Every time you switch on the tv or radio, you are blasted with soundbites from MPs about the problem with housing, or the lack of housing, to be more precise. WikiHouse could be the award-winning solution for the housing crisis – offering an affordable alternative to designing and building houses.
So what is WikiHouse? Winners of the TED PRIZE 2012, WikiHouse calls itself an open source construction set. A non-profit project of development hardware and software that is free for all under the creative commons license. WikiHouse aim to allow anyone to design, download and 3D print CNC-milled houses and components, which can be assembled with minimal skills or formal training.
Richard Heath and Steve Fisher from Momentum Engineering spoke at Bath Digital Festival as part of the Digital for Good: Inspiration talks. Momentum Engineering have been a core part of this project, helping to make something as revolutionary as democratic construction a reality. Working alongside Architecture 00, who had been inspired by a TED talk on ‘Architecture for the people by the people’, the teams worked together to democratise design so that it benefits the people it will affect. Conventional housing design is monopolised by architects and only benefits a small percentage of the world’s population. The WikiHouse community allows for people all over the world to give opinions and suggestions on new structure plans.
This method of design has also allowed WikiHouse to collaborate all over the world. There are WikiHouse projects which are based in Rio and New Zealand, the latter became involved due to their huge commitment to the recovery of the Canterbury region after the 2010 earthquake caused devastating damage to the area. A whole community of WikiHouses has been created in the Netherlands, proving that printing your own home could be a viable option for the UK.
Although WikiHouse could offer sustainable, energy efficient homes across the UK, there are still problems facing the project. The sheer lack of availability and high costs of land to build houses is the biggest issue. Another key issue is the use of plywood in the structures. Despite being lightweight and easily accessible, it would be unsuitable to create a building more than two floors high. This could affect the attractiveness of this project in a high density area like London, where the most effective housing solutions need to make use of the heavily populated city’s airspace rather than the limited ground space.
There are high demands in the UK housing industry to create ‘zero carbon homes’ by 2016, which could work in WikiHouse’s favour. The fact that the WikiHouse software is free to everyone means that self-builders and key figures in the industry can begin designing homes that have the potential to stop the housing crisis in a hugely innovative way.
By creating the first step in innovative and sustainable design, the WikiHouse project is set to have an exciting path ahead of it. Who knows what the future might build?