The idea of the factory-made house has a long history punctuated by a steady stream of commercial failure in the West. By contrast, many Japanese companies have made prefab housing work.
Our delegation visited four of the most successful manufacturers: Sekisui House, Sekisui Heim, Misawa Homes and Daiwa House. As we moved beyond the initial wow-effect, some of the more prosaic realities of the industry began to set in.
One of the central claims of those who have variously supported the case for factory-made housing in the past has been the promise of better quality, lower costs, and – more recently – the ability to customise one’s house, without forgoing the price advantage of mass production.
In Japan, each company’s sales team vehemently insisted their building systems were “100% customisable” and could be tailored to the customer’s every need. But to the casual observer the resulting houses look very much the same, irrespective of which company made them.[…]