After tying the knot in 2013, Marcin Jakubowski and Catarina Mota moved to Missouri only to be challenged by how small a house their budget afforded them – a common problem for young couples and new families across the world. Knowing how much their ideal home would cost, the couple instead set about building their own, for a much cheaper price and with eco-friendly materials. Together, they soon developed the concept of Open Building Institute (OBI), which got off the ground around a year ago. An open-source, modular system, OBI allows those with even the most basic architectural knowledge to create and download the plans to their dream, green home – and build it in five days, with sustainable materials.

An initiative to design and build your own house -OBI

An initiative to design and build your own house -OBI

The process for budding eco-architects facilitated by Open Building Institute is simple: download the free-to-access library and look at the design modules. After designing their own house, a process that does not require professional experience, they can sign up for a building workshop with the company then organize their own build.

Jakubowski explains to progrss that building a house with the company’s modules will cost 10% of what it would cost someone who builds the same house in a traditional manner.

“If you build a house yourself, you can build a 750-square-foot starter home for USD $35,000 –  1/10th of the cost of an average new home in the USA, which is about USD $360, 000,” he says. “You pay a service fee of USD $10, 000 for a turnkey service, and we bring a team that builds the house in five days.”

Green at their core, the Open Building Institute pushes for the use of locally sourced materials. “Compressed earth blocks, insulation, paint, concrete, and 3D printed polycarbonate multiwall glazing… All of these can be made from local and recycled materials,” says Jakubowski. Those requesting house plans will also pay for the materials which are sourced from local suppliers, dependent on the location of the planned house, and are shipped to the building site.

“We provide a skilled leader team – and everyone else does not require building skills. We worked out how to incorporate apprentice training as we do the build,” says Jakubowski about the east of construction using their system. In fact, the founder explains that using the labor model prescribed by the Open Building Institute, their clients can save 50% on total build costs as labor typically account for half construction costs.

The greenhouse provides a daily calorie intake of 2,800 - OBI

The greenhouse provides a daily calorie intake of 2,800 – OBI

The Open Building Institute can also work on building an aquaponic greenhouse for clients interested in urban farming and self-sustenance. It offers a workshop for those who want to learn how to build a greenhouse, which aims to provide 2850 calories per day from fish, chicken and mushrooms, not counting any of the vegetable crops. This covers the daily calorie intake for one person.

“The overall workshop is broken up into two sessions and participants can choose to participate in either or both,” the company’s website reads. “In the first session, we will build the greenhouse structure using polycarbonate double-wall glazing, with ponds and hydronic heating, at a cost of $6000 – 3x lower than industry standards. In the second session, we will build the biological modules for an integrated greenhouse with ecological pest management.”  The multi-purpose greenhouse module is created with its own eco-system in mind: the plants are fed by the water and waste products from the fish tanks.

Last year, the company built an aquaponic greenhouse which included: two 1500 gallons fish ponds, 1 chicken coop, 85 aquaponic towers, 2 compost grow beds, 6 mushroom grow towers, 1 aquatic worm system, 1 BSF breeding system, and 3 hydronic radiators.

What a designed house looks like -OBI

What a designed house looks like -OBI

The company is currently holding a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to build a fully-functioning prototype that combines all their and has successfully collected some USD $ 68,000 of its USD $80,000 at the time of writing. “We will build the Seed Home, 750-square-foot prototype, we will start a training program for builders, and build the open source materials production facility,” Jakubowski explains.

As the global housing market continues to face a shortage of affordable housing, more and more open source DIY platforms are appearing. Earlier this year, we profiled a similar initiative for building affordable and eco-friendly homes in the UK, WikiHouse.