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Robert commented on Build the Builders

Great insight Gray, thanks for sharing.

I think it is fascinating that you have identified the difficulty of building well even very simple structures such as houses. Working as a structural engineer on projects in the developed world I see the same problems. Many widely used construction techniques, even 'modern' ones, such as masonry, reinforced concrete and steel rely on a huge amount of craftsmanship and training to erect them to high standards of quality and safety. In addition, due to their weight and hardness they are difficult to transport, hard to handle, sit heavily on the ground and prone to catastrophic collapse, particularly in earthquake zones. The photo used to illustrate your idea perfectly illustrates some of these problems, however I believe there is a simple alternative - timber in combination with modern manufacturing methods.

Mass manufactures have long since realised the benefits of designing products so that they are easy to assemble. Wikihouse ( http://www.wikihouse.cc ) have taken this principle and applied it to houses - the hard work is done in design process, manufacture is by a machine and assembly on site requires only mallets and step ladders. The resulting structure is tight, light, easy to insulate and inherently tactile. What's more it makes hanging pictures very easy! You only have to watch their video of the construction of 'A-Barn' in Scotland to recognise the benefits. Lightweight timber structures inherently resilient to earthquakes because they have low mass (it is the mobilisation of a building's own mass in the absence of appropriate stiffness that destroys it).

Whilst implementing this solution would involve establishing a new supply chain in many regions, I would contend that compared that it a least as simple, if not simpler than those for other materials. The big ticket items are a supply of timber sheet material such as OSB (or perhaps local alternatives such as bamboo sheet) and CNC machine for cutting the parts. But once established their is huge potential for economies of scale.

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see one and two houses being built with masonry and concrete which are both unnecessary and create huge problems of their own. Interesting fact: a traditional average British brick house actually contains approximately 7 tonnes of timber, the timber equivalent contains only 11 tonnes.

I really hope this idea gets progressed further.