Setting Up Fab Labs

While we were in Barcelona recently, visiting the IAAC Barcelona Fab Lab, we also visited (actually, we stayed there) the Valldaura Green Fab Lab and Sustainable Living Research hub in the Collserola Nature Park, north-west of Barcelona.

Valldaura Self Sufficient Labs is a demonstration site aimed at showing the possibilities of developing technologies and processes in order to sustainably produce energy and food from the land using only the natural resources available.

Scroll down this page for a video, and for sub-titles to the video (it’s in Spanish).  There’s a lot more information on their Goteo crowdfunding page.

If your Spanish isn’t up to the captions in the video, here are some translations:

Queremos aprender de la naturaleza lo que nunca debimos olvidar

We want to learn from nature that which we should never forget

Las ciudades nos gustan

We like cities

Barcelona nos gusta

We like Barcelona

Pero queremos imaginar un nuevo futuro para las ciudades

But we need to imagine a new future for our cities

Para ello hemos vuelta a la naturaleza, para aprender de ella

For this we return to nature, to learn from it

Queremos hacer laboratorios para una vida auto-suficiente

We want to have laboratories to explore self-sufficient living

Un lugar donde hacer todo lo que se necesita

para la vida del humano de la forma más eficiente

A place to make all that is neededfor human life, in the most efficient way

Aprender de la naturaleza para actuar en el mundo de forme natural

Learning from nature in order to to act naturally in the world.

Valldaura es una finca fundada por los monjes del Cister en 1150,

que en la Edad Media fue un palacio real

Valldaura, a farm founded by Cistercian monks in 1150, which was in the Middle Ages, a royal palace

Fue una finca agrícola a finales del siglo XIX cuando Barcelona se expandía

It was an agricultural farm in the late nineteenth century when Barcelona was expanding

Y ahora esta en el centro del Parque Natural de Collserola

And now it is in the centre of the Collserola Natural Park

Queremos convertida en un centro de investigación con laboratorios

donde re-aprender el conocimiento ancestral de la naturaleza

y conectarla con la nuevas tecnologías digitales

We want to convert is into a centre of investigation, with laboratorieswhere we can relearn ancestral knowledge of natureand connecting with the new digital technologies

Queremos relacionar la naturaleza, la tecnología y el ser humano

We are reconnecting nature, technology and humanity

Valldaura tendrá un Food Lab donde producir comida de forma orgánica

Valldaura will have a Food Lab, producing organic food

Un Energy Lab donde aprender a hacer energía con biomasa, con el sol y con el viento

An Energy Lab where we can learn to make energy from biomass, the sun and the wind

Y un Green Fab Lab donde hacer casi de todo con materiales naturales

And a Green Fab Lab where do almost anything with natural materials

Madera, barro y piedra

Wood, clay and stone

Donde aprender a reciclar los materiales

Where we can learn to recycle materials

Donde las personas puedan aprender unas de otras

Where people can learn from each other

Valldaura es una comunidad abierta, independiente y global donde inventar el futuro

Valldaura is an open, independent and global community where we are inventing the future

Donde impulsar la re-naturalización de las ciudades

Where we are driving the renaturalization of the cities

Tu eres parte de esta historia

You are part of this story

I recently spent a weekend talking non-stop to an architect and Fab Lab enthusiast.  He introduced me to the idea of the Wiki House:

WikiHouse is an open source construction set.

The aim is to allow anyone to design, download and “print” CNC-milled houses and components, which can be assembled with minimal formal skill or training.

Here’s Alastair Parvin:

Architect Alastair Parvin presents a simple but provocative idea: what if, instead of architects creating buildings for those who can afford to commission them, regular citizens could design and build their own houses? The concept is at the heart of Wikihouse, an open source construction kit that means just about anyone can build a house, anywhere.

TED Talks

Wiki House


So what if we could take the ideas of the Wiki House, the knowledge and experience of some architects trained in one of the foremost schools of architecture in the world (and who already understand and use Fab Labs) and come up with a downloadable design for producing an energy-efficient (both in terms of running costs and building costs) and easily and quickly built Fab Lab (and/or Fab Cafe)?

We would want to include some solar power: maybe not quite as extreme as this:

… but we can learn from their experience.

And the roof needn’t be so conventional.  In the past factories had saw-tooth roofs: the steep side was to the north, and allowed in light.  They needn’t look old-fashioned or ugly as this Swiss house, or this renovated factory in (of course!) Barcelona.

I recently sent an e-mail to all the actual or potential UK Fab Lab groups I could find.  This is what it said:


I am part of a group that is interested in getting as many Fab Labs going in the UK as possible. We are just starting out: you can read a little about us at and

So far we have initial interest in Kent, Hampshire and Dorset. We are keen to see how those of us interested in Fab Labs can capitalize on co-operation; particularly in not re-inventing wheels when it comes to, for instance,

  • Designing operating procedures,
  • Building equipment using open-source designs
  • Capitalizing on each others experience in sourcing funding.

I am attempting to contact any groups in the UK who either are Fab Labs, or who have some intention of becoming Fab Labs.

Would you be interested in a joint meeting in the New Year, to see how we can cooperate in making a UK network of Fab Labs a reality?

So far I know about:

There is a website, that seems to have been born in Sheffield; but also seems to have had no activity int he last two years, as far as I can see.

If you know of any others, I’d be grateful if you could let me know, and/or pass this on.

The reason for publishing this here is that there are many groups that seem shy of publishing contact information: I’m hoping that this may reach them!

Had some interesting talks yesterday.  I’m hoping and praying we may have found a place to have a Fab Lab in Bournemouth.

Watch this space!

Final artwork for Raspberry Pi PCB

There’s a great programme on Radio 4 (Click On) that visits the London HackSpace, discusses Raspberry Pi with Eben Upton, and then talks to Manchester Fab Lab, and even Neil Gerschenfeld.  Click here to “listen again” to the programme.

We have a new Meetup Group, and four new members within 20 minutes.

Check it out

Join the forum discussion on this post

The Dutch really are brilliant at setting up Fab Labs.  I know I bang on about this, but with a population only a quarter of the UK’s, they have 11 Fab Labs, and rising.

Amersfoort managed to get their Fab Lap up and running in SEVEN DAYS, and for an expenditure of €5000.

And they have document the process in a PDF that you can view here, “The Grassroots Fab Lab Instructable”.

And they introduced me to this wonderful “Future Manufacturing” video!