| open source construction set

WikiHouse is an Open Source construction system that makes it possible for anyone to design, download, adapt, share and ‘print’ CNC-milled* high-performance, low-cost houses that they can assemble by hand with minimal formal skill or training, anywhere.

WikiHouse is a non-profit project, developing hardware and software which is open and shared in the commons, owned by everyone.

WikiHouse diagram 1

The purpose of the WikiHouse construction set is that the end structure is ready to be made weathertight using cladding, insulation, damp-proof membranes and windows. WikiHouse is still an experiment in its early stages.

*CNC means Computer Numerical Control. A computer converts the design produced by Computer Aided Design software (CAD), into numbers. The numbers can be considered to be the coordinates of a graph and they control the movement of the cutter. In this way the computer controls the cutting and shaping of the material.

Visit the Open library and read the Design guide.

All the information shared on is offered as an open invitation to the public, collaborators and co-developers who are interested in putting Open Source solutions to these problems in the public domain. If you are working on one of these, or would like to know (or do) more, please contact WikiHouse.

TED 23 May 2013

Alastair Parvin: Architecture for the people by the people
Architect Alastair Parvin presents a simple but provocative idea: what if, instead of architects creating buildings for those who can afford to commission them, regular citizens could design and build their own houses? The concept is at the heart of Wikihouse.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.

WikiHouse 2 (1)WikiHouse 1 (1)WikiHouse construction set (1)

Another profile:
WikiHouse prototype (1)

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, Democracy, Design, Economics, Geography, Innovation, Inspiration, Media, Name, People, Project management, Property, Site, Town planning, Urban design

22 responses to “ | open source construction set

  1. Really ugly building. So does architect now mean ugly?

    • Hype O'Thermia

      It’s too early to call. The technology has to be proven, demonstrated, the product field-tested. Their funding isn’t lavish. I don’t mind small and plain houses anyway. They’re not as bad as McMansions in every style covering the majority of the section. This one is either a home already, or a starter to be adapted, added to as funds, needs and technology increase.

  2. Who is going to A. Organise this? We all need leaders. B. Pay for it (the DCC ratepayers?) and C. Pay off the DCC inspectors or city leaders who are behind the DCC councillors and who REALLY call the shots?

    • Not sure why you think a local authority should organise or pay for this system experimentation and development. The system is inspired by empowering people to pay for and build their own – yet obviously has relevance for disaster relief as much as meeting affordable housing need, increasing the number of livable rooms (intensification), or throwing up at your favourite holiday spot… The private sector has all the means to cater for the technology and the builds; the market in normal circumstances can deliver components from your average building supplies store.

  3. Mike

    I met the local wikihouse people recently (they’re out of Wellington – I think it’s as ugly as you want it to be – the idea is to create a building system that is flexible. If you want a beautiful house design it that way.

    The basic idea here is that we have all these cool new ways to work with materials, especially wood, we’re no longer stuck with 4x2s (10x5s) as a basic building block, instead we can use a CNC router to make arbitrary shapes out of construction ply.

    I think that they’ll start out with these long ,almost 2D shapes (the same shape repeated along the building), and as people learn how to work with the tools and materials and contribute their work back into the commons pool for others to take and rework to be their own

    • Mike

      Actually I take it back they’re out of Christchurch, not Wellington

    • The design library (see link) begins to show the potential working variations and indicates the structural engineering needs to implement success for componentry (pods) and a whole build. Note foundations – how the structure is tied to the ground – aren’t included. In the end, WikiHouse is a flat-pack lego-type process, a cutting and interlocking system – not all that different to how traditional log cabins are put together.

      • Mike

        Yeah I agree, that’s why I was basically saying it’s currently a 2D section extruded into the 3rd – that’s sort of the obvious extension of the underlying technology.

        (the local WikiHouse people carry around a bunch of table top models, they get to prototype easily with laser cutters)

        But adding curves and changes in dimension are quite possible using this technology, it’s just a little bit harder, most of the hard stuff probably involves the computer CAD tools rather than the fab systems (probably needs a 5D rather than a 3D router table though).

        Just wait for the first 3D printed concrete houses, suddenly freed from the tyranny of straight lines I bet we’re going to see young architects go wild with a plethora of ’60s style organically shaped hippie dome houses.

  4. That will add some furrows to our Neil McCleod’s grumpy brow. He will be needing a whole new tribe of indians to cope.

  5. Speaking of cutting tools and componentry… go Farra !!!!

    ### ODT Online Wed, 23 Apr 2014
    Cutting-edge machine speeds up work
    By Simon Hartley
    Dunedin company Farra Engineering has taken delivery of new specialist $1 million sheet metal-working machine, the first of its kind in the country. The Japanese-made Amada LC2012 combines the work of three separate workshop machines and can cut down component making and handling from one hour per item to as little as 15 minutes, Farra’s sheet metal division manager, Mark Stewart, said. Although laser cutting is relatively common now, the Amada can hole-punch the sheet metal, fold it and tap holes and also laser cut, where required.
    Read more

  6. Hype O'Thermia

    Chocky < award to Alan dubcek for fearless ouchiness in changeable weather conditions.

