Open-source Modular Prefabricated Homes: Lessons to be Learned from Project Ara
Google is all about to change the smartphone landscape during next few years – betting big time on Project Ara, a project which aims to bring the power of open-source development to hardware too. The idea is people can buy a basic framework of the phone for as less as $50 (They call this framework Endoskelton), and as time goes buy and when user wants it he or she can upgrade it by attaching various modules for their need.
This is a great idea and will reduce the digital divide by a great extend, but there are much important problems to be addressed in the world like basic housing with toilets for millions and a supply of clean water for everyone. Even the most rich and powerful governments can’t make go away all the problems in an instant, because housing and sanitation are expensive to provide, more so for emerging countries.
What we need is a sustainable business model which will facilitate production and assembling of properly plumped houses at a low cost. This is were we can take lessons from Project Ara. It is common knowledge that if something is mass produced its cost of production will go down substantially. Like Endoskelton of Project Ara, we can produce a base unit that can be extended by the customer whenever he needs additional functionality. Unlike the Endoskelton, the base unit of a modular prefabricated home is not something that encloses the whole finished unit, it is more like say a living room, more modules like a dedicated bedroom, kitchen, dining room, standalone bathroom could be added as separate modules.
The base module is like a studio apartment which can be used as its own if the dweller is a single person, complete with a basic toilet and electric wiring etc.
There are hurdles along the way for such a project. Unlike potential customers of a modular phone is spread all around the world, a modular prefabricated home is in demand only developed world. More about that on future posts. Let us know your thought about such a project below.