The WikiHouse team created a blueprint that would allow everyday people to build their own homes using open sourced designs and locally sourced materials
Here is the official description, followed by an analysis by Eric Hunting.
“WikiHouse is a contribution to the debate on Open Hardware and Open Design by 00:/, Momentum Engineering, Espians, Beatrice Galilee… and a global community of designers, including YOU!
WikiHouse will be shared via a Creative Commons license for anyone to adapt and improve. A WikiHouse is fabricated from locally sourced plywood cut on a CNC mill from openly shared template files, and assembled with minimal skill by local people.
The first WikiHouse will be constructed in South Korea at the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011. We are now looking for architects, furniture designers, product designers, and craftsmen from around the world who are interested in contributing to the WikiHouse process. If that’s you then please drop us an line on [email protected]!”
Eric Hunting writes:
WikiHouse is a project developed by London design group 00:/ intended to explore the prospect of Open Hardware development in architectural design and housing. It’s objective is to establish a series of Creative Commons licensed housing designs that are engineered for production from plywood using CNC and assembly with simple puzzle-fit construction, bolts, and screws. These designs are intended for on-line distribution as Google SketchUp data allowing free access and customization. The designs draw heavily on the previous work of MIT in CNC-based housing construction, using much the same kind of puzzle-fit structural system. MIT’s own work on this concept turned to commercialization of on-demand production services through proprietary software doing procedural CAD/CAM generation rather than truly hackable Open Hardware development. So here is an opportunity to really put this technology into the public’s and the open tech community’s hands.
Six simple structures are shown on the site, based on a stressed skin structural system using clear span bay sections linked by slot-fit cross members and rigidized by skin panels. Most are single floor cottage or shed scale. This form of construction has been demonstrated sound in a great many other projects to date and well suits the use of flat bed CNC and simple CAD drawing. It has become increasingly popular with a lot of student architecture projects because of its versatility, though it has some limitations with window and door installation. However, 00:/ ‘s designs appear rudimentary and experimental. None are shown in a finished state and only one small portion of a structure seems to have been prototyped so far.
Though strong and very flexible in the range of modest scale forms possible, this kind of structural system tends to favor ‘throw away’ architecture because the finished products are very limited in adaptation and post-construction customization -even more so than conventional stick frame construction. Plywood itself varies greatly from country to country and manufacturer to manufacturer in long-term resilience and in the use of potential toxic binder materials and wood preservatives. These structures are potentially somewhat demountable in core structure but not very reconfigurable because the design is locked by the absolute form of the unit profile sections and they ultimately rely on ‘destructive’ assembly using self-embedding screws, nails, glues and conventional non-removable interior finishing. Repair and renovation are surgically destructive processes. This is generally overlooked as a ‘problem’ with these structures as they rarely get used permanently and because conventional housing construction is generally the same. But it does limit the potential economy of this housing to little better than conventional because most of the costs of housing construction is in finishing, not primary structure. So as long as one outfits the interior in a conventional way, the economy of these kinds of structures comes only from the relatively small net reduced time and possible sweat equity in the primary construction. This, however, is much improved where buildings are modest in scale and the interior design exploits the virtues of the clear-span volumes through open plan design. This is particularly well suited to quick-build relief housing where finishing is kept minimalist or mostly eliminated by utilitarian pre-finished/non-finished materials. In that context, this approach is a real boon with a potential to exploit truly low cost materials like laminated cardboard or recycled materials.
Despite the limitations, the very easy ‘hackability’, simple materials, ready suitability for flat-bed CNC, and freedom of experimentation with minimum CGI skills at the pre-construction level makes such structures an appropriate choice in an Open Hardware context and this project’s idea of establishing freely accessed/customized plans on-line has great potential. Unfortunately, this design team doesn’t seem as yet to be doing very much to realize that potential. There are no CAD or model files for any of their structures available on the above web site. No detailed descriptions or renderings of any designs. No step-by-step instructions. No attempt to characterize the structural system as with a standard design methodology. Either we have caught this project in a very early stage of development, or they have among them a very nebulous notion of what Open Hardware is about, how you communicate with the larger community, and what designers’ roles are in this context. They note that they will be showcasing their first full house at a design conference in Korea in September, which is nice, but that sort of traditional venue is irrelevant to Open Hardware. For that, the Internet is your showcase venue and the ‘source files’ -the CAD files and instructions- what you showcase and share. The whole point to Open Hardware is open participation and the ‘source files’ are the essential medium of that participation. If they’re ready to go for september, shouldn’t there be a complete design to show on their web site now? They must have the CAD and modeling done for that much.
Frankly, this kind of thing just isn’t that hard. The average maker on Instructibles would have more work to show by now. If the idea is to keep things under wraps until the ‘coming out’ presentation, one has to ask what one might hope to get at the Gwangju Biennale that you can’t get on Thingiverse? The point is how many of the sort of people who will _use_ an Open Hardware design one can reach, not those who will just gawk at it and do a magazine write-up. Are we looking at another Riversimple Urban Car hyping itself as ‘open source’ yet, years later, there are still no CAD files and production details released to the public? Hopefully 00:/ will soon avail themselves of some real makers who can set them straight on what Open Hardware is all about. There is a great opportunity here, and it would be a tragedy to miss it.”