‘The Maker movement has shown how empowering it is to put the new fabrication tools in the hands of people,’ says former WDCD speaker Carlo Ratti. ‘An important challenge for the next years will be to apply the same principle to construction – transferring the DIY attitude of Fab Labs to housing. This is the vision behind our design for Livingboard.’

Livingboard is a portable ‘motherboard system’ to improve housing conditions in rural parts of India. Ratti’s studio Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) is now developing this idea for a prefabricated core for houses together with Indian non-profit organization WeRise. The concept allows people to build their house on this foundation with integrated technology. The first pilot is currently under study for development in the Indian state of Karnataka, near Bangalore.

Rendering of a possible Livingboard house

Smart core

Livingboard is a flexible ‘core’ system, constituting the floor of a 12-square meter room (3x4m). It can provide, depending on the geography and infrastructure of the region in question, water storage and distribution, water treatment through filtration, waste management, heating, batteries to accumulate PV-generated electricity and wi-fi connectivity. Also, from a structural point of view, it provides seismic isolation by separating the building’s superstructure from the substructure, according to CRA.

As Livingboard is compatible with different house designs, locals can build their homes on top of it, selecting from the motherboard’s basic functions and deciding on the housing structure to go around it in accordance with their needs and desires. Made of low-cost materials that can be flat-packed, Livingboard pays homage to 20th-century US inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller and his dream of ‘air-deliverable buildings’. Livingboard can potentially be carried by helicopters or even drones so as to reach any remote location, CRA claims.

Schematic views of the Livingboard system