Chch developers plan 'jigsaw puzzle' house

  • 05/08/2013

A group of Christchurch developers are redefining what it means to build a home, designing a house you can put together like a jigsaw puzzle, construct in a day and add onto at any time.

There are no nails or glue - only construction-grade plywood, an ancient joinery technique and pioneering design.

The next-generation 'Wikihouse' project is being developed by volunteers from across the world, but is spearheaded by a Christchurch team.

Architectural designer Clayton Prest says the concept is to keep home ownership accessible to as many people as possible.

They aim to create a home that works like a jigsaw puzzle; simply download a design from the online Wikihouse library, order the plywood and fit the pieces together.

"All the hard work, all the measurements and everything is done for you," Mr Prest says.

"You really just have a kit of parts that you put together and all you need is a few mallets and a team of people."

A consentable version would have to be signed off by the proper authorities, Mr Prest says, but would be simple enough for anyone to construct.

"I think our youngest Wikihouse constructor was three years old," Mr Prest says.

"The whole idea is that it involves the whole community, you don't need any person with formal skills or power tools."

The local team have built a sub-consent prototype in a Christchurch workshop, the first major iteration of its kind in Australasia.

The only thing holding it together is a complicated set of wedges and pins which, according to Wikihouse NZ co-founder Martin Luff, makes it easy to add on at will.

"If you're a young couple you only need to build exactly just what you need when you need it," he says.

"[That] also helps with the affordability, if you later decide to have children, dead easy to add on a bedroom or two."

Fellow co-founder Danny Squires says the idea is to keep your emotional investment in your home intact.

"You can literally move your house in the back of a van or the back of a truck.

"You can take it apart, you can reconfigure it, you can move from site to site as you upgrade in the property ladder."

While the project is an international effort, the local Christchurch developers are working on a design that has the city's quake-prone land in mind.

"One of the main things we tried to do with the building was build a low mass system, so it sits very low on the land," Mr Luff says.

"[If] we experience liquefaction down here again and you have to move your building, then what we're looking at is you can not only take the building but you can move the foundation system as well."

It's hoped Wikihouses will be on the market soon. While the team can't give any idea of prices yet, it says the economical design will save on running costs.

The next step is to continue developing bigger and better prototypes, while trying to secure funding.

It is hoped eventually computer software will enable novice architects to design a house entirely by themselves.

3 News

source: newshub archive