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WikiHouse: Get ready to design, "print" and construct your own home!


May 15, 2012

The WikiHouse construction system is based on the use of plywood fins that connect together to form a robust timber frame structure

The WikiHouse construction system is based on the use of plywood fins that connect together to form a robust timber frame structure

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Created by a group of young designers from London, WikiHouse is an open source construction solution that aims to make it possible for almost anyone, regardless of skill level, to freely download and build affordable housing. The WikiHouse construction system was on display during last month's Milan Design Week, where the creators themselves demonstrated how the technology can be applied.

“We believe this could herald in a new industrial revolution,” co-founder Nick Ierodiaconou told Gizmag. “The factory of the future will be everywhere and the designer will be everyone.”

The WikiHouse construction system is based on the use of plywood fins that connect together to form a robust timber frame structure. Using a Google Sketchup plug-in, users access the WikiHouse open source website, design a structure and download the template that can then be "printed" using a CNC milling machine.

Once the fins are printed or cut out, the structure fits together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Without the need for any power tools, builders simply lay out the parts for each section before bolting together the layers to create individual sections. The sections are then positioned vertically before primary connectors are inserted between the sections to stabilize the structure. This is all achieved using wooden pegs and a mallet provided. Once all the secondary connectors are in place, the external cladding panels are screwed into position. The structure is then ready for insulation, cladding, sealing and wiring.

While the WikiHouse construction set is still in its development phase, it is anticipated that the system will be further enhanced to create an end structure that is weather-tight using cladding, insulation, damp-proof membranes and windows.

“We are very much committed to achieving a fully habitable house,” said Ierodiaconou. “For the moment we are working on various prototype builds around the world, but we hope to one day see one and two storey houses deployed at scale.”

That commitment includes the completion of a fully habitable house within the next 12-months and collaborations in New Zealand and the US to use WikiHouse for disaster-relief housing in Christchurch, Haiti, and Japan.

Furthermore the current WikiHouse website offers simple structure solutions and an open invitation to collaborators who are interested in sharing open source solutions in the public domain. “The WikiHouse community is growing and through contributions from around the world we hope to crack some of the more pressing technical challenges,” explained Ierodiaconou. “We hope to one day offer tools and standards under different categories to allow teams of contributors to develop and improve these open systems.”

Source: WikiHouse, La Rinascente

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

Why is it that something that has been around for decades, simple mill work and even CNC millwork, is now being equated as an analog to printing when in fact it is in no way analogus to printing?

Also, where are all of the CNC milling going to be located so that "almost anyone" can get their "printed" parts?


Their system reminds me of the old barn where i grew up.

There they used whole logs that they cut notches into and drilled holes thru. Then they lined up the notches and holes, and hammered in wodden plugs. And this basic construction stands to this day.


@Rt1583: If you look on Kickstarter, you will see that very low cost CNC milling machines that can cut out a 4x8 foot sheet of plywood are becoming a reality. This is the CNC innovation that will make it practical. It is so inexpensive that it could be justified to build just one house on site. This is a really good idea whose time has come.


Uh yeah, the Chinese have made buildings using thru-pegged mortise-and-tenon joints for many centuries. And modular housing already exists. Milling all of these parts would make a huge amount of waste plywood, and most people can't even follow instructions to build and IKEA bookshelf.


So each part will be a one-off custom-manufactured on a CNC mill?

This is basically the exact opposite of mass production. Expect prices to be the exact opposite of affordable.

Jon A.

I see your Point of view Jon A. But Labor is 60% of construction. Making a system that can be assembled by the homeowner; meets local code and can be signed off on by local building inspector before the purchase is made is highly attractive. As for location and availability (Rt1583), they could set up franchises in local locations. Wikihouse could concentrate on the software and the franchises could concentrate on helping the customer select the right configuration for local codes and supporting the homeowner in the assembly process.


This type of mass printing may lead to the critical flaw which would be the knowledge of how to correctly build upon the foundation.The house may be assembled anywhere from a city to the woods ,but without an understanding of how foundations work ,disaster may follow.Will this be explained properly.


I have been in the DIY kit homes industry for the last 5 years, whilst I have no problem with the design, it seems very complex as we can put one of our Austen Backyard Cabins up in 6 hours and ready to be lived in. google Cabin Kits Galore if you would like to see what I am talking about.

The biggest problem is council. they are legally allowed in NSW Australia under 20m2 without approval, but if you wish to put a bed in them the cost goes sky high as the council wants to make its $.

Great idea for disaster relief but these disasters happened a long time ago and there is the ability of cabins like ours that had already been built and living in for relief as soon as it happened. Keep on truckin, but government planning agencies will be the problem.

Lucas Baker

It is not the newness or novelty which matters. It is the use of materials, bringing together of readily available methodology and innovative organisational structuring. At last - something which can be adapted for construction and use in poor or disaster struck countries.

I am thinking ahead to when waste plastics are built into these new structures - insulation, frame, furniture, bedding - precipitation and condensing water collectors, the list is endless. It is about time that other designers built upon this by contributing additional possibilities - all minimal cost. When!! Hopefully before I go.

Elsdon Ward

There are a plethora of cheaper, low-tech, alternative building techniques out there already, none of which make economic sense once you pay for approved materials that don't make your architect/engineer/lawyer nervous.


It's a nice little school project ... and utterly useless. I'm a structural engineer and building science specialist. If you want a fairly decent system ... Google SIP. And there is no system that "Some average joe" is going to be able to put together and meet all the code requirements. I'm called to give my opinions on court cases on a regular basis against builders that actually know what they're doing but made mistakes ... The liability involved here is RIDICULOUS ...

Jeff Rosati

It's funny watching how some people react when they think something is gonna threaten their livelihood. Smart people can see through criticism that is not constructive or offers no solution. It's also clear some of you didnt RTFA where they suggest the idea is still in its infancy. “We hope to one day offer tools and standards under different categories to allow teams of contributors to develop and improve these open systems.” I don't think the WikiHouse community intends on building unsafe structures and common sense would dictate you refer to your local building codes. Its November now and the community has already taken steps to reduce and recycle "waste" plywood. How nice would it be to help Superstorm Sandy victims, but no good deed goes unpunished or a least through bureaucratic red tape.

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