  7. This narrowly avoided spam status, again.

    {24 April. Alan dubcek requested removal of his comment. -Eds}

  8. Rob Hamlin

    Never found 2 x 4’s, 4 inch nails and a Skil saw that hard meself. Looks like about 30% of that ply’s cut to waste on the cutting chart & even I can do a damn sight better than that – Sheet and stud. Thick ply’s not cheap, and it would be a mountain of expensive kindling as a by-product for the average house.

  9. Like Rob, in my time I’ve built a few things (in my case houses, farm buildings and commercial premises), using a few tools… but I dislike the 4×2 basically, so I’m always looking for other ways to use timber (including processed timber, and timber offcuts or by-products), and other materials and systems to make building interesting… in the way things go together, giving strength, shelter, warmth and aesthetics on a small budget.

    WikiHouse is conceptual and developmental, I love the idea of making it more efficient, more accessible and less wasteful. I’m an Ikea flatpack fan… But also, I wouldn’t have ignored aeronautical engineering software either if I was Frank Gehry or later. Pushing technology in the hunt for structural solutions that are paper-doll play for lay people looking for cosy own-builds and sustainable building methods, to me, IS architecture… I’d buy into the Open Source experiment, enhance the crafting, materials whatever — early days for WikiHouse.

    I’m also liking its irony, its modern analogy to traditional Japanese and Scandanavian timber craft, the knotting and joining, boat building et al. Not forgetting the kitset snap-together plastic toys we used to get in cereal packets in the 1960s – huge fun for so little cost…

    I’m with Mike on the future of 3D printing and the hyper-spatiality of up-Ds on the routing [backwards/forwards (???) to those ‘space-age’ engineering packages]… applied to other materials, with or without their own integrity before being combined — experiment is living! And if we can roof more people well… unlike the stadium…

    Add a touch of George Clarke’s amazing spaces.

  10. Richard

    Ok so we have a video of them putting up over designed framing, with a celebration that is a bit premature, as there’s a long way to go before this becomes a place to live. This Wiki house concept has been around for a long time and it’s still requiring hand-outs to get off the ground. We already have a very cost effective framing system that requires a skillsaw and a hammer to assemble. Two men could have done that in a morning with our standard framing system. The problem will also become more obvious when they try to assemble something bigger than a shed.

    • Elizabeth

      Richard, can you provide more information about your system.
      Agree, didn’t see any progress much with WikiHouseNZ….

      • Richard


        Not really my system, but the current method of building houses here in NZ. 100×50 framing at 400 crs, line it both sides and insulate. For WikiHouse to succeed it has to do a better job than the status quo. It is my view that it can’t. All the structures you see actually built, still require exterior and interior linings. So they are in fact a long way from being complete. Using 18 mm ply would be cost prohibitive as Rob has suggested. In fact a 7 m/2 simple shed requires 52 sheets of 18 mm ply to reach a point where you can fix the roof cladding and exterior cladding. I have tried to attached an image of the shed, but looks like it’s not there. There is a YouTube video of a person assembling some frames, it looks painful to say the least. The last house I framed up was 150m/2. It took myself and a pot smoking snowboarder 3 days to cut, assemble and erect all the framing. Split levels and vaulted ceiling in places. Another day for trusses and rafters and it was as far on as the Wiki examples. As an interesting side note, we did all the wall framing for $4000 less than the cost of pre cut framing, 2001 prices.
        Knowing how long this idea has been around and the level of real interest I see its demise in the not too distant future. That is not to say there is not merit in prefabricated systems, as I believe there is, just not this one.

  11. Elizabeth

    Fundraiser for Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust

    ### April 10, 2015 – 6:02pm
    Charity house to be entirely constructed in a carpark
    Nail by nail, an entire house is being constructed in a Dunedin carpark this month. The project’s for charity, and involves dozens of builders working around the clock until completion. And they’ve only got half a dozen days of construction, before the home has to be ready for auction.

  12. Elizabeth

    With assistance from Otago Polytechnic pre-trade students.

    Once completed, the house will be open for viewing by the public, before being auctioned by Harcourts Dunedin on May 16.

    ### ODT Online Sat, 11 Apr 2015
    They can rest on the seventh day
    By Elliot Parker
    A house built in six days? Easy. Certified Builders Association of New Zealand members from across Otago will be volunteering their time and skills over the next two weekends to build a three-bedroom house, to raise money for the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust. Mitre 10 Mega Dunedin has organised the project in which up to 20 association members will take part in the build in the store’s Andersons Bay Rd car park.
    Read more

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