Imagine if cars were built the way most houses are. A procession of trucks would deliver materials and parts to your driveway - sheet metal, spools of wire, screws, pistons, a roll of carpet, bumpers and a steering wheel. Then day laborers would arrive to put it all together. In the rain.So begins Building Blocks, an article in this month's Popular Science. The article discusses a new pre-fab housing project: The Open Source Building Alliance. The team (which includes MIT's House_n lab led by Kent Larson and Tedd Benson of Bensonwood Homes) plans to build 4 prototype homes that basically "plug and play". The first one was built this summer.
The concept behind open-source homes is based on pre-fab panels that are joined with industry-wide standard connectors (think USB ports). In theory, open-source homes would streamline both construction and renovation because every panel from every house would fit together.
Building Blocks discusses this concept for homes, but I see it working in a number of markets, specifically multi-unit housing and hotels. Different panels would have to be designed for different hotel brands, but the repetitious nature of hotels (not only within one building, but across the country) is a perfect match for the open-source homes concept.