If you’re from the San Francisco Bay Area, you might be more likely to blame big tech for housing crises than see tech companies like Google and Wikipedia as a potential source of the solution. However, with the development of WikiHouse, both may be true.
WikiHouse is a new technological development and brainchild of Alastiar Parvin, who set out to open source a building system that would enable people to use digital tools to create affordable homes in locations where they can thrive.
Parvin believes that the use of digital technology could open up doors in terms of transforming the way people design and build homes. He hopes to do with home building what Uber and AirBnB have done for the taxi and hotel industries, respectively. In other words, totally dismantle them.
“There is something fundamentally wrong with our housing economy- our dependence on a few large development companies to buy the land, beat their way through local community resistance and build rows of poor quality, unsustainable mass housing that fewer and fewer of us can afford,” said Parvin. “Every major urban economy now faces a huge housing challenge. It’s not about building enough homes but also about breaking our dependence on fossil fuels and debt.”
Users can draw up plans for their new homes by visiting the WikiHouse website and inputting some basic measurements such as width and height. Algorithms will then step in to predict how much the project will cost in terms of even the amount of screws necessary to complete the project. The house’s components will then be manufactured by using a distributed network of small businesses and community spaces as opposed to large centralized factories.
“These micro-factories will be collectively one big factory rather like AirBnB is a huge hotel,” explained Parvin.
Parvin’s website is still under construction, but his company has some estimates as to how much these homes would cost. Kits range from studios to town houses with a corresponding price of 12,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds.
According to Parvin, even though his project itself has all the tech-associations of a standard startup, the actual house’s building materials will be relatively low-tech. They’ll be built on timber frames that can be put together using, as Mr. Parvin stated, “tools you can buy in B&Q.”
Unfortunately, WikiHouse does not have the final and relatively important piece of the puzzle; the land on which to build the houses. Considering part of the housing crisis is that cities are increasingly running out of space to even build, the entire WikiHouse initiative could fail to address a foundational element to the obstacle it attempts to alleviate.
However, the UK government might just step in to help WikiHow bridge the gap left behind by WikiHouse. It has acknowledged that self-build projects are likely to be more responsible for resolving the housing crisis in cities than anything else, so it may bolster efforts to double the size of the self and custom-built housing sector which currently only accounts for around 10% of the housing supply.
Although Parvin claims WikiHouse is still a research project, he hopes it will grow into something larger.