Online house designs could slash costs

01:35, Aug 13 2013
WikiHouse
DOWNLOADABLE HOUSE: Clayton Prest, left, Danny Squires and Martin Luff present a WikiHouse model.

Sharing innovative home designs could slash costs and change the way homes are built.

International communal house-building network WikiHouse has come to Christchurch, and could be the solution for homeowners in need of an idea or wanting to kickstart their rebuild themselves.

WikiHouse is an open hardware project, where experts design houses, or parts of them, and share their creations online for any house builder who wants to use them.

Open Source is a weekly series featuring innovative, interesting ideas emerging within the city and region. If you want to share an idea, email will.harvie@press.co.nz or comment below.

Think Wikipedia, for houses. The online encyclopaedia is user-driven, with readers creating the content, which everyone can peruse for free.

At WikiHouse, designs are submitted under a creative commons licence and everybody can share them.

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The project is still in planning stages, but eventually house builders should be able buy a full-build service, take designs to their own contractor to make and put together or go all-out DIY.

Christchurch architects Martin Luff and Danny Squires were looking for new housing solutions after the February 2011 quake when they found the concept they thought perfect for a post-earthquake building environment.

The pair now lead the worldwide project's technical developments.

Luff likened it to a new-age, global, kitset home company.

"It goes up very easily but it's also easy to modify," he said.

"One of the concepts is that you only need to build what you need when you need it. Which has huge potential in lowering the cost of entry into the housing marketplace."

The pre-designed parts mean less labour on a build - a big plus when Christchurch is crying out for more construction workers - and houses will be "price- competitive" with traditional builds.

"This is a much higher performance building [than traditional houses]," Luff said.

"[We're coming] up with a building that's very well-insulated and dry. Strong . . . and also something that looks after the environment.

"You could do the whole thing yourself. Download one of the designs, organise your own materials and cut your jigsaw puzzle."

WikiHomes was recently part of a new industrial age expo at Te Papa museum in Wellington and hoped to have the framework for the first house in show in Christchurch in a month.

Money, though, is the main issue.

A cash injection will fund machinery to cut design prototypes, more software licences and simple things like hand tools.

"We're just looking for a moderate amount of funding . . . to accelerate our development and get the thing to market as soon as possible."

The Press