open source architecture

For the past several months I have been working every Tuesday and Thursday at a series of houses in my county with Habitat For Humanity.
I’ve learned a fair amount about construction (namely that it’s hard work) and it has moderately shaped my world view (I will never again for the rest of my entire life complain about lazy turnpike workers.)

However, much of what I’ve learned about construction paints a pretty ugly picture. It is wasteful, it is inefficient, and it is very environmentally destructive. You cannot possibly believe the amount of junk that is thrown away and carted off straight to the landfills. In fact, only recently me and my friend salvaged a whole lot of perfectly usable wood from a dumpster near a construction site at my school. Short pieces, shingles, piping, miles of plywood, all that we would really need to build a decent tree house would be a few long pieces and some nails.

Now, I realize that we live in a free-market system where the company who choses to do the right thing and recycle and operate with a lower environmental impact will get punished by higher expenses so I don’t really expect to change the ways of these people but non-profit organizations staffed by volunteers like myself who are only trying to provide poor people with low-cost housing should prove more flexible.

A barrier to switching non-profits, like Habitat, over to a LEED (or similar) strategy is that many of the people who volunteer for habitat were, or are, also involved with conventional construction, and the skills and habits that they possess reflect this.

A second barrier would be the architectural plans themselves, none of which are especially energy efficient or environmentally friendly (at least to my relatively untrained eye)

My thought was that what if we could apply the principals of open source programming to environmental design? What if we could have an online database of architectural plans that were free to use and modify? Architectural students could practice there trades from universities and then these plans could be reviewed by work crews and then modified to fit the building site. The idea is that these open-source plans could function as both a resource of sustainable plans for non-profits like habitat, and also as a sort of forum where new ideas could be formulated and tested. The architects would have the incentive that, if the building that they designed was good enough, it might actually be constructed. Non-profits would benefit by having a database of plans for homes to build that were not only free to use but had been designed and vetted by a series of architects, not just one.

This database could be supplemented by building techniques from the designers themselves that could serve to teach whole generations of volunteers the practicals of environmental design. (I’d find that pretty interesting)

So thats my idea. Feel free to comment and share any thoughts you might have on the matter. I have almost no expertise in the matter of environmental design. I know that blender was modified for use as a tool for interior design and I know that at least some blenderheads use blender for CAD, so speak up, could this possibly work?