An open-source design for a flat-pack timber home that can be erected by four people in around two days with no more than a drill and a mallet will be prototyped on the Gold Coast later this year.

The WikiHouseAU project is based on a model developed and showcased in the UK for small, affordable and sustainable dwellings.

Graham Osborne
Graham Osborne

The coordinator of the project, Graham Osborne, principal of Origen Architects in Queensland, said the concept aims to be part of the “great disruption” with its combination of open source design, human-scale buildability and multiple sustainability elements.

He said the first prototype, which will be fabricated in a workshop setting at Southport State High School, will be used as a cabin in an olive grove.

The WikiHouse designs available at the project website also include dwellings that can used for eco tourism cabins, granny flats, tiny houses, pop-up kiosks or small homes that can be grouped together around a common courtyard and common facilities like shared kitchens to form US-style “pocket neighbourhoods”.

Arup has been the engineering consultant for the Australian project, providing expertise to ensure the designs will meet the requirements of the building code, and meet both cyclone rating and bushfire rating requirements.

They have been designed for “the worst case scenario to make sure it works everywhere”, Mr Osborne said.

The project has also engaged Ashburner Francis as sustainability consultants. Elements of the design and proposed materials include integrated solar PV roofing, potentially from Tractile, and the ability to retrofit rainwater and grey water systems.

The homes comprise a timber cassette system for flooring and timber structural walls, oriented strandboard cladding and portal beams, with no single element weighing greater than 80 kilograms, so it is possible for four people to lift each part.

This meets the standard workplace health and safety limit of 20 kg per person in lifting weight, Mr Osborne said.

The timber cassettes contain no steel, and give good thermal performance. The addition of a magnesium oxide board under floors and a locally produced mineral render on exteriors delivers the high bushfire ratings.

Because most sites are not perfectly level, the dwellings have been designed to sit on stumps. This reduces the need for in-ground works or a concrete slab.

Mr Osborne said the involvement of the high school and many of the other companies was part of the approach he took to the project of “trying to get maximum benefit and serendipity” from each facet of the WikiHouse endeavour from design through the materials used in the final product. The integrated PV roofing is a good example, he said.

The involvement of the high school came about through pure serendipity. Mr Osborne had been discussing CNC machining with a plywood supplier, and found out about a partnership between the major CNC equipment supplier and the school.

Mr Osborne said the project’s resulting involvement with the school has had multiple benefits, in terms of providing a space the community can engage with learning how to make the dwellings, and a means of bringing increased vocational education opportunities for students as well as increasing cashflow for the school when orders start to come in.

“It sits neatly with the WikiHouse idea,” he said.

The design has also been future proofed, in that elements can simply be unscrewed and changed, reused elsewhere or adapted.

As technology changes people can undo things and change things – and things change so fast,” Mr Osborne said.

While anyone can download the plans from the website and then either use CNC equipment or commission the actual fabrication process, standard building applications will probably still be required for most areas, Mr Osborne said.

Download the open source WikiHouse designs and find out more about the prototype workshops.

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  1. Would be great if one could get an 80m2 block of land somewhere (where there is work) to build one of these.
    As it stands, you’d have to buy vacant land 2hrs drive out of a capital city to be able/allowed to build this to live in. And there is little work to sustain you there.
    Most city councils don’t allow subdivision below about 400m2. You still have to pay 400m2-equivalent rates even if your house is tiny; not that they would approve of this (“doesn’t match the streetscape”).

  2. Hello,
    Where can i learn more info about this flat pack timber home.plans,delivery prices etc.
    Prototyped on the Gold Coast
    Kind regards

    Chris Mallet

  3. While I appreciate the ‘affordability’ concerns that are generally behind the ‘tiny homes’ movement, WikiHouse etc, I am very worried that such housing solutions are contributing further to the inaccessibility of our built environment. I would encourage built environment designers and professionals working in the ‘affordability’ space, to seriously consider the fact that although approximately 20% of the (Australian) population lives with a disability of some sort, it is not a static 20%, it is all of us as we move through various lifestages, from babyhood to frail old age. Therefore, in order to ensure that our (one) built environment is accessible to all, please take on board principles of Universal Design and design projects that accommodate everybody.
    Mary Ann Jackson
    Architect, Planner and Access Consultant
    Managing Director, Visionary Design Development Pty Ltd