HPH071 : Open Source, Digitally Manufactured Homes – with Alastair Parvin from WikiHouse
Alastair Parvin explains how WikiHouse has developed and why it is so significant when it comes to enabling more people to build affordable, high quality homes.
Interview with Alastair Parvin
WikiHouse Developed From a Curiosity About Emerging Technologies
Alastair had researched how financial capital shapes our housing and why a relatively prosperous nation should have a housing crisis of small and poor quality homes. With an interest in digital manufacturing and developments in the open source code movement, he realised the potential in these technologies being combined for the physical production of affordable houses.
It is an Open Source Construction System
3D models and cutting files form the detailed manufacturing information and are shared on the web for the benefit of anyone to download, edit and develop for free. CNC cutting is used and all the parts are named and numbered to produce a giant flat pack house.
WikiHouse is Not Aimed at a Particular Market
It is likely that initially it will be self-builders that will pick up on WikiHouse, but in the longer term Alastair’s interest has been to produce something very useful and then see just how it gets used.
It is an Achievable Option for Those Wanting to Self-build
It is likely that for an inexperienced end user it could be challenging, however there could be a whole range of companies who would be able to help with the manufacture and assembly. It could even work out to be realistic and cost effective to purchase the cutting machines if the production was going to be on a large enough scale.
Predictability and Being Able to do the Work Yourself Provides Affordability
Dispensing with the need for a contractor to construct the house will inevitably produce savings. And with costs being more accurately predicted Alastair believes it is easier to produce a realistic and more achievable budget.
It is a Prototype for Future Development
Alastair emphasises that while the WikiHouse V4.0 is of plywood construction, there is no reason why other structural sheet materials can’t be used. He is keen to see the designs and technologies being taken and improved by others for the continuing development of the system.
Minimal Tolerances Offer an Expectation for Good Airtightness
The accuracy of the CNC cutting process produces such tiny tolerances, just 5mm difference in length from the model to the real life V4.0, that there are expectations this should work favourably for achieving good airtightness.
The Parts Being Portable is a Real Advantage
The portability of the parts means they can be carried comparatively easily and without the need for extra kit. This also means they can be put in places which would be far less accessible to a traditional build.
The System is Being Evolved to Attempt to Make it Fool-proof
With the logistics involved being sometimes harder than actually doing the building, they are attempting to evolve the system to make it impossible to get wrong. As it is effectively a “building by numbers” process, Alastair has learned the need for suitable space and covering to lay out all the pieces of the puzzle.
Designers Aren’t Redundant in This System
Alastair believes customers will still be employing the services of designers and other local small companies and manufacturers. Thus he expects most users of the WikiHouse system to be professionals.
WikiHouse V4.0 is Not a Show Home!
Rather than being a show home, this prototype has been an experiment in public to show what can be done, and to prompt debates about our rights to build. It has been a huge learning experience and the lessons from it will be shared to aid continual development and improvement. Alastair hopes that in the future there will be WikiHouses popping up around the world, creating a living not just for themselves but also other parties. He ultimately aims that there will be a greater diversity of technologies and construction methods which can begin to address the problems of housing on a whole neighbourhood scale.
Find Out More
Follow Alastair Parvin on Twitter
Watch Alastair's 2013 Ted Talk – Architecture for the people by the people
Download a transcript of the interview with Alastair Parvin.
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About The Author
Lucy Cowell is owner of the Virtual Assistant company Quantum PA. Being immersed in the world of architecture for over 20 years and since working with Ben Adam-Smith, she is now determined to build her own house one day too!