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Design to lower thresholds

Design to continuously lower barriers of time, cost, risk, skill, energy, waste, and carbon at every stage. 
Share global, manufacture local

Instead of manufacturing one-size-fits-all products in large, centralised factories, use local, flexible microfactories. ‘It is easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits’ – Keynes

Bake knowledge and complexity into pre-manufactured components that are simple and predictable to fit together.
Use as few unique materials and methods as possible

Complexity raises exponentially with each additional material or procedure.
Design for disassembly

Wet-trades are messy, inconsistent, slow and impossible to disassemble. Instead, most parts should slot, click, staple, tape, or be bolted or screwed together.

All components should be made to sufficient precision so when assembled the building is consistently straight and accurate, so other components fit without needing to be measured and cut on site.

‘Poka Yoke’

Also known as ‘mistake-proofing’. Design parts such that it is physically impossible to assemble them incorrectly.

Design in ‘canaries’

Build-in ‘tells’ or indicators that make it visible if something is incorrectly assembled, missing or not working properly.


Tag parts such that they can be sorted, assembled or maintained without needing to refer to drawings very often. Think ‘building by numbers’ (or colours).

Design-out dependencies

Separate-out (or avoid) any task that can cause knock-on delays to other tasks if it is not done on time, especially if it needs to be done by others.

Start somewhere

No one can solve everyone’s problems. Design something that works where you are, then share so others can adapt it for their own economy, climate and culture. Like Darwin’s finches.
Kaizen means continuous incremental improvement, driven by encouraging everyone working at any point in the supply chain to suggest small updates to make the process better.
Open and interoperable 

Be as product-agnostic and provider-agnostic as possible, so you can switch-out for an alternative product or company if required. We call this an ‘open chain’.
Open source

‘Be lazy like a fox’ – Linus Torvalds. Share common solutions for others to freely adapt and improve. This way, we all benefit from a huge R&D community, where no problem needs to be solved twice.  No one ever owned the IP for bricks.

Design for inclusion

Never stop looking for ways in which age, race, gender, sexual orientation or disability might be barriers, and try to design them out. 

Design for a circular economy

Use parts that can be reused, fully recycled or burned in place of other fuels (without toxic emissions).
Design-out hazards

As far as possible, try to design-out any risks to people’s safety, health and wellbeing at all stages of a building’s life – from making to use to disassembly.
Design for the ‘new normal’

Avoid design which would be considered ‘alternative’, ‘boutique’ or only for the rich or poor. Instead, design products that most people would consider desirable and affordable.
Superpower the users

‘If you can’t mend it, you don’t own it’. Afford as much understanding and power as possible to the end users, from procurement to maintenance to electricity. Democracy is a design diagram.

© Open Systems Lab 2019

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