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More for less: modular WikiHouse ups its game

WikiHouse tests show that SterlingOSB Zero not only offers better structural performance than the plywood it has traditionally used, it’s more sustainable and cheaper too

WikiHouse building in progress at De Stripmaker, Almere, near Amsterdam.
WikiHouse building in progress at De Stripmaker, Almere, near Amsterdam. Credit: WikiHouse NL

WikiHouse is an open-source, modular building system based on standardised interlocking components that slot together in various configurations to create a high performance building. 

The digitally fabricated blocks are designed to be manufactured by small, local CNC timber fabricators using open-source code, which is maintained in the UK by Open Systems Lab. 

Originally the blocks were designed and fabricated using imported plywood but a programme of testing is about to begin at Imperial College, London, to verify Open Systems Lab’s analytical predictions that replacing plywood with West Fraser’s SterlingOSB Zero will give improved structural performance – as Gabriele Granello, engineering lead at WikiHouse explains.

Why the switch from plywood?
There are several reasons: SterlingOSB Zero is more sustainable – manufactured in the UK from timber grown in the UK. The carbon footprint of SterlingOSB Zero is lower than for plywood, it is cheaper and its predicted structural performance is generally better.

How can you be sure of its improved structural performance?
Our testing so far shows that the jigsaw joints fabricated using SterlingOSB Zero have a greater shear strength than the same joints made in plywood, and improved stiffness. Imperial College is testing components and assemblies using SterlingOSB Zero to verify their performance.

What board thickness are you using?
We’re using the same 18mm thickness of SterlingOSB board as plywood to fabricate the components using open-source code from which WikiHouses are built. We designed the system so that small local businesses can get together to set up a factory for less than £100K to produce these components. We chose 18mm because that it is the optimum compromise between specification, performance, availability and space in a micro-factory for the CNC machine, stock, assembly and storage 

Imperial College’s lab works with London-based Hub Workshop, specialist sub-contractor in CNC manufacturing and supplier of the WikiBlocks.
Imperial College’s lab works with London-based Hub Workshop, specialist sub-contractor in CNC manufacturing and supplier of the WikiBlocks. Credit: Hub Workshop

Has a WikiHouse been built using SterlingOSB Zero components?

There is a single-storey cabin currently under construction for a private client, but our roadmap for the system involves take-up from community organisations, housing associations and other affordable housing providers. 

How do you design a WikiHouse?

All the information on how to design a WikiHouse is available free on, including a guide for designers. We’re targeting one and two storey buildings, which is what the off-the-shelf system has been optimised to deliver. There is a high degree of flexibility in what can be designed using the system. The only constraint is that because all the SterlingOSB Zero blocks are 600mm long and either 200mm or 250mm wide, the dimensions of the building’s footprint should ideally be a multiple of 600mm. If you want something different, you can develop special blocks, but it is much easier to drag and drop the standardised blocks from our website in order to build something beautiful and sustainable. 



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