Maker Homes

The Maker Homes Project aims to evaluate the Wikihouse system as a way to alleviate some of the problems faced by people who are unable to find suitable housing in Cornwall. The Wikihouse system is ‘a Modern Method of Construction’ (MMC) utilising plywood sheets cut with computer controlled machinery to make building blocks that require very little skill to assemble into a house. The equipment and materials to do this are widely available and allow local skills to be developed and manufacturing facilities to be used to the benefit of communities. In order to undertake this pilot build we need a plot of land, a group of volunteers committed to the development of a house or a community resource, and the money to buy building materials and pay for trades people. The computer controlled equipment is already in place. Once built the process and structure can be assessed in for its’ economy, ease of construction, and benefits to the community as a whole.

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 millimetre. 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.

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.

WikiHouse Skylark blocks are compatible with almost any type of foundations or cladding, and includes zones for ducts, pipes and wires.

CNC Craft

For the last five years the Digital Training Hub at CNC Craft has been promoting the use of digital manufacturing technology in the community by running a monthly Maker Space. Anybody can attend these sessions for a small donation, get access to, and learn how to use, a CNC Router, a Laser Cutter, or a 3D Printer. Over 150 people have attended these session and many have come back more then once. More formal courses are also run aimed at giving people a solid grounding in the use of these machines, allowing them to incorporate digital manufacturing technologies into their workplace. These activities are designed to make digital manufacturing as accessible as possible. We think that training in wikihouse production could be very beneficial to communities in Cornwall.

 The Maker Home project

The aim of this project is to explore the effectiveness of the wikihouse construction system in addressing thelack of affordable housing in Cornwall, and throughthis approach also provide transferable digital skills to support employment opportunities.

When built commercially, the Wikihouse building system costs about the same as traditional construction per square meter, but considerable savings can be made if a self-builder or a community group undertake a large part of the construction themselves. This is possible because the main body of a Wikihouse can built with relatively unskilled labour. Once the services, and the foundation of the building are in place, and the blocks have been machined, it takes just a 40r 5 of days on-site for a small team, who have little or no experience in construction, to assemble the building. Then, once the construction phase is completed, skilled trades people can be brought in to finish the build.

The aim of this project is to explore the effectiveness of the wikihouse construction system in addressing the lack of affordable housing in Cornwall, and through this approach also provide transferable digital skills to support employment opportunities.

We would like to undertake a pilot to explore how this building system can be beneficial for communities in Cornwall. In order to do this we will need to acquire a plot of land with appropriate permissions, either rural or urban. We will need funding for building materials and trade services. The use of the building would be determined by those with an interest in the building plot in question, and these people could potentially be involved in the design, digital manufacturing and construction. The result could be a home, a community resource such as a meeting centre, a homeless shelter, or community workshop.

The project would entail a large element of collaborative decision making and learning, with the digital aspect of CNC machining providing a pathway for young or underemployed people to learn new digital skills and to get experience with Modern Methods of Construction .

Two Wikihouses built by South Yorkshire Housing Association

Project Stages

1. Generate interest from local councils/organisations

2. Public engagement through community activities

3. Project development involving interested groups, architects and planners.

4. Access funding.

5. Acquire plot.

5. Recruit volunteers/workforce and contract trades people.

6. Connect services, foundations, make and lay blocks, bring in trades.

7. Evaluate the project.

8. Promote the concept to other councils and organisations.

Estimated Budget for 40 sq m building

Plot of land (possibly from a land trust)


Installing Services                                                                                                                          £2,000

Foundations (possibly self installed ground screws)                                                                     £2,000

Manufacturing blocks. (£300 per sq.M)                                                                                        £12,000

Assebling the building cladding (volunters)                                                                                  £5,000

Plumbing, electrics, internal lining.                                                                                               £6,000

Producing promotional video                                                                                                         £3,000

Approximate Total                                                                          £30,000

You can download a PDF of this document here

Scale model showing wikihouse construction