University of Virginia: School of Architecture

The Japanese Housing Industry: Searching for Synergies in Sustainability, Affordability and Prefabrication

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This research is focused on the intersection of sustainable, affordable and prefabricated housing in Japan. Though my direction of the ecoMOD Project, I have been integrating these three strategies, because I believe by doing so designers can more effectively address the challenges we face in the U.S. from climate change, the significant environmental impact of buildings, and the widening gap between high and low-income Americans.

During a recent Fulbright fellowship at the University of Tokyo, I researched the overlap of these issues in recent history and contemporary practice in the Japanese housing industry. I interviewed prefab housing manufacturers, architects, engineers, and on-site home builders, as well as government and academic experts. I have been able to gather a compelling image of Japanese housing today. Numerous visits to factories and completed buildings have also helped contextualize the information I have gathered. Although prefabricated construction is not used to provide affordable housing in Japan, the overlap between sustainability and prefabrication is quite clear, and the Japanese modular home-building industry is clearly the most sophisticated in the world.