February 18, 2014

"Using wooden mallets cut from plywood, a crew of eight banged together the slotted frame of a WikiHouse without a single nail."

"It took the WikiHouse team of eight just two days to build its two houses, which were 12 feet wide, 26 feet long and nearly 10 feet high."
Builders use 3-D modeling software to design the houses and direct a robotic power tool called a CNC router to cut parts out of sheets of plywood. The free designs can be customized with computer-aided software.
Compare the 1920 "kit house," as encountered by Buster Keaton:

30 comments:

madAsHell said...

....and I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down.

Bob R said...

House? Try toolshed.

Brennan said...

I'm skeptical of the $5,000 price. I think it is more.

Menards sells kit homes. They're not designed so average Joe can build them without a professional though.

rhhardin said...

Best newspaper caption, when Aristotle Onassis was looking at buying Keaton's former home, "Aristotle contempating the home of Buster."

Michael K said...

I liked the Ganahl Lumber Company sign. I wonder which store it was in the movie location.

Amichel said...

It's an interesting idea, and I can see some benefits to construction that doesn't require nails or screws; but it seems more a novelty than anything. It would be easier and cheaper to build a glorified shed like this with good old fashioned 2x4's and plywood. I guess it's a nice proof of concept, but I can't quite see it scaling up to a larger home.

glenn said...

And all you young folks who voted for His Barryness, here's your new house. Shut up and get ready to downsize.

SJ said...

CNC tools are powerful things.

A little challenging to use. (In certain industries, CNC-operator skills are in high demand.)

However, the combination of rotary-saw, hammer, drill (with screwdriver-bit attachment), square, tape-measure, level, etc. is likely cheaper.

Those tools would likely allow the construction of something similar (or better). Some carpentry skills required, of course.

Levi Starks said...

I love all kinds of alternate architecture. Including the one show here.
Its pretty clear to me that its a concept piece.
it's projects like this that open up new possibilities.
When plywood first hit the scene back in the early 60's there was a lot of resistance. Now days no one would consider building without it.
If you go to your local building supply store you can load as many perfect sheet of plywood as you want in a few minutes, then spend a 1/2 hour trying to pick out a few decent studs.

Freeman Hunt said...

I love that Buster Keaton movie.

Jeff Teal said...

Yes but a CNC once programmed can do all the actions of individual power tools again and again and again ad infinitum.Almost perfectly every time.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Levi Starks said...

If you go to your local building supply store you can load as many perfect sheet of plywood as you want in a few minutes, then spend a 1/2 hour trying to pick out a few decent studs.

Maybe Titus could give you some tips.

Mark said...

I bet all the CNC shops in Brazil's favelas are eager for the plans.

All zero of them.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

There are a couple of Sears kit homes from the 1910s or 1920s in my hometown. They were shipped in sections by rail and assembled on site. Each section had to be no wider than a boxcar.

My great-grandfather built his own house. It's still standing after a hundred and some years. Of course it had no indoor plumbing or electrical wiring, that all came later.

I don't see a kitchen or bathroom in any of the pictures, so we may just be talking about a $5,000 shed.

EMD said...

It's amazing how fresh, original and funny a 94 year old film is.

Keaton was a master.

EMD said...

The people who champion these types of homes aren't progressives at all. They're retrogressives.

David-2 said...

Freeman Hunt - One Week is my favorite over all Buster Keaton movies - and that's saying a lot!

For a 20-minute short it packs in so much hilarious physical action, right up to the end! The actress co-starring is very funny too.

Thanks, Althouse, for posting One Week! It deserves more attention!

Fred Drinkwater said...

This exemplifies a lot of what bugs me about the current "Simple Human" movement. There is no acknowledgement of the depth of technology, industry, and labor behind this "simple" construction. E.g.
- How'd that plywood become so ubiquitous and high-quality?
- How is it that the plywood's glue is durable and non-toxic and cheap?
- Those ICs in the CNC machine came from a billion-dollar fab, and were probably packaged on the other side of the planet.
- The metals in the CNC's cutting tools are near the peak of a metallurgical tech that's been in development since before Agricola, and would be simply unavailable without their own immense chain of tech and logistics.

EMD said...

Another great Keaton short with a house theme.

The Scarecrow

Sigivald said...

All plywood, connected with tenons and pegs?

I would not pay for such a house. That reeks of "creaky", "bad with dampness"*, which is something houses have to cope with internally.

Plywood is excellent as sheathing, but long-term load bearing use depends on how good the glues last...

It might, as others have said, make a tolerable outbuilding.

(* Unless you use high-grade, very expensive marine plywood, and treat the edges correctly, etc. etc., in which case why not just stick-build?)

pst314 said...

"Keaton was a master."

Indeed. Better than Chaplin, in my opinion; more likely to stand the test of time.

Bob R said...

There is a Sears Kit home on the VT campus. When they did renovations you could read the Sears part numbers on the pieces of wood.

gadfly said...

Didn't the Wiki folks know that being really up-to-date means that they would have used a 3-D printer? Computer numerical control is rally old hat stuff.

And if up-to-date wasn't the goal, why would they cut wooden nails from manufactured plywood, glue and all, when wood is not a scarce commodity - no matter what the greenies say.

R. Chatt said...

What ever happened to the hobby horse?

CachorroQuente said...

Looks to have been designed by Ted Kaczynski. Does it come with an autographed certificate of authenticity?

EMD said...

Indeed. Better than Chaplin, in my opinion; more likely to stand the test of time.

While Keaton could construct a better, more elaborate physical gag, Chaplin was the superior storyteller.

People will recall them both, but probably Chaplin more fondly for City Lights and such.

Unknown said...

For all you wet blankets:

(1) From the wikihouse web site: "The purpose of the WikiHouse construction set is that the end structure is ready to be made weathertight using cladding, insulation, damp-proof membranes and windows. WikiHouse is still an experiment in its early stages, and these have not yet been prototyped or developed further."

(2) NPR story says someone is designing a 2-story.

(3) not cheaper to build a frame house this size according to Home Depot; OTOH, I suspect the 5K price has some caveats (the hobby CNC in my garage probably isn't big enough....)

Scott said...

I know of a lesbian couple who also built a house with no nails. It was all tongue-in-groove.

You're welcome.

gbarto said...

What I find interesting is while we investigate this alternative housing, zoning boards are making it harder and harder to even site and build what would have made a nice starter house in the 1940s or 1950s. And imagine the compliance involved in tacking on a room the way they did in the old days! If people want to really revolutionize housing availability, instead of looking for new ways to use materials, they'll go to the zoning boards, homeowners' associations and building inspectors and ask that a house that was good enough for someone in 1970 be deemed good enough to build today.

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