General Assembly Guide

A guide for installers assembling a WikiHouse Skylark chassis on-site.

Before you start

All the information and tips provided here are just for guidance. You and your team are responsible for making your own plan, and building your project in a safe way, and complying with all relevant regulations. If you're in the UK, you can find some useful information on the HSE website and the Self Build Portal.

Read the full WikiHouse Terms

Equipment

Besides general construction tools, PPE gear, and first aid facilities, WikiHouse construction may require some specific equipment on site. This includes:

  • Ear defenders
  • Rubber mallets
  • Work gloves for handling
  • Genie lift for positioning floor and roof blocks (ie. SLA15)
  • Mobile platform for reaching ceilings
  • Step ladders
  • Safety harnesses for working at height
  • Brad nail gun (battery operated)
  • Wood trimmer/multi-tool
  • Files and sandpaper
  • Dust-masks

Preparing your site

Site will need appropriate security fencing, power supply and welfare facilities (for example, access to a wc and rest areas).

You will need to set aside suitable storage space on site for taking delivery of the WikiHouse blocks when they arrive.

One of the big advantages of manufactured building components is that blocks can be delivered just-in-time. This enables a build team to have all the groundworks, foundations, and, in some cases, even the landscaping and utility connections completed before any of the chassis parts arrive on site. In fact this is the best way to manage a WikiHouse site and build programme, and it's worthwhile choosing a procurement route that allows for this.

Handling and storage

Delivery

You should arrange the delivery of WikiHouse blocks with your manufacturer to make sure they arrive at the site at the appropriate stage of the build. You may choose to organise delivery in stages based on transport capacity and site storage space. The best timing for the initial delivery is after all foundation work, including level chassis rails, are installed. It's even possible to have some of the landscaping completed before any WikiHouse chassis blocks arrive.  If the site topography allows, it's worthwhile using a Moffet, or forklift lorry, for the delivery of blocks to ensure swift unloading at the site.

Parts storage

A dry, accessible storage area will be required for components arriving on site. Where there are no existing structures, a canopy can be used. Parts must be kept off the ground and away from moisture or direct sun.

Manual handling

Most Skylark blocks can be carried by between 1-4 people, with very little need for mechanical lifting and rarely any need for a crane.

Ground floor

Once your foundation of choice has been installed, bearing rails are fixed, and everything is perfectly level, you're ready to assembly the Skylark chassis.

Timber rails/bearers fixed to anchor points on helical screw piles

COMBs

Combs are the important connectors between floors and walls vertically, but also help to connect them horizontally. There are specific combs for use on ground floors (COMB-A blocks), middle and top floors (COMB-B blocks), and gable pitched roofs (COMB-G).

As the first blocks of the Skylark chassis that you will assemble on site, combs help to set out the whole structure. There are two types of comb ends because combs run in both x-axis and y-axis at floor level. The END-X type is used in parallel to FLOOR beams and END blocks, while the END-Y type is used perpendicular to those blocks along the 'length' of the building.

There are also MID combs which can be used in either x-axis or y-axis. These mid combs work together the various lengths of comb ends to create different span lengths.

The ground floor (COMB-A) combs have a flat base that sits atop of the foundation rails. These are positioned in place upright, starting at the corners, where the END-X and END-Y combs overlap and interlock, and then adding the MID combs. A double row or layer of combs (2x 18mm thicknesses) are needed. We recommend you use two different END-X lengths (ie END-X1 and END-X2) along each span, and flip this for the second row, so you stagger the location of joints between comb sections.

Don't worry about protruding prongs where there are door openings, as these can be easily sawn off once DOOR blocks have been installed.

Position the COMBs and using steel brackets to fix them to the base rails.

The combs are typically fixed to the foundation rails using steel brackets, such as those supplied by Rothoblaas. These can be angled or flat brackets depending on the width of the base rail, and secured with screw or bolt fixings. Your structural engineer should provide fixing details specific to your project and design.

END blocks

Once you have the ground floor combs accurately positioned (best check with a tape measure and ideally laser level) and fixed to the rails you're ready to install the END blocks. END blocks typically come in three sections that make up a full span beam, which corresponds with the span of the FLOOR blocks. These get dropped onto the x-axis COMBs from above, and pushed down using a few taps of a rubber mallet. This should fit snuggly and help lock the COMBs together at both ends of the building structure.

