Today, houses are built quite differently than they were centuries ago. If you wanted to have a custom home built today, you'd likely end up hiring an architect to draw up some blueprints, and then paying a number of contractors to complete the build. It takes time and money, but not a lot of direct hands-on involvement from the homeowner.

Open building institute house 3

In the past, the opposite was true—home-building was extremely hands-on, and often incorporated family and friends rather than hired contractors. Think of the concept of a community barn-raising, and you'll start to get the idea. You didn't need architects to build a log cabin on the American frontier, you simply needed a game plan, some extra muscle, and plenty of determination.

Open building institute house 2

A group known as the Open Building Institute has begun a Kickstarter campaign to return to this community-oriented and affordable home-building approach. At the core of this plan is an open-source library of housing module designs, from foundations and walls to doors and roof panels.

Open building institute house 4

This open-source system would allow any ordinary individual to use CAD software to plan the layout of a dream home, then build or purchase the components, and assemble the home themselves. Alternatively, the Open Building Institute hopes to train and license professional contractors on these systems, so they could help home-builders with more difficult parts of the process.

It's an interesting concept, and one that founder Dr. Marcin Jakubowski—a Princeton graduate with a Ph.D in fusion physics—feels is ideal for living off-grid. In fact, he tells us it was one of the primary goals of the Open Building Institute. He and his wife started the project to “make off-grid eco-housing widely accessible”. As a result, the building modules include designs for solar panel arrays, mini solar greenhouses, and even an hydroponic gardening system. These items could make it possible to build a small sustainable home in a remote area, without reliance on the electrical grid or grocery stores.

Open building institute house 1

The Open Building Institute is currently crowdsourcing funding on Kickstarter, and is already well on its way to its $80,000 initial goal. For more information on this innovative home-building project, visit or check the group's Kickstarter page.

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