We Can Make seeks to re-mix the housing supply chain and put the citizen at the heart of the development process. This is how We Can Make does it:
1. Make the Community the Developer
Putting citizens at the heart of investing in new housing by crowd-sourcing the capital- land, labour, and money- at community level means that instead of any development profit being removed it can be returned to the system as more affordable housing and a community dividend that can be spent on shared priorities set by the community. For example, improving green spaces, funding community facilities, or supporting a youth worker.
2. Mobilise Self-Assembly Land
Microsites- peppered amongst backgardens, wide corners and the gaps between buildings- are beyond the reach of the conventional development industry and even local authorities. Their small size, scattered distribution, and diverse ownerships takes them “off radar” or rejected as too tricky and expensive to develop. The citizen sector, however, can unlock these sites because it operates at the super-local level and is able to engage with people at point of need rather than speculatively. In low-density Knowle West, We Can Make identified nearly 2000 micro-sites large enough to build a 1-2 bedroom home, Even if 10% of these sites were developed, this would represent a significant new supply of land in the hands of citizens.
3. Build Collective Tools
Access to technical and professional skills place a high-overhead on any new development. It can seem a daunting (and expensive) process for any individual amateur to embark upon. However, a collective approach to identifying the physical, technical and design parameters across a particular community can help simplify and standardize, thereby reducing complexity, risk, and costs. We Can Make is now developing these collective tools for land assembly, design, finance, and construction.
4. Localise the Means of Production
Smart factories, digital fabrication technologies, new materials, and changes in distribution networks are among the changes that have the potential to radicallydemocratise the design and construction of how and where We Can Make almost everything – including our homes and communities.
To test how localising the production of new homes could work, We Can Make built a prototype home. The TAM, designed by White Design, is one example of the kind of home that can be delivered through the We Can Make approach.
The TAM unit is 36 square meters and built to the same standards as a regular home, the TAM was built in twelve weeks from timber and compressed straw and chopped straw, employing residents as part of the construction team.
We Can Make is now seeking to set up a local housing factory in Knowle West to do near-site fabrication of new homes.
5. And repeat
The non-replicability of most community-led housing projects is one of the main factors preventing the sector from scaling up. Once devoted enthusiasts have built their home they generally have little interest in repeating the experience.
We Can Make has identified many of the hardware and software requirements (design, planning, finance, governance) to enable faster, cheaper, better homes to be made with and by the community. Prototyped in Knowle West, the aim is to replicate the approach in other neigbourhoods.