3. Wikihouse: Using open resources

Are there licence restrictions on WikiHouse?

There are no major restrictions to the use of the WikiHouse resources themselves. Although some of the most mature products are now paid for, many of the designs and tools are still free, and access to all the key resources are also free and open.

What other restrictions could I come across?

Regulations have a big impact on a project like this, and management of the build will vary greatly depending on where you are in the world, and what kind of regulations you have to adhere to. Restrictions may also affect what skills you bring into the build team. In the UK you will need licenced contractors for services like gas and electricity. Safety regulations will also have to be taken into consideration.

Regulations over living accommodation can be restrictive, and this is often based around intended use. So, for instance, a garden hut built in the UK and intended for use as a guest bedroom, that only requires a bed and battery powered lighting, will not have too many constraints, especially if it is not too large. However, if you build something that is larger, requires gas, electricity, and running water, and is used for living accommodation, the planning restrictions increase, and so does the need to hire skilled labour.

It is worth remembering that some areas in the UK will have more lenient planning restrictions than others. In highly restricted areas, even the colours of paint that you use will be limited.

What if I don’t know anything about construction projects?

One way to find out more about this kind of thing is to join the WikiHouse community on Slack. Slack is an online tool and discussion forum for managing projects. The WikiHouse Slack community brings together people who are engaged in live WikiHouse projects, so you can find out what problems they have had, and how they solved them. It is also a good way to find out about all the different side projects, and where you may find more resources and expert advice. The people who use the Slack are expected to be contributors, so it is best to join when you are fairly serious about starting a WikiHouse project.

Should I get involved in a community group?

Many WikiHouse projects are initiated by pre-existing community group , so there is already a willing group of volunteers who want to engage in the build. Those people may be less interested in the WikiHouse project, as they are in developing an asset that meets a need for their local community. In most instances, someone who has an interest in new technologies, and cultures will lead the project. The Fountainbridge project started as a group of local activists that wanted to engage with redevelopment and have some say over what would be constructed on a local vacant brownfield site in their area.

However, there is nothing to stop anyone from starting a WikiHouse initiative by advertising locally. This may include advertising for paid for services on local noticeboards, or to find other like-minded people who will be happy to work for experience, and may expect a similar favour in return.

Another way that many WikiHouse projects start is as educational projects through schools and universities. In these cases, the project will be primarily led by a teacher or other academic, who values the educational experience it gives the learners. They are likely to favour community benefit projects over private projects.

How do you weigh up the pros and cons of the resources and materials?

Firstly, you need to decide what level of involvement you want in the project. When you look at 3D designs you have to look at the whole delivery of that project. This includes what access to resources and expertise you want to make use of. Perhaps you only want some kind of authorship over the design itself, the size, and the look and feel. You may want to get into the site preparation, the management of the utilities and the fabrication, or perhaps you are happy to contract out the build. Then for any given design you identify, consider how complete the design information is, and whether or not you are able to fill the gaps in the design yourself.

For example, not all designs come with 3D models, some only come with drawing plans. So if you get into customisation or alteration of a design you need to be able to inspect and manipulate a 3D model in quite a lot of detail. Some projects come with information about the construction, (such as an assembly manual), and others do not. For instance, some projects detail the tolerance of the joints, and these are things that are controlled in the machining of the different components, and can be dependent on the size, thickness and quality of the plywood that you are able to obtain.


Based on your knowledge of the WikiHouse project so far, sketch out a rough design for your house or building project, and search for a design that might be suitable on WikiHouse.cc.

If you do not have a suitable piece of land to develop your project on, identifying that will be the first step. Next find out the location and contact details for your local planning office or building warrant office. This would be your first stop shop to better understand the local regulations for your self-build project.

List these local authority bodies, including the services that each provide in a journal or sketchbook. Then identify what skills you would need for your self-build, and where you would find them in your local area. This might is likely include

  1. CNC machining
  2. Groundwork
  3. Electricians
  4. Plumbers
  5. Gas engineers

What other skills would you like to bring to the mix, to fill the gaps in your own knowledge base?

Find out more