How a New Breed of Prefab Houses Could Help Japan Solve Its Space Crisis

Street of residential houses
Japanese home goods retailer Muji has earned a name for itself by selling exceptionally well-designed home decor, all at a price that is more on par with Walmart than designer home goods stores. Japan’s Muji can be thought of something like Sweden’s IKEA, in that the company offers just about anything a homeowner could want, whether that’s a lamp, mass produced art, or unusually designed storage spaces. Unlike its Swedish analog, however, Muji now sells prefabricated homes.

As¬†Gizmodo¬†reports, Muji incorporated an architectural branch, Muji House Ltd., way back in 2000. Now, Muji House Ltd. actually has products to offer. They just happen to be three different models of prefab houses, all of which were designed by some of the biggest names in Japanese architecture and design; Ban Shigeru is just one of the more prominent names said to have worked on Muji’s latest.

This effort to bring in the greatest minds in architecture seems to have paid off. Unlike the prefab houses that make up modern private communities and the double-wides that were so popular stateside a decade or so ago, there is nothing standard about Muji’s homes. Muji prefabs feature modular rooms with modular storage space. Some of the options offered, particularly the single air conditioning unit placed on the top floor, have caused people to call the designs “weird.”

If early buzz is any indication, “weird” is meant in the best possible way.

Japan’s Unique Housing Market, Need for Space Necessitate Unique Designs

There’s no denying that the Muji houses were designed for the Japanese consumer. The Land of the Rising Sun has one of the strangest housing markets in the world. When presented with the option to buy and move into a perfectly good home or start from scratch, Japanese home buyers almost always choose the latter. Industry analysts expect that Muji’s ability to meet the need for brand new homes in the fraction of the time, at a fraction of the costs, will make its prefabs very popular in the world’s third largest economy.

“The Japanese are always at the forefront of architectural design work these days, but they still get a lot of their ideas from Americans. I don’t believe this trend of Moji houses will pick up in America because we have a different idea of what a home should look and feel like,” says Guy Semmes, Owner of Hopkins and Porter. “These prefab houses just aren’t practical for our society right now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good idea.”

The new designer prefab houses aren’t just meant to fit the need for something new, though. Japan, like many other countries, is facing a crisis of space. The Japanese archipelago currently suffers from one of the highest population densities in the world, with 836 people per square mile. The United States, for the sake of comparison, has a population density of only 84 people per square mile.

Muji’s homes, at only 14.5-feet by 27-feet, take up very little space. With three full floors packed to the gills with furniture and the latest green home tech, however, they feel anything but small. That, more than anything else, is what Muji is banking on to make the prefabs a success, both in Japan and in other countries that are quickly running out of space.

If Muji’s prefab houses become available in the United States, would you buy one? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.

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