FLOOR blocks

FLOOR blocks are installed next and these come in a range of spans (currently S to L) and range in weight between 70-100kg. You'll need a team of at least 4 people or maybe even a pallet jack to help lift and manoeuvre a beam into place over the COMBs at either end. Start at one end of the house and work your way along adding the 600m wide FLOOR blocks one at a time.

Walls

Skylark WALL blocks are quick and easy to build with. The blocks should arrive to site pre-insulated and ready to lift into place on the floor structure.

WALL blocks come in a range of sizes (S to XL) to create different height ceilings, and are used together with corresponding CORNER, DOOR, and WINDOW block sizes. A typical WALL block weighs around 40-60kg and can generally be carried by two people. The blocks fit into place over raised tabs on the outer edges of FLOOR and END blocks.

Installing the WALL blocks including corners, windows and doorways

Upper floors

More information coming soon

Placing the upper floor COMBs along the top of the walls

Installing the FLOOR and END blocks onto the COMBs

Stairs

More information coming soon

Upper walls

More information coming soon

Roof

You can use more or less any kind of roofing, including tiles, corrugated panels, membranes or green roofs. A classic choice is standing-seam steel, which is robust, recyclable, and relatively easy to install.

Wrapping

As soon as possible after you have assembled the chassis you should wrap it in a breather membrane. This keeps the structure dry, whilst allowing any trapped moisture to evaporate.

If the rainscreen cladding you are going to use has gaps in it, you will need to use a UV resistant breather membrane.

Lining

On residential builds, the internal walls are usually lined with plasterboard (or drywall), and because of the precision of the structure, you will only need to tape and fill joints before painting instead of needing to skim. Other lining products, such as plywood and MgO board are also suitable alternatives.

Services

The WikiHouse chassis includes an open zone for pipes and electrical wiring all the way around. Floor and roof blocks also include pre-cut holes for 100mm air ducting.

When spaces are built to a high level of airtightness, it is especially important to ensure they are properly ventilated.

As well as using natural cross-ventilation, we recommend always installing Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) with full summer bypass. Floor and roof blocks include holes for running air ducts through the building.

Windows

The WikiHouse chassis is compatible with more or less any type of window, and the precision of the chassis means that units can be ordered in advance, instead of needing to be measured on site. We find that inward-opening, double-glazed composite windows look great. It's a good idea to mount these onto cranked brackets on the top and sides.

The most important thing is to make sure any gap between the unit and the opening is fully insulated, and fully protected from wind-driven rain using suitable flashings, tape and expanding insulation.

Internal walls

The straightness and accuracy of the chassis make it relatively simple to add or remove internal walls anywhere within the structure. This leaves plenty of scope to alter the internal layout of the building during its lifetime, so it can adapt to different needs.

Help improve this guide

If spot any problems with this guide, or you have an idea for how to improve it, please let us know.

Please do

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Use it

Most WikiHouse files and information are licensed under a Creative Commons–Sharealike licence, so you are free to use, distribute or modify them, including commercially.

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Check it

All WikiHouse information is shared 'as is', without warranties or guarantees of any kind. You are responsible for checking it and using it in a safe and responsible way, for example, getting it checked by a structural engineer.

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Comply with regulations

You are responsible for making sure your project complies with all relevant local regulations, including planning, building codes and health & safety legislation. If in doubt, seek professional advice.

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Re-share your improvements

If you make any improvements to the system, you must publish your files under the same type of open licence. However, you do not need to publish the plans and specifications for individual projects unless you wish to.

Please do not

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Call yourself WikiHouse

Do not call your company, organisation or any marketed product or service 'WikiHouse'. However, you may use the term WikiHouse to talk about the system, and you may describe your project, product, service or organisation as, for example, "using WikiHouse", "based on WikiHouse", "contributing to WikiHouse", or similar.

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Remove notices

Do not remove any licence notices from files if you are re-sharing them.

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Claim to be endorsed

Do not give the impression that you are endorsed by, or affiliated with WikiHouse or Open Systems Lab (unless you are, by written agreement), and do not claim to represent the WikiHouse project or community as a whole.