2. Wikihouse: Finding what you need

How do you find the designs that you need for a WikiHouse?

When Akiko started the WikiHouse at Fountainbridge she had a very specific parameter, which was to deliver a structure within the budget of a grant awarded from the local authority. So they needed to find a design that would maximise the footprint / floor area they could achieve with this modest budget. In real terms this came down to estimations around how much plywood they could afford, and how many sheets of plywood any given design required.

To solve this problem, Akiko worked out the maximum number of plywood sheets (and other necessary basic material) they could get for the budget. She then got in touch with the WikiHouse Foundation and requested access to the commons folder, which is a set of Google Drive folders. At the time there were about 250 project folders. She spent time trawling through the folders and looking at the designs and 3D models to assess their suitability for the required use of hosting group gatherings. Where she discovered designs that were suitable to the needs of the project, she would then go on to see what floor area could be achieved for the number of plywood sheets required.  

In the end, after including other costs such as machining, the budget stretched to around 75 sheets of plywood and the model they selected, could give them around 14m2 of floor space, with a nice, simple, easy to assemble design.

What other resources are needed, apart from the designs?

There are a lot of other resources needed to construct a WikiHouse. You will need land, to build it on, and often planning permission too. If you are going to live in it you will need a lot of different building services that would be the same as any other architectural project, including plumbing, electrics, gas and so on. These normally require specialist contractors to deliver.

Unless you were very happy with the specific designs that came pre-packaged from the WikiHouse project, you may also want to modify the design in some way. This could also be a requirement of local building legislation, and you would have to explore that with a local planning office. It may be that you want to modify the designs to better suit your needs and to do this you would need to either make use of architectural software, or hire someone who can do that for you. Examples of architectural software include Sketchup, which is a free downloadable, and openly accessible, piece of software. You will also need access to materials like plywood, which can be bought locally, and access to machining such as CNC machining to manufacture the component pieces. This may be contracted out to a local joiner, but is sometimes available at a FabLab or a Maker Space. Finally, you will need people to help with the construction. In the case of the WikiHouse this does not need to be building contractors, as it should all fit together rather like a jigsaw. However, it is an advantage if they have some hands on experience.

It’s worth noting that building regulation differs from country to country and you will need to ensure that you have all the necessary permissions in place. It is often good to contract a qualified architect to manage this, as they should know how to bring all the necessary local agencies together.

Activity: Search challenge

The search challenge is to find the material and production costs that WikiHouse are currently quoting for their MicroHouse product.

Your starting point is the WikiHouse.cc website, and this should take you through to GitHub, where they store a lot of the project files. You can expect to have to search through details in a spreadsheet such as excel or GoogleSheets.

Find out more