The Open Building Institute – A Sustainable Way to Build Modular Housing

Marcin Jakubowski and Catarina Mota want to develop a system of modular building that will be affordable, sustainable, and expandable.

Marcin Jakubowski and his wife Catarina Mota wanted to expand their living space but couldn’t find the requirements they wanted in a home. They wanted an affordable and comfortable home, built quickly from local materials with easy options for future expansion. They also wanted to be off the grid, generating their own energy and food. After starting with their 144 square foot microhouse in 2013 they began to add rooms and features until the 2000 square foot Factor e Farm was finished.

The couple is running a Kickstarter for their Open Building Institute to raise funds and develop the Eco-Building Toolkit. Marcin founded Open Source Ecology in 2003 and has continued to work on projects designed to give people the tools to make what they need in an affordable and sustainable way. His main problem statement is that 1.6 billion people do not have adequate housing, so developing the best possible housing will help the entire world.

The Open Building Institute will house an online open source library of designs and tutorials to build home modules. Plans will also be available to create a production facility that can create its own bricks, lumber, insulation, pain, and lime concrete using local materials from within a fifty mile radius. Training will also be available, both online and in workshops on location at the Factor e Farm in Missouri.

Short term the first goal for the project is the Starter Home – a 700 square foot house that will cost approximately $25,000 US and have plenty of room for expansion. The idea is that instead of spending $360,000 on a new home construction people can spend a fraction of that cost and then spread out as the need arises. The starter home will include a 3000 Watt photovoltaic system for off-grid energy production, a biogas digester, and an open source thermoelectric generator.

It’s easy to call these big ideas unrealistic and nearly impossible, but the team keeps building more examples of how their system will work, while refining the open source library. An 800 square foot greenhouse built in November 2015 cost $6,000 in materials. Two 1500 gallon fish ponds, 85 aquaponic towers, two compost grow beds, three hydroponic radiators and other features are built into the greenhouse.

I’m already a huge fan of Marcin Jakubowski – we’ve previously covered his Open Source Civilization project here at, and hope that this current Kickstarter campaign is highly successful. Actual construction and long term health of the product requires highly trained and dedicated individuals, and possibly a skillset or mindset that I do not possess. The campaign ends on August 3, 2016.