WikiHouse pioneers do-it-yourself home building

John Holzhauer renovates a home on October 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado
John Holzhauer renovates a home on October 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. WikiHouse is putting a new spin on old-time barn-raising with a free online resource that lets people put homes together the same way they might a giant jigsaw puzzle.

WikiHouse is putting a new spin on old-time barn-raising with a free online resource that lets people put homes together the same way they might a giant jigsaw puzzle. was designed as an open-source construction kit that lets people create and share home designs and then "print" pieces using machines available for as little as a few thousand dollars.

It is part of the effort by the WikiHouse collective of professionals who volunteer to give consumers information and tools about home design and construction.

"Two or three people working together can build a small house in about a day," said Alastair Parvin, a British architect sharing his work at WikiHouse at a TED gathering on Thursday in California.

"People continually get confused between construction work and having fun."

He explained that while the shell of a home would be done it would lack plumbing, electric and other inner components.

Aspiring builders have to get their own , which can be cut into pieces by computer-controlled tools called CNC machines with without any other tools, using data downloaded from WikiHouse, according to Parvin.

"It is kind of like making a big jigsaw puzzle," Parvin told AFP. "It is basically magic as far as I'm concerned."

Parvin told of graduating university in 2008 only to encounter a bleak job market for . He veered from the traditional career path, and took part in launching WikiHouse about 18 months ago.

A growing "makers movement" coupled with increasingly affordable technology such as 3D printers and CNC machines is letting consumers become creators of goods they desire, according to Parvin.

"How awesome would it be if we had a kind of for stuff?" he asked rhetorically. "How much would that change the rules? I think technology is on our side."

He sees the great design project of this century as the "democratization of production."

WikiHouse is putting itself to the test in the favelas, or shanty towns, of Brazil, hoping that a CNC machine made available for creating furniture will eventually be put to use building homes with the potential to transform slums.

"Slums are being built anyway," Parvin said. "If people are going to build things for themselves, wouldn't it be cool if what they make is not rubbish?"

WikiHouse is working on a way to attach files showing people how to make foundations for homes.

"We could do it," Parvin said. "We are at a point where it is not innovative; it is just that architecture is behind the game."

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User comments

Feb 28, 2013
Another Revolution that will cause massive unemployment.

Excellent. It is time to reduce slavery to a 4 day work week.

Mar 01, 2013
Actually it will create jobs if it catches on.

Please study economics.

Though I agree that a shorter work week would improve the world. It would just require a lot of regulations.

Mar 01, 2013
I have studied economics and am an analyst with my degree in finance. VendicarE is actually correct over the long-term. The evidence for this is well demonstrated by the past 50 years of the auto industry. The amount of manhours required to build a vehicle is a fraction of what it used to be due to advances in robotic manufacturing. Another example is farming and the number of man hours that advanced machinery has replaced. With a growing global population and more technological advances enabling fewer to be as productive as the many, the most substantial long-term risk to the global economy is insufficient employment leading to a massive drop in global consumption because too many unemployed will not have the financial resources with which to continue consumption. Delaying tactics such as social welfare programs and loans provide relief for symptoms but don't address the real issue which is true unemployment (% of population without a job regardless of age/disability/etc...)

Mar 01, 2013
I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is pioneering about a stripped-down AutoCAD and a CNC machine. For the amount of the money you'd pay for the CNC, you could buy the materials to build a (yes, small) house the old-fashioned way with pre-measured and pre-cut parts from Home Depot. Interlocking chunks of pressboard, OSB, or some other sheet wood is a really disturbingly low-quality method of building an entire house, and neither this article nor the Web site even get into materials like ducts and conduit, facades, trim, carpet and so forth.

Magic? My ass.

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