Building with Wikihouse

What is Wikihouse?

The WikiHouse Skylark is a new ‘open source’ building system. Open source means that all the designs and construction information are freely available on the wikihouse website: The components are made from plywood blocks that are digitally fabricated using a CNC router to the nearest fraction of a millimeter. This stage of the manufacturing process can take place close to, or actually on the building site, by local companies or cooperatives, producing something similar to a Lego construction kit, but on a much larger scale. The result is a building you can assemble yourself, but with a high degree of accuracy.

The blocks are modular in design allowing many different configurations of buildings to be produced. These buildings can be disassembled instead of demolished, and the blocks re–used or recycled at the end of their life. The blocks have a U value of 0.14 W/m²K, so the building will be ultra-low energy by default. WikiHouse blocks are compatible with almost any type of foundations or cladding, and includes zones for ducts, pipes and wires

As well as creating fewer emissions in production than other materials, wood actually captures and stores carbon from the atmosphere while it is in use. Spruce plywood has a certified life of 60 years, but if it is kept dry it will last for hundreds of years. Interlocked plywood is incredibly strong allowing buildings of up to 3 stories to be constructed. A typical wall block weighs just 39kg, making it easy to handle and install. A small team can assemble a chassis in days, without needing traditional construction skills


Visit to the Almera Wikihouse Project

Having been interested in the Wikihouse concept for a number of years my wife and I finally got the chance to visit a Wikhouse in the making. Almera is a new city about 30 km East of Amsterdam where the Dutch planning authorities have made the bold decision to allow a community of self builders to design and build 27 homes, some of which are for outright purchase and the rest will be for social housing rent with an option to buy in 5 years time at a cost fixed at the time of building.

We arranged to meet Bert, a founder member of the group of Almera builders who has just finished building his own house. It has taken him seven months to build his 90 sq meter, 2 story house from scratch. In the beginning he had a small team to help him to erect the structure, but once that was done he has been able to do most of the finishing it on his own. There is a strong community spirit on the site, everybody helps out as an when they can. Bert’s’ role has been as an advisor on construction, and organising the bulk purchasing of materials

Bert says there is no doubt he has saved money building his own house and has got a great sense of satisfaction from his efforts. Of the 28 houses, 5 are semi-detached and built as social housing, on a rent to buy basis, The first year is rent free, after that tenants are given 5 years at a social/affordable rent then they are given the option to purchase their house at the price it was when first completed.

On a slightly different note. Bert was the only person we met in the Netherlands who wore clogs, which makes him a hero in my eyes.  See my open clog project here.

A man leaning on a low wall of his self built house.
Bert outside his almost complete Wikihouse, June 2022

A Practical Introduction to Wikihouse: A One Day Course.

In 2022, in collaboration with University of Exiter Smartline project, we developed a one day course to promote Wikihouse in Cornwall and to give people an introduction to the building system. The course was free to attend and we had a total of 5 participants. further courses would be held if there was enough interest.

Aims and objectives of the course

  • To promote the Wikihouse building system in Cornwall.
  • To give participants an insight into the Wikihouse building system.
  • To promote the Wikihouse building system in Cornwall.
  • To give participants an insight into the Wikihouse building system.

Aims and objectives of the course

  • To promote the Wikihouse building system in Cornwall.
  • To give participants an insight into the Wikihouse building system.

Participants will learn:

  • How to estimate the cost of a build
  • How the cassettes are made and how they fit together
  • How to generate a 3D computer model of a house using freely available software and the Wikihouse block library.
  • Generating a CNC tool-path, setting up a CNC router, and cutting the components of a cassette.

Morning session

  • A general introduction to the Wikihouse system
  • Use a scale model to build up a section of a Wikihouse.
  • Use 3D modelling software to build up a virtual model of a house.
  • Use CNC toolpath software to generate gcode for making a block.

Afternoon session

  • Setting up and running the CNC Router to make the components of a Cassette
  • Assembling a block from the previously cut components.
  • Discussion and feedback.

Venue and cost

The course is for anybody interested in constructing self build homes,  organisations supporting self builders, housing associations, or land trusts. The courses are be held at the CNC Craft Workshop, Skinners Bottom, Redruth, TR16 5DY, where we have excellent facilities to allow you to get to grips with the digital and practical aspects of this technology. The cost of the course is £100 per person. It is run for groups of 4 or 5 people, so if you can get a group together, or you just want more information, please get in touch

This short video was taken at a recent session.

The Miri Micro Wikihouse

The Miri Micro house has been designed as a very small, inexpensive home that can be easily self built by almost anyone. It uses the Wikihouse system with a number of modified blocks. It has an internal area of roughly 20sq meters and a total footprint of around 25 sq meters. The bedroom is on a mezzanine floor over the kitchen and toilet, with sliding doors leading onto a verandah.

Three quarter view

Section View


Modelling the Wikihouse

In order to fully understand the system it was necessary to build a physical 3D model to be confident that the components would fit together. Each block was made using a laser cutter to cut out the profile of the components, and a CNC router to machine the notches that allow the pieces to be assembled. Each block was then glued together using elastic bands as clamps. When the blocks are correct, and all the notches align it is a very satisfying structure to build, and the result is incredibly rigid and strong. These models are used in the training courses to emphasis how simple the construction process is. t

Obviously, in real life these buildings will require finishing inside and out, plumbing and electrics, doors and windows, and a myriad of other things to make it a home, but if the bulk of the construction can be achieved by people with little or no building experience it will make access to good affordable homes considerably easier. Not only that, these homes are highly insulated, made from sustainable materials that can be recycled or reused, and generate very little material waste.

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