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Lessons on the Future of Prefab Housing from Japan

When it comes to prefabricated housing, Japan is far ahead of the rest of the world. Will techniques from Japan's efficient modular home manufacturers inform a growing prefab industry in the United States?
November 14, 2017, 12pm PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Assembly of a Japanese modular home.
Kenta Mabuchi

Nate Berg takes a deep dive on Japan's unique prefab housing industry. "This approach to construction is becoming almost mainstream in many parts of the world—from Sweden to Germany to Australia. But the world leader in prefabricated housing is undoubtedly Japan. More than 15 percent of the nearly 1 million new homes and apartments built there last year were made inside factories [...]"

In the United States, on the other hand, only about 2 percent of single family homes constructed each year are modular. But that may change. "With advanced robotics, automation, and digital building information technologies—and increasing concern nationwide about the affordability of urban housing—factory-built housing once again seems poised for wider adoption."

Berg discusses the postwar origins of Japan's modular homes, how they've evolved, and how Japanese firms mass-produce housing components on the factory floor. "Typical prefab homes in Japan cost usually in the $300,000s, comparable to conventionally built houses."

While there are some notable prefab projects in the works here in the U.S., like Brooklyn's 461 Dean, "prefab or partially pre-built homes may make their strongest inroads into the current U.S. housing market as a solution to non-conventional housing needs," including housing the homeless or rebuilding after natural disaster.

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Published on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 in Curbed
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