Frequently Asked Questions

All the answers on a string …

FAQ’s on the OpenStrucures project


FAQ’s on the OS grid

What is the OS project about?

The OpenStructures (OS) project initiates a system where all design for all.

It is an ongoing experiment that wants to find out what happens if people design objects according to a shared modular grid, a common open standard that stimulates the exchange of parts, components, experiences and ideas and aspires to build things together.


FAQs on the OS ruler


FAQs on the OS parts, components and structures


FAQs on the OS economy


FCRs (Frequent Critical Remarks) on the OS model


FAQs on the OS project.


What is its purpose?

The purpose of this experiment is to investigate what the opportunities and limitations of an open modular system are and under which conditions it will prove to be most efficient and favorable.

What is its goal?

The ultimate goal is to initiate a universal, collaborative puzzle that allows the broadest range of people – from craftsmen to multinationals – to design, build and exchange the broadest range of modular components, resulting in a more flexible and scalable built environment.

Who initiated it?

The OpenStructures project is a collaborative effort.

It was originally conceived at the Institute without Boundaries and is now being further developed and tested by Intrastructures in association with the research group 4Dimensional Design of the Department of Architectonic Engineering Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Who can participate?


How to participate?

You can enrich the project by:

- Designing parts, components or structures according to the OpenStructures grid

- Trading designs online.

- Exchanging your experiences and ideas with others in order to improve the system.

FAQs on the OS grid


What is the OS grid?

The OpenStructures (OS) grid is the centerpiece of the whole OS system.
It’s the common dimensional framework that is shared among all component designers which allows them to design compatible OS components independently from each other.

go to “guidelines > grid > definition”:/pages/9#deel2b to get more info and see some illustrations.

How is it built up?

The grid is built up out of 4×4cm squares.
The borders of these squares mark the cutting lines.
The crossing of the two diagonals within these squares mark the assembly points.

go to “guidelines > grid > definition”:/pages/9#deel2b to get more info and see some illustrations.

Can the OS grid be scaled up or down?

The OS grid is designed specifically for scalability.
This means that it can be scaled up or down – through duplication – without losing compatibility between different scales.
As a result different scales will generate different structure types but all structures will remain compatible with one another.
Much like a giant shared meccano, individual parts and components can now ‘float’ from one structure to another.

For example, two chairs can become a table, 5 tables can become a small shelter, 4 small shelters and a table become a house etc.

go to “guidelines > grid > scalability”:/pages/9#deel2bb to get more info and see some illustrations.

How to apply the OS grid while designing and building?

FAQs on the OS ruler


To facilitate the design- and building process of these open modular objects an OS ruler was developed. This ruler visualizes the grid and allows each designer to mark the cutting lines and assembly points for the part or component they’re creating. This design tool is free for all and can be obtained and used at all times.

go to “guidelines > rulers”:/pages/9#deel2c to get more info or to download both the rulers for free.


FAQs on the OS parts, components and structures

At this stage of the experiment, the OS research will be focusing on body-scale structures .
This specific scale was chosen because:

- we interact with them on a daily basis
- they are the most suitable scale for 1:1 prototyping.

therefor all dimensional guidelines are made up around these kind of structures

General dimensional guidelines for all parts and components

go to “guidelines > parts > dimensional guidelines for all parts”:/pages/9#deel3ab

General dimensional guidelines for frames

go to “guidelines > parts > dimensional guidelines for frames”:/pages/9#deel3bc

General dimensional guidelines for elements

go to “guidelines > parts > dimensional guidelines for frames”:/pages/9#deel3bd

General dimensional guidelines for connectors

go to “guidelines > parts > dimensional guidelines for connectors”:/pages/9#deel3bg

Specific dimensional guidelines for a 60×60×60cm basic structure

Since the 60×60×60cm cube will be a frequently used configuration within ‘human scale structures’
it’s specific measurements are described in detail below.

go to “guidelines > parts > dimensional guidelines for body-scale structures”:/pages/9#deel3cb

What kind of component types can we distinguish?

Every Open Structure can be understood as a frame – with or without a protecting skin – that contains and supports one or more functional elements. These frames and elements are assembled and connected to each other by joints. Finally, connectors facilitate the exchange of water, gas, electricity or wireless signals between two or more elements.

go to “guidelines > structures > definition”:/pages/9#deel3c to get more info and see some illustrations.

What are the dimensional restrictions for each component type?

Can we distinguish different compatibility levels within a component?

Amoung all different components we can distinguish several compatibility levels:

Level 0
The element is monolithic, it can’t be disassembled into parts

Level 1
- The element can be disassembled
- However, none of the individual parts are OS compatible.

Level 2
- The element can be disassembled
- Some of the individual parts are OS compatible and can thus be re-used in other OS components.

Level 3
- The element can be disassembled
- All the individual parts are OS compatible and can thus be re-used in other OS components.

go to “guidelines > parts > dimensional guidelines for frames”:/pages/9#deel3k to see the illustrated version

Are there restrictions in material use and assembly methods?

Because the focus within the OS project lies on the intermodular capacities of the individual compontents, no strict restrictions are imposed on material use and assembly methods. However, certain material and assembly protocols will be suggested for all components in order to ease the disassembly processes and stimulate closed material cycles.

So while creating components the designer has to try to restrict himself to those natural and synthetic resources that can either be infinitely recycled or fully degraded while in the process nurturing, rather than damaging, their surroundings.

He will also have to keep in mind that, in order to be able to re-use certain parts or components, only those joints and construction techniques that allow the user to deconstruct without damaging the individual parts, will be favored.

FAQs on the OS economy


The OS website offers a component database. that enables participants to upload, rate and trade their components with others.

