1. Case Study: Wikihouse


Wikihouse is a UK-based non-profit foundation developing an open-source construction set which allows anyone to design, share, fabricate and assemble their own house. The blueprints shared on the platform allow communities or enterprises worldwide to build affordable, sustainable, needs-based housing.

The project is maintained and developed by a worldwide community of designers, builders, hackers, engineers, inventors, architects and financial backers, brought together through the Wikihouse online community. According to Wikihouse: “The community means anyone who uses, adapts or co-develops WikiHouse products and tools, or anyone who follows or leads the project. Anyone can be part of it, there is no formal membership or ‘edge’ to the community.” Collaborators are encouraged to create local WikiHouse “Chapters” by signing a special trademark agreement which prioritises autonomy, sustainability, full sharing and, in case of commercial activity, a needs-based non-speculative orientation.

Creative Commons BY-SA licensed building plans can be downloaded from the Wikihouse online repository and then customized and improved upon. House components are made out of plywood, cut by CNC machines and then fit together, jigsaw-puzzle style — assembly does not require specialised tools. A team of two or three people can assemble a basic house structure in less than a day.

The Wikihouse ecosystem is a distinct example of Commons-based peer production being applied to a “design global, manufacture local” processes: What is light (the design templates, blueprints, help manuals and support) is shared globally, while what is heavy (cutting the wood, assembling the house) takes place locally, with improvements on the design then fed back into the common-resource global pool. It is facilitated by a non-profit foundation, as with most immaterial CBPP projects, but by licensing the plans under a Creative Commons license that allows commercial activity (CC-BY-SA), generative entrepreneurs may create added value around the non-commodified design commons by providing building services, consulting, workshops, etc.