Open-Source Architecture Community
|The Open-Source Architecture Community brings together like-minded users and developers who share a common goal: that the built environment can be designed, constructed, operated, and recycled with free/libre software and open-source software with increased transparency, and a more ethical approach.
The reason OSArch exists
The architecture, engineering, construction, and building operations industry has a large, systemic problem with its ability to collaborate digitally. The digital ecosystem largely consists of isolated digital silos, where each tool does not integrate well with other tools by design. Behind these tools are a small selection of monopoly software vendors with predatory business practices, forcing proprietary incompatibility, proprietary obsolescence, and proprietary subscriptions onto users. There is also a lack of training material and knowledge sharing around digital standards. These problems enforce a culture onto the industry that our ability to manipulate the data about our built environment relies on what vendors who provide off-the-shelf software allow us to do. Resources are wasted on building workarounds and an ecosystem on top of this proprietary foundation, instead of focusing on what matters: working together to make a better built environment.
The OSArch community aims to solve this problem, by providing support for a community and ecosystem of software that respects the digital freedom of the industry and its users. This digital freedom allows collaboration to occur, and is increasingly important as the industry and next generation of digitally savvy professionals leave academia to join us in our journey to improve the built environment. In particular, we help support four types of digital freedom, which are known as the four essential freedoms. When the OSArch community talks about free software, we are not referring to price (which is a common misconception), we are talking about software that provides these four freedoms, of which price is not a factor. The freedoms are:
- The freedom to use software as you wish for any purposes, whether it be educational, commercial, R&D, in any context with no time limit, no arbitrary vendor restrictions, or any other rules governing your usage.
- The freedom to study how the software works, and change it so it can do what you want. We want to promote digital learning and the freedom to customise software for your workflows, your data, your environment, with no restrictions.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others. We need our tools to be shared to work together on the built environment. Sharing tools with others helps upskill and improve the abilities of the entire industry.
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes.
A precondition to provide these four freedoms is to ensure that we are able to do all the work we need to do in the AEC industry using open source software. Satisfying this precondition means the license of the software must be an FSF-approved license or an OSI-approved license. Access to, and the freedom to change this code empowers and puts the users (that's you!) in control over the data in the built environment, instead of vendors.
How OSArch supports the AEC industry
We provide support in five ways:
- We help provide marketing and awareness for free software in the AEC industry. We develop consistent branding, and a network of grassroots sharing on free software initiatives.
- We provide online community groups to ask questions and discuss with others in the community about free software in AEC across multiple disciplines and tools, unrestricted to a single software, through a variety of channels. These include live chat, online forums, email contact, and virtual meetups.
- We provide, collect, and organise knowledge sharing material about free software in AEC. This includes written documentation, academic articles, video tutorials, training material, and this wiki that you are reading right now.
- We build free software. Some members of OSArch are developers who write code and create tools in response to industry needs.
- We make connections between developers and users, to support developers and users. We explore ways for developers to help one another by integrating software, or ways for users to experiment with new technologies that aren't yet widely available in the commercial market, or bring attention to where resources are needed.
All this support is provided by volunteers who are also industry professionals, just like you. See how to contribute to OSArch and get involved!
Our Mission and Values
With a diverse community, there are discussions (Vision for OSArch, OSArch Mission Statement) on the OSArch Community Forum about expanding and clarifying our mission and values. However, there are some missions and values which resonate, which we share here.
We are a platform to showcase, share, test and develop FOSS tools and workflows for the built environment.
Bringing people together
We're creating a place where everyone involved in a buildings conception and life can meet, inspire and collaborate to develop empowering digital tools.
We support people in creating their own tools and services, for an industry without compromise their private data.
We love technology. Our primary focus is tools for real people to use in real life workflows - from basic conceptual design tools for non-professionals to high tech digital models for design analysis and documentation.
We reject proprietary file formats and processes. We support open collaboration between all software platforms including interfacing with proprietary platforms to liberate users data.
We support tools and processes designed to put the users the projects first. We respect the creators ownership of their data and privacy. We advocate open formats for project longevity and transparency.
Our vision is for cooperation between software systems each of which contribute with what they do best unhindered by commercial barriers. Central to that vision is open file formats and open source / libre software moving data between software platforms without loss of fidelity.
We share our knowledge about opening up the AEC space to more democratic tools and processes.
We contribute to documenting relevant software & processes.
We support people making the best choices with the best information and tools that respect their rights and freedoms.
Logos, font etc. are found in our OSArch style guide
In the news
- In upFront.eZine #1,103: Open Source Architecture Ralph Grabowski spoke with one of OSArchs organizers, Duncan Lithgow
- The BILT Academy Podcast has a series about Open Source in Architecture. Open Source - part one, Open Source - part two with Jon Mirtschin.
- The Futureperfect Talk Podcast episode #7 "A Futureperfect Talk on open source software, open source design tools for AEC and more, and the cultures around them with John Manoochehri (BASE2), Dion Moult (BlenderBIM), Yorik van Havre (FreeCAD) and Bruno Postle (Homemaker) share experiences, perspectives and outlook on what's going on and what's next."