Open Building Institute

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= "focus is on low cost and rapidly-built structures that are modular, ecological, and energy efficient".


Project launched by Catarina Mota, Marcin Jakubowski et al.


"The OBI system is open source, collaborative and distributed.

Our focus is on low cost and rapidly-built structures that are modular, ecological, and energy efficient.

AT THE HEART OF THE PROJECT IS A LIBRARY OF BUILDING MODULES — walls, windows, doors, roof, utility and functional modules, etc.—that can be combined to create a variety of structures: studios, homes, multi-family houses, greenhouses, barns, workshops, schools, offices, etc.

Our approach focuses on state of the art and ecological housing. This means that the system pays special attention to water-catchment, passive heating and cooling, photovoltaics, thermal mass, insulation, off-grid sanitation, and hydronic heat.

Designs and build instructions are contributed by designers around the world and are reviewed by experienced builders. A shared pool of designs means that each one of us does not have to reinvent the wheel. A greater number of designers means faster development. And the larger the number of contributions, the greater the diversity of approaches and solutions we can choose from.

All modules and procedures are OPEN SOURCE—forever and with no exceptions. This means that everyone is free to use, modify and redistribute them. Our OSHWA-compatible license also ensures that you are free to profit from these designs—by using them, for example, in design and/or build contractor work.

The library is made available online in standard CAD formats compatible with open source software applications such as FreeCAD and Blender. The library can be directly imported into Sweet Home 3D—an open source interior design application. Once imported into the application, modules can be simply dragged and dropped to create a building design.

The modules on the library are designed specifically to be easily and quickly built by non-professional builders. A 4×8 ft insulated wall module, for example, takes a team of two people 1 hour to build.


In the 18th and 19th century, rural communities came together to build barns for each of their members. In our modern version of barn-raising, builds typically take place in 6-day workshops, during which participants collaborate to build a structure.

The modularity of the system enables extremely rapid builds, as modules are first built concurrently by teams and then quickly assembled on site to form the building.

Throughout several experiments, we learned that it is possible for a group of 35 people to build and install 20 wall modules in 1 day and 6 roof modules in another day. This means that it is possible to build the shell of a 24 x 16 ft structure in 2 days, Building a house may be a labor of love, but it doesn’t have to take a lifetime.

During workshops, participants acquire skills and hands-on experience with the system in order to organize their own builds. The barn-raising approach not only enables rapid builds, but also provides organizers with a stream of revenue that helps offset the cost of materials.

To further encourage adoption, replication and entrepreneurship, all workshop/build organization materials—from workflow and budget to publicity plan and logistics—are also open source. And for those who wish to build a business on top of this system, we are developing a training program geared specifically to entrepreneur-builders.

A MODULAR SYSTEM FACILITATES INCREMENTAL BUILDING. Rather than tackling a large project in one go, our approach enables us to start with a small structure—a microhouse, for example—and then keep adding to it throughout subsequent builds." (