Solutions for Self-Reliance

Is Building a Resilient Dream Home Getting Easier?


I don’t know about you, but I have the same problem Thomas Jefferson had with Monticello.

I’m constantly designing the perfect home in my head.

My perfect home is built for resilience.  How so?  My design has food, energy, and water production built into every nook and cranny.

Fortunately, turning these designs into reality may be getting much easier.  There is a disruptive technology currently available that makes blueprinting and building innovative homes easier.

NOTE:  A disruptive technology turns a task that is difficult into a task that is easy (or at least, much easier).  I’m a big fan of disruptive technologies.  Why?  Disruptive technologies are fast making it possible for us to produce nearly everything we depend upon from a decaying global system, locally.  This level of local productivity and production wasn’t possible even a decade ago, and we are going to reap the rewards it provides as we become resilient.

Here are a couple of use cases to demonstrate how this new design and fabrication technology works and why it is likely to be disruptive (in a good way).

The first is an online community called WikiHouse (designs seen to the right).

Wikihouse is an open project for building homes simply, quickly, and reliably.   It’s still in the early stages, but it shows some significant promise.

One thing about the project that I particularly like, is that the WikiHouse community has developed a very smart design guide.  The guide lists  a set of modular components (and rules for designing your own modules) that enables anyone with basic designs skills to rapidly design a home.  Further, these modules are used as cutting templates for onsite computer controlled milling machines to precisely cut plywood for immediate use in construction.

As you can see, the benefit here is that it is becoming increasingly possible to share designs developed using this method with other people around the world.  Designs that, with a little modification, you might be able to turn into your resilient dream home.  I suspect this capability is going to particularly useful as we develop new ways of integrating production — food, energy, water, etc. — into the very fabric of the homes we live in, and we start to share these innovations globally.

The second case is Facit-Homes, an architectural firm dedicated to fabricating homes on site, using this new method.  While their design and construction approach is similar to WikiHouse, they use this approach to build homes that are optimized for low levels of uncertainty in the construction and “sustainable.”

The most interesting aspect of Facit’s approach is that they have built a mobile manufacturing facility that is housed in a shipping container.  To construct a home, the container is brought to the construction site, the home’s design templates are downloaded from the Facit’s site, and finally the computer controlled (CNC) milling machines (inside the container) use the templates to cut the wood parts needed to quickly construct the home.

What’s the useful idea here?  A container with a computer controlled milling machine and 3D printers (that can print anything from plastic to concrete) have the potential to fabricate an entire home using designs downloaded from the Internet and customized to the customer’s specific residential or production needs.  Further, this portable production facility is likely inexpensive enough that a community organization could own one (or two) for use by its members.

In sum, it’s pretty easy to see that this disruptive technology significantly lowers the bar to designing and building homes.   Also, the modular method of design used in both examples opens up the process to rapid innovation through global online collaboration.  This is the type of innovation we are going to need as we transition from living in homes that are ornaments of residential consumption into homes that are productive, thriving, resilient assets.

Your looking forward to helping you design and build resilient homes analyst,


John Robb

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