The new homes you can design and download from the internet

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

It's not quite Tron, but WikiHouse 4.0 is an intriguing crossover between the digital and physical worlds, built and exhibited as part of the London Design Festival 2014. And it's a huge step forward in cheap, sustainable homebuilding.

The open source software allows aspiring homeowners to choose a building design and download a free online plan. These plans are then sent to a saw mill, where the materials are cut to measure using a 'computer numerical control' (CNC) machine. The pieces then arrive just like flat-pack furniture, ready to be assembled.

The project has been running for three years and has already been celebrated for its use in developing countries and disaster zones. For example, WikiHouses were constructed in Christchurch, New Zealand in the wake of the 2011 earthquakes.

And while the concept has been showing results for a number of years, the latest prototype version of the software suggests it could soon be an option for any hopeful homeowner. At two storeys high and featuring double-glazed windows, this model home epitomises the latest developments in eco-friendly construction and energy efficiency. Inside, the electrics, lighting and ventilation can be controlled by smartphone or voice activation, which makes it very easy to keep a handle on your energy bills.

Co-designer of WikiHouse and designer at Zero Zero Architects, Alastair Parvin, said: “The person who is most interested in energy efficiency is the homeowner. This project puts sustainable technologies into the hands of the end user. Open source makes it much easier to share ideas so people can build houses cheaper, more sustainably, more responsibly."

With each property costing just £50,000 to build, some papers are heralding the new technology as the future of the London housing market. For those worrying about land prices, Adrian Campbell of Arup, one of the engineering firms behind WikiHouse, suggests new homes can be assembled on roof space, adding an extra two storeys on the tops of existing buildings.

However, it might be a little longer till we begin piecing together our own homes, and figure out exactly what that'll mean for home insurance. First on the cards is the launch of flat-pack garden sheds, which at least sounds like a good place to start.


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