About one third of the world's city dwellers live in substandard housing, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. But researchers say free plans now available online for building houses made of manufactured parts that perfectly fit together may help solve this problem.
The world population is expected to grow to more than 8 billion by 2030, and the housing situation in urban centers is already a huge problem. Building new homes the traditional way still takes weeks or months.
In a London neighborhood, a group of volunteers is constructing a house made of prefabricated plywood panels and parts, the so-called Wiki House. All parts were precisely cut in a Computer Numerical Control, or CNC machine, following a free plan downloaded from the Internet.
Co-founder of the U.K.-based WikiHouse Foundation, architectural designer Alastair Parvin, said this could be the solution for affordable housing.
WikiHouse is essentially a series of technologies we're developing aimed at massively simplifying the process of making really sustainable high performance houses to a point where almost anyone can do it," he said. "And to do that we're using the power of the web and digital manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing.”
Precise cutting allows a perfect fit for all parts, which speeds up the process of assembly. No special tools are required.
The Wiki House was built in 10 days for exhibition purposes. Then, it was taken apart and reassembled elsewhere for permanent use.
Parvin said the whole concept is based on the blueprints available online.
“Open-source software is now really established, it drives a lot of the software we use," he said. "What's happening now is that that's now coming into the world of physical things, so we're effectively building a kind of Wikipedia for physical stuff.”
Parvin said the project is in its early stages, with limited availability. But he said he expects it to grow as more people start showing interest in houses whose assembly requires no special skills.