How to upload an OS design?

How to protect an OS design?

Every designer retains ownership of all intellectual property rights for their products and product plans (full copyright). Apart from the limited license to display the products and product plans, OS is not given any interest in them.

Also note that while uploading a component every designer is offered the choice to open up his design to the community through creative common lisencing. This will allow other users to download and build your design, to improve it or to adapt it according to their own needs.

Different levels of shared use are proposed.

Attribution (by):
Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.
for more info on this license go to

Non-commercial Noncommercial or NonCommercial (nc):
Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.
for more info on this license go to

Non-derivative No Derivative Works or NoDerivs (nd):
Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it.
for more info on this license go to

Share-alike ShareAlike (sa):
Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work. (See also copyleft.)
for more info on this license go to

for general information on the creative commons licens go to

How to sell an OS design?

Once a component or structure is uploaded online, it can be offered for sale through the component database.

How to buy an OS design?

Both the component. and structure database. are open to all. Buyers can contact sellers and purchase components or structures online.

How to recognize an OS design?

Every component receives a serial number, a QR-code and an image of the OS logo after uploading it on the OS site.

Both the OS logo and the serial number need to be added on the component by the designer so that it can be easily identified by others as an OS component.
This will allow everybody who wants to look up additional component information by typing in the serial number on the OS website.

The QR-code is an optional shortcut that hyperlinks people directly towards the online profile page of the component.

How to interact with other designers?

Various opportunities to communicate with other participants are offered on the OS site. You can contact designers, leave comments, rate components and structures etc.

FCRs (Frequent Critical Remarks) on the OS model

Does the OS model envision a totalitarian, all encompassing grid?


Not really .. the OpenStructures project doesn’t impose its grid, it proposes it, invites people to experiment with it and hopes to learn from their outcomes.

Rather than trying to spur a radical revolution, imagining whole OS cities from scratch, it puts its beliefs in evolution, in the emergence of organic OS communities.

If the OS grid proofs to be relevant to people it will be picked up and expand, if not it will slowly dissolve.

How is the OS model different from existing modular systems?

Unlike most existing modular systems, the OS model doesn’t follow the classical top-down approach in which one person designs a complete (modular) system for everybody, but rather initiates from bottom-up, favoring a system where everybody designs a small part of one shared system.

Isn’t this already been done before?

Yet it has. The idea of open modularity isn’t new at all, our market driven society already gave birth to several open modular systems whenever their efficiency was able to enhance profit. Our logistical infrastructure, for example, is highly streamlined by open standardization (from palettes to container ships), most kitchen appliances are interchangeable and especially within our digital creations, open collaborative models (like Linux to Wikipedia) have become common practice.
But if we dig deeper we even find open modular systems long before the existence of men. Nature itself proved that in complex systems, modular designs are the ones that survive and drive by advancing about 500 million years ago from single-celled organisms into multi-celled ones that offered far superior characteristics and therefor were able to spur evolution. We, human beings, with trillions of modules (cells) per person, are modular from head to toe and are experiencing the benefits of modularity every single day.
So why not borrow from nature’s blueprint, why not learn from what people have already been doing for years and shape our built environment towards a more organic, modular puzzle of objects that, from micro to macro, float within closed loops and infinite cycles.

Isn’t the OS model very primitive and restricting?

Is it restricting?
Modularity is a dimensional restriction by definition, but it is one that also offers new possibilities because of the shared dimensional framework it creates. This project wants to investigate under which conditions such a shared framework will be most favorable.

Is it primitive?
Every evolutionary process started with only a few blocs to build from, frequently resulting in rather primitive designs. But with every cross-pollination more pieces were created, and with every piece adding more complexity to the overall system, sophisticated constructions and creations finally emerged.
Since the OS system is conceived as an evolutionary model, it doesn’t consider its designs to be static end-results, but rather views them as updates of existing versions, phases within a broader cycle. It therefor never judges present shapes, but always imagines their next version.

By initiating a common grid, the OS model wants to introduce variety within man-made modularity, ultimately aiming at producing a modular system that is so diverse that its modular characteristics can hardly be observed.

Why would anybody use this system?

The OS model will offer a more flexible environment to the consumer, allowing his built environment to adapt (grow, shrink or update) more easily according to current needs.

Increased compatibility will also facilitate the re-use of components, prolonging their life cycle and thereby reducing their environmental impact.

An open standard will offer an instant market for both designers, producers and traders, hereby introducing variety within modularity.

Overall, the more people that will join the system, the more potential it will generate for all parties involved.

How come the OS ruler is 60×60cm and not 64×64cm?

Well .. mathematically speaking you are right, a fractal sequence that starts from a 4×4cm square should result in a 64×64cm square (following the sequence of 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 etc.).
However, if we look at our built environment today (both within interiors, architecture and logistics) we can observe that a 60×60cm square is a far more present standard than a 64×64cm square. This is true because of the Anglo-Saxon inch/foot system (where 24 inch equals 2 feet equals 60,96cm) according to which a lot has been produced until this day.

Because the OS model has the fundamental tendency to continue and improve the existing rather than to reinvent from scratch, a transitional model of 60×60cm has been appointed as a basic unit to experiment with.

Although this number isn’t an exact fractal of 4, it still is a very valuable point of departure since it’s:

- a multiple of 4 and therefor perfectly able to respect the cutting and assembly patterns

- a frequently used standard, and therefor offering us a lot of already compatible materials and components to experiment with.

The 60×60cm OS ruler can therefor be considered to be a transitional tool, allowing us to experiment with the existing while introducing the new.

These guidelines are conceived as a living document, meaning that it is open for edits and improvements.
All comments and remarks concerning this document can therefor be sent to