glue well. Eve was made from Yellow Cedar and Eryn from Sitka Spruce. I have used mahogany and teak to finish the interiors, however, now I like to use black walnut for its beautiful character, and the fact that it grows closer to us than the exotic hardwoods.
What are the dimensions inside and out?
Outside diameter of a fiberglass shell = 3200mm or 10′6″. The wall thickness of a fiberglass sphere is about 3mm. The sphere then has a set of wooden frames about 18mm or 3/4″ thick added inside to make the finished inside diameter of the sphere 3150mm or 10′4″.
Is the floor flat?
For Eve and Eryn, there is a small flat floor area in the middle of the sphere, much like a camper (or caravan). Melody and our office sphere Gwyn do have flat floors at the level of the door.
How much does a sphere sway?
The spheres sway gently in any significant breeze but move much more abruptly when someone inside changes position. Since the tethers are almost vertical, and a sphere is tied to 3 separate trees, the movement of the sphere in the wind is a muted average of the motion of the treetops. However, since the spheres are light (500 kg) when somebody inside moves, the whole sphere moves also.
How does the door open?
When the door handle is turned it pulls 4 pins that release the 4 catches on the door. Then it can be pulled or pushed and swung out of the way. The hinges articulate on both ends. This allows the door to move straight out of its hole before it starts to swing. When the door is swung shut there are 4 latches that lock the door into the hole in the side of the sphere. The latches are at the top, bottom and both sides of the door.
What is there to do around your place?
We are close to all kinds of activities, with each season offering remarkable adventure opportunities! Walk from our driveway to the salmon hatchery on Big Qualicum River. Lighthouse Country Trails, Cathedral Grove, Horne Lake Caves, as well as Ziplining and Kayak tours are all available nearby. For those desiring the taste of small towns, we are within 30 mins of Cumberland, Coombs, Qualicum Beach and Parksville. Please see our Explore the Area page for more detailed information regarding activities in our region.
What made you look to the trees?
I want to live harmoniously within nature and not destroy it. To enable people to move into and inhabit the forest without taking it down first. To live in and among the trees and to use them for a foundation. In this way the foundation depends on maintaining a healthy ecosystem. It also gives me back a magic environment right outside my front door. This idea is in direct contrast to the predominant method of ‘clearing land’ and building from concrete foundations, which essentially chases the magic of place away…
What is you best moment you have spent in a sphere?
My favourite time in the sphere is when I’m alone in bed a night, after the lights are out. You can see out into the forest and still see the shape of the ceiling. It’s like being in a nut shell that’s decorated like a palace. It feels like you are floating in the canopy among the sleeping birds. When it’s stormy it can be tense, but nothing like a storm at sea.
Is there power?
Each sphere is equipped with a standard power connection that is recessed into the side of the sphere where the suspension bridge attaches. There are four standard North American-style electrical plugs in each sphere, allowing you to use any normal electrical devices. Each sphere is equipped with electric lighting and heat, built-in speakers and a kettle for making warm drinks (tea and coffee are provided).
Are the spheres safe?
Our guests’ safety is of paramount importance to us. The spheres are engineered to withstand almost any given situation in the forest. Click here for more information regarding construction techniques and processes. We maintain a rigorous maintenance schedule that includes regular inspections of every tree, tether and shackle that holds a sphere in the air. We do require all guests to sign a waiver form upon arrival, which serves to inform and remind people of the various risks one naturally takes when in a forest environment. Partly as a result of our proactive approach to safety, we are proud to say that we have a clean safety record since we opened Free Spirit Spheres to the public in 2006.
Is there an ideal type of tree to hang spheres?
Here in the Pacific Northwest we have an abundance of large conifers with tall straight trunks and small branches, which are ideal for suspending a sphere within three trees. While it is possible to hang spheres in many different types of trees using various suspension techniques, the most important consideration is knowing the characteristics of the trees and the forest you intend to inhabit. You would never want to use trees that tend to fall down when they get big! As a rule of thumb you can always test your chosen points of suspension by rigging a line from the suspension point to the base of an adjacent tree. Then place a tension gauge in the line and apply a strain to it with a come-along. I test my attachments to about 1 tonne. If they can take that they can hold a sphere. Always consult an arborist about the nature of the trees if you are considering doing anything like this at home!
Where did the idea come from?
Understandably, almost everyone wants to know where the idea came from. I always tell them it came from the spirit realm – some look at me like I’m nuts, while others knowingly nod. So it goes.
The way I see it I am a spiritual being having an experience in a body. If the Creator/Spirit is everywhere and in everything, including me, then I am one with it and everything else in all of existence. This way of thinking led me to pose a question to Spirit: “What can I do to prolong these ‘whole-minded moments’ which arise from my awareness of oneness in meditative and creative states?” The idea for the spheres came as a response to that question.
Architecture is a way of shaping and creating habitat to reflect a feeling and to harmonize with the environment. The sphere is a form of architecture that reflects that thought of unity and feeling of oneness. Where normal square/rectangular housing separates walls, floor and ceiling with hard lines and often colour and material changes – in a sphere they all become one. Like a nut, it also has some amazing engineering properties, as the shell tends to distribute stresses throughout the unified structure rather than a bunch of disconnected panels. The principle at play here is called ‘biomimicry‘.
Then, continuing with Spirit’s idea, take a sphere and hang it from ropes, letting it float in space. The web of rope the spheres hang from is more biomimicry. It spreads the attachment around to many different strong points and ensures safety in a dynamic environment like a forest canopy. I grew up dreaming of tree houses and it’s a space that feels like magic to me. There are many spaces that have that magic feel on the planet and this is one model of accessing them without destroying the environment.