What we do
Initially Buildx will be trialled in the UK, but like the WikiHouse project, we expect it to scale across Europe and beyond.
There is currently no such platform to connect individuals and community groups with professionals to carry out simple building projects. Buildx will allow the user to define the boundaries of their plot of land on a map then use a parametric modelling tool to customise a house design. The tool will incorporate typical costs for all aspects of labour and materials, so will calculate the cost of the build as the design is digitally adjusted. This will allow design to a specific budget with an accurately predicted cost. The tool will automatically compute the files for CNC cutting of the parts. All data relating to the building can be digitally shared at no extra cost. The client can see the cost saving of undertaking parts of the building process themselves. They will then have easy access to local professionals – architects, designers, engineers, CNC manufacturers, project managers, contractors – so they can easily assemble a team for those aspects they cannot undertake themselves. This is different from existing tools in the self-build sector. House plan providers do not provide an integrated access to distributed services needed which lowers the barrier to sustainable build. Software providers and peer-to-peer platforms cannot provide the open, end-to-end ecosystem that we are developing.
Our social impact
Today we face a huge challenge to build more affordable homes, and the dominant construction methods are hopelessly obsolete. We are still dependent on speculators and high levels of debt to build more homes, because the process is considered too difficult for small players and unviable on small sites. If we aim to reboot equality, we need to put simple, open solutions in the hands of everyone. WikiHouse WREN is a plywood chassis building system whose parts can be locally fabricated and rapidly assembled, even by those with no formal construction skills. To support this process we are developing a smart supply chain, which will make it simple for small builders to predict costs and energy usage, and to engage local manufacturers and contractors to build affordable and sustainable homes. By making open technologies and platforms, everything we do will have higher impact because it is so easy to diffuse and replicate. A problem only needs to be solved once and it is solved for everyone, forever. Although the ‘Wren’ design is in piloting phase, the buildings being produced are proving to use at least 40–60% less energy, for lower cost, than conventional construction. They also use entirely dry construction, within which almost all parts can be re-used or recycled, with dramatically lower waste. We cannot talk seriously about increasing equality in the built environment unless the tools to do it are in the hands of every citizen.