Calling all Startups using the WikiHouse System

I am starting on my next adventure, and I would love to meet, connect, and engage with individuals who have started businesses or companies in the WikiHouse sphere. Let’s start a conversation!

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Hi Steve!

I’m based in NZ and have not yet started a business, I am waiting on Skylark V2! We have different planning regulations due to earthquake activity, so I currently have a structural engineer evaluating our first design (a small house).

I’m got a CNC order ready to go from Blue Elephant in China, but unsure whether I should wait until V2 is approved, or just finalize the order now and hope that the ~4-5 months it takes to arrive is enough time for everything to be ironed out.

Lachlan

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Hi @Steve,

Similar to @lachlan, I currently use my CNC to manufacture bespoke furniture (koadesign.co.uk) but would love to explore the possibility of expanding Koa into the WikiHouse sphere. A meet up or any type of engagement would be great.

I started my exploration into plywood houses after watching a few on Grand Designs and wanting to build my own. I’ve been working a design for my own Passive wall system (eliminating thermal bridging) for sometime now, then recently stumbled on WikiHouse which has been amazing. It has a number of solutions to some of the issues that I have faced and I’m now trying to blend the two systems together. But intrigued to hear that there’s a V2 on the way, any news on that?

Darren

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Hi @Darren_O, I definitely misspoke, it’s a V0.2 and it changes the connector system.

You can read more about it here:

And watch the team talk about it in more depth here:

I just checked out https://www.koadesign.co.uk/, your work is gorgeous!

How did you get into furniture design? Would love to learn more about your journey.

Thanks @lachlan for your compliments, that’s very kind of you to say. And the video link was very informative. I actually found the SketchUp files on Github too and had a quick play around with the new blocks.

My journey… where to start. I did a degree in Architecture at the University of Liverpool and then went to Perth, Australia where I managed to work for an Architect, Sam Teoh, which I loved. He was a brilliant mentor. It was a great experience and fell in love with Perth but couldn’t see myself as an Architect. Ended up going back to the UK and became a secondary school of Design & Technology (Product Design, Engineering).

10 years later, for a number of reasons, it was time for a change. I’d become skilled in laser cutting and 3D printing and have always used CAD since my Uni days so decided to buy myself a CNC router. Not having a clue how to use it, I stuffed it into my garage, taught myself Vcarve and started from there. Working in the evenings and weekends while I was still teaching, I slowly started to build up the business. 2 years later I handed in my notice and committed to doing Koa full time. So since September of this year that’s what I’ve been doing. I do still teach one day a week, which is a nice little safety net, but I’ve been mad busy this month which has really lifted my confidence.

The WikiHouse thing seems like a natural progression for me. I started making reindeers to sell at Christmas fairs, then toy boxes, then small furniture items then bespoke fitted furniture. I suppose house’s have to be next right??? Basically I want to build an extension to our family home using this sort construction method and if it’s something else that I can learn to do, I can offer it as a service perhaps.

I’ve been working on my own system and of course, I found that someone else has already done a great job at it and that’s how I’ve landed here while looking for help to develop my system.

So are you hoping to develop this as a business in NZ? I’m sure there’s plenty of scope for this sort of thing over there? How did you get to this point?

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That’s awesome - if you ever decide to move back to this side of the world, let me know and we can share a workshop :wink:

So are you hoping to develop this as a business in NZ?

My first project will be a WikiHouse for my parents, and if it goes well then I will either start selling WikiHouses or work as a developer to build affordable housing. NZ has just changed zoning laws to allow all urban properties to have up to 3 houses on them, so I think something like WikiHouse is perfect to fill that demand.

I spoke to many CNC workshops for the house project and they all quoted me around 50000NZD for the cutting service, plywood costs would be on top of that.
Blue Elephant sells a CNC for around 25000NZD. I figured I could build a house for my parents and start a new business at the same time.

Fortunately, my father builds trailers and cabins and has a workshop that is already set up with 3-phase electricity, which makes the cost of setting up a lot cheaper.

I’m actually a software engineer, founded and sold a startup and am now looking for a career change. I’m hoping to build nice, good quality homes to provide another option for kiwis who are looking for a home.

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That’s great, Lachlan. It sounds like you are moving from the software space into physical systems. I am moving from physical systems to software! I’m pivoting my startup. I started doing haptic feedback for VR wearables, touch and feel in the metaverse. But the writing was on the wall over the Summer that the bubble was popping for Meta and investors were skittish about the hard-tech concept.

I’m a physicist and electronic engineer with a short career in robotics. I’m looking for denser, more affordable but smaller, and carbon-zero housing in the suburbs.

My problem

There is a labor shortage for the trades here. There is a high dropout rate for apprentices in stick framing. The costs of building are rising and the time to build is getting longer.

What we have in my city is some fixer-uppers for $150k and probably need just as much to bring to code and standard in the middle of sprawling developments, or $600k condos or apartments in the downtown city that no one can afford.

Also, the urban sprawl is creating a taxation problem, the cost of maintaining the existing infrastructure is greater than the revenue the city brings in. Without raising taxes significantly (2x-4x), a solution for the city coffers is to move laterally with expanding and sprawling developments. The initial taxation and federal funding provide relief for the city in the short term but the infrastructure cost is forever, meaning in 20-30 years the bill comes due again. This is Strong Towns principles about how downtown and existing pre-1930 incremental building subsidies suburban living. Consistently, data shows that mixed-use medium to high-density zoning is far more productive in tax/area than the sprawling suburban developments.

My quest

What we need is the missing middle housing; a range of house-scale buildings with multiple units located in walkable neighborhoods.

Wikihouses

I see Wikihouses as democratized housing and as relief for the costs of house building. You can build to your scale and with the precision of costs and timing as the CNC. I wanna build multi-unit row houses in place of the single-family homes of the downtown neighborhoods. This requires corporation with the local government for changing zoning laws away from car-centric developments into something at the human-scale instead.

My concept

I am interested in creating a bottom-up and community-focused redevelopment of existing neighborhoods to bring value back to our downtown areas. I am working to create software that takes the high-level functional housing concept and compiles that idea to physical materials based on the wikihouse primitives. A compiler from idea to building materials provides accurate costs and time management.

Still working on some of the details but that’s the general gist of it.

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Hey Steve,

I am reading one of the Strong Town books now. I think what you’re talking about is a great idea and that’s what I’m aiming for myself. In PDX there are a couple of cool mini-communities such as CullyGreenPDX(Features — Cully Green) that I would like to emulate with WikiHouses.
Happy to help volunteer my time where I can.

Best,
Matthew

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That’s awesome @matmoo! Yes in my opinion the values of Strong Towns and Wikihouse are interlinked. Affordable housing, densification of urban areas, and sustainability in terms of environmental cost and generational value. My company’s aim is the map all these principles as our set of values. I run the local Strong Towns Local Conversation where I’m doing some nice projects–data analysis of housing and zoning, book clubs, community engagement, and local political activism.

Unfortunately, it’s a long path and it’s likely that it’ll be my children or theirs that benefit from more centralized, urban, affordable, and walkable communities in my city.

It certainly is an arduous journey.