Last year, the average deposit paid by first-time house buyers in London hit £60,000. Based on a salary of £27,000, the UK average, a first-time buyer need only save all their money (and attempt to forgo taxes) for two years to get their feet on the property ladder. A couple could manage it in one. Easy. Hard to see why anyone complains about house prices at all, really.
For those with other outgoings, however (rent, clothes, the occasional meal), another, less conventional option is opening up in the form of housing that can be built by anyone, anywhere. WikiHouse is an online, open source, creative commons collection of housing designs which can be “printed” using a CNC plywood mill. The parts are then slotted together to form the final structure – a process Wikihouse claims requires no construction experience whatsoever. They estimate that, all in, a small house would set you back around £50,000.
A Wikihouse was built in London last month as part of the London Design Fair. Here’s a timelapse video of its construction:
And here’s the final structure, which is still outside London’s Building Centre until the end of this week:
There are, however, a few caveats. For a start, you’d need some land – a house isn’t much use without anywhere to put it. Also, the designs available through Wikihouse create a shell structure to which you can add wiring, insulation and windows, as opposed to a finished house. This is not as much of a drawback as it sounds: the Wikihouse designs cut out the need for heavy lifting and machinery (the most expensive aspects of construction); the missing parts could be installed by local practitioners.
Wikihouse’s founders are particularly interested in how the designs could be used in the developing world, where informal housing covers massive sections of cities like Rio de Janeiro and Lagos. The open-source nature of the designs could allow community groups to start plugging housing shortages, without the need for cranes, cement mixers and government investment.
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