OBI Kickstarter Research Questions

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Image credits - [1]

  • Why has modular housing not succeeded yet? First, definition of terms: a kit house that an owner can buy inexpesively, and put together rapidly to make a nice house.

Insights: kit houses do exist: Modular Homes - but not a kit that the owner builds themselves. The case where the owner builds from a kit is rare if nonexistent. This is because house building is beyond the skill set of an average person, if that build requires skill. Why do skilled people, then, don't build from a kit? Because kits would require a markup for the kit provider to make a living - so it's probably cheaper for a person to build from scratch.

We address this by running professionally-guided builds with negative labor costs - by simplifying design so that trade skills are not required. Now how to say this in plain English?

  • Just another open source house project?

WikiHouse. OBI offering: 5x lower cost to performance ratio. Open Architecture Network. Habitat for Humanity. Architecture for Humanity. Open House from Portugal. This goes into the Kickstarter description.

  • Just another dirt cheap house?

Earthshio, KC low cost company, Tumbleweed tinyhomes.

Popular statement on cost


Industry Standards

  • BoKlok House - under $150k - [2]. It is modular housing, not owner-builder at all, though. Area: 530 square feet - [3]

Definition of Terms

  • Modular Homes vs Kit Houses
  • Manufactured Housing = mobile home. This is NOT same as Prefabricated Housing, which is assembled like a normal home on site. From Wikipedia:
  • Modular buildings, also called prefabricated buildings, differ from mobile homes, which are also called manufactured homes, in two ways. First, modular homes do not have axles or a frame, meaning that they are typically transported to their site by means of flat-bed trucks. Secondly, modular buildings must conform to all local building codes for their proposed use, while mobile homes, made in the United States, are required to conform to federal codes governed by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). There are some residential modular buildings that are built on a steel frame (referred to as on-frame modular) that do meet local building codes and are considered modular homes, rather than mobile homes. - [4]
  • General Contractor vs Home Builder - [5]
  • Building Designer vs Architect - [6]
  • Builder vs developer and types of builders - [7]. Builders used to also be the developers in a bygone era. In autonomous housing, the builder replaces some of the functions of the developer , as utility connections are included.


  • Mobile homes are also 16' wide, x76 long.
  • Best breakdown of cost when you buy a home without being involved in the building process - 25% land, 25% materials, 25% labor, 25% service (12.5 profit, 12.5 overhead of the house builder) - [8]. This is consistent with the next item (NAHB new construction figures)
  • 50/50 labor/materials in new construction - [9]
  • Note that 'average' may overstate the realistic costs of building a house - such as $125/sf example in the last paragraph at
  • Average house sizes in different countries - [10]. US and Australia, followed by Canada - are at top.
  • Good percentage breakdown, showing the largest % is framing (23%) and trim (12%) - [11]
  • New home costs $156/sf in 2011 including all costs + land - for 2300 sf - [12]
  • Note: there is a discrepancy in this and US Census Bureau - which shows $85/sf median USA - [13]. Note that the median price is perhaps more representative?
  • 2014 Census - $97/sf - [14]
  • Reconciled. The US Census does not include land costs, which if included, make the house $128/sf. Close.
  • Rising significantly - in 2015 - to $468k for 2800 sf - [15] - $167/sf. Size of housing has increased dramatically. This is the NAHB figure, and it is larger than the 2015 US Census figure of $360k. - [16]
  • Existing home median price in 2015 - $220k - [17]; Mean is about $260k - [18]
  • Average single and double mobile homes in the US were $45k and $82k in 2014. - [19]
  • About 50k mobile homes vs. 450k regular homes sold in 2014 - [20]
  • Home ownership is going down from 68% to 62% over the last decade - [21]


  • Median size of a new single-family home sold was 2,506 square feet - [22]
  • Average square feet of new homes built 2013 - 2600 sf - [23]
  • Square feet XLS - 1800-2400 sf was the most common house size built - [24]


Methodology: break down all costs of a house - using average construction costs for the same type of housing. That would be owner-builder - but we extend our market to the mainstream, so we compete with 'average home buyer' in the suburbs, but more likely with non-subhrn, nonurban, which can be non-rural or rural housing. Think of this as 'typically non subdivision housing' - as the people who go into the subdivision may not care, though probably many of them are in subdivisions because they have no other options.

Account for % of cost reduction across all components of cost - and weigh by % that component takes up. Do a good graph.

Do different scenarios: owner/builder without OBI involvement, or OBI contracted house.

About 70%% reduction in materials by design and open source components. 100% cheaper on labor. 10% reduction on architect's fee. 7% reduction on profit - [25]

First - understand areas of cost and what we are competing with. - [26]

Architect's fee - 10% of cost - [27]

(3 times cheaper, such as hydronic stove at $1500 instead of $5k. O We turn labor costs into labor revenue. We combine design-buikd (Jersey Devil) with modular simplocity as opposed to vanity. We socialize the design cost, SME and other. We simplify the design so it's designed to be easy to build. We optimize material waste - from average 20% waste to 5%. We reduce materials cost by open materials harvested in site (brick, lumber, and insulation.)

R&D Points

  • Baseline - $156/sf average in 2013. It includes land, 20% of cost.
  • Baseline: top lots are $50-$100k for cookie cutter mansions - but there are plenty of $10k lots in cities including Chicago, KC, Dallas, Houston, Raytown KC. Average 2013 NAHB is 20% of house cost.
  • Cost data on comparable structures. 1. $50k quote on outdoor kitchen/bath - cost per SF? Get a few quotes from professional builders.l - as a real comparison, select the middle ground. Use contractors all on their own, without our system. So pretty much baseline costs. Ask BNIM and teh other KC housing CO - breakthrough cost how?
  • Lowest cost electric option - DC power center + night time TEG. Outcome: costing of components for a minimum system.
  • Pellet burner - outcome: use available components, then open source a Pellet Burelner Construction Set.
  • What is prefab/modular home? It is not a mobile home. Who are the best CO.panies for that? (Ask the MH3 guy to comment)

Contracting Points

  • "Bozo the Builder agrees to construct the house for the Smiths exactly as outlined and described in the plans and specifications dated (insert plan & spec dates here) _________. There are to be NO deviations or changes made unless authorized in writing by the Smiths." - [28]