Remember how easy it was to build miniature houses out of Lincoln Logs? All you had to do was stack the pieces up and fit the wedges together. In a matter of minutes, you could create an enormous cabin or barn. Believe it or not, it’s now possible to build a real, full-scale house in almost exactly the same way—no glue or nails required. Catharhome, a company based in Toulouse, France, has created Brikawood: a system of interlocking wooden bricks that couldn’t be easier to use.
No construction experience? No problem at all. One wooden “brick” consists of two lateral flanges and two transverse spacers pre-carved with dovetail joints. This deceptively simple design allows each piece to slide into place with little to no effort. For this reason, the company ships out sets of bricks as DIY kits. The prospect of building a house from the ground up would normally seem complex and overwhelming, but it’s a blast with Brikawood.
Alain Roméo and Patricia Dutreaux, the founders of Catharhome, hope that the kits encourage people who can’t afford sustainable housing to try building their own “passive habitats.” Tests have shown that the assembled bricks leak very little air and can maintain a constant interior temperature of at least 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in accordance with passive housing standards. A single kit creates a 200 square foot structure with a estimated lifespan of at least 50 years. At this size, the house is small enough to avoid the need for building permits in most places. Of course, you can always purchase multiple kits to build larger homes.
A standard Brikawood kit also includes parquet flooring, wood shavings for insulation, joinery, roofing, construction plans, and utility hook-ups. The wood shavings are created as factory waste in the process of constructing the wooden bricks. This alone is an encouraging sign that the company tries to be as conservative as possible with their use of natural resources. The wood is taken from Douglas firs, which tend to naturally resist pests and moisture. There’s no need to alter or sand the bricks in any way when they arrive, though you can choose to paint or stain them as soon as construction is complete. The finished product is sturdy but can be easily disassembled should you want to move the building to a new plot of land or recycle the bricks later on.
The starting price for a standard kit is €25,000 euros, or roughly $27,000 U.S. dollars. While this may not sound especially cheap, it is a more affordable option than most traditional construction methods, which require tools, expensive supplies, and a great deal of skill. “With these bricks, even do-it-yourselfers who are not familiar with the principles of construction can realize a small habitat, workshop, or studio to welcome family and friends of passage,” the creators say. “We are currently building four passive houses per month with a philosophy: simplicity. We are a part-circular and part-solidarity economy. Our system allows anyone to participate in the construction of his house.”