IKEA, Toyota, and Muji Are Building Prefab Homes You Can Afford

Elijah Whaley
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Their projects range from refugee housing to luxury designs and show that prefab manufacturing is set to become more ubiquitous.

Prefab home manufacturers that specialize in construction produce the majority of modular homes around the world. However, a few companies that you wouldn’t expect have a share in this $90 billion per year market*.


Sweden leads the world in prefab construction uptake. About 80% of detached homes use prefabricated timber elements. It’s not surprising that Sweden’s largest retailer has developed a range of products as a prefab home manufacturer too.

The most affordable and innovative isn’t a regular house but a refugee shelter for $1250. The Better Shelter is made with flat-pack components, equipped with a solar panel, and can be assembled by four people in four hours. Because they’re secured to the ground and have a locking door, they provide significantly more security than a conventional tent. For this, IKEA won the 2016 Beazley Deign Prize.

For regular consumers, IKEA partnered with US firm Ideabox to make the flat-pack Activ home. The house is designed around IKEA interior fixtures and products with the help of the company’s designers. Ideabox manufacturers the structure itself. It goes for $86,000.


Japan might have the world most developed prefab home market. For economic and cultural reasons, Japan has had a handful of major prefab home manufacturers since the 1960s. Their primary draw over conventional construction is quality rather than cost.

While Toyota is not one of the leading players in the industry, the auto company has been building homes since 1975. While Toyota homes generate just a fraction of the corporation’s total revenue (in 2008 it was 0.5% of $262 billion), that doesn’t mean they haven’t put out some seriously cool products.

Their modular homes, which go from $200k to $800k, can be assembled in less than 45 days and come with a 60-year guarantee. In line with Toyota’s recent emphasis on environmental friendliness, they aim to build sustainably with three principles: using environmentally sustainable materials, reducing waste during the construction process, and partnering with green businesses for production and supply.


The Japanese retailer is known for is minimalist design and focus on waste reduction. Last year they made headlines by announcing a competition to find a test resident to live rent-free in their new Window House prototype for two years. The prototype itself is two stories high and has 80 square meters of floor-space, but a Window House can be altered and reassembled to fit lots of different shapes and sizes. It’s Muji’s largest model, but not its first.

In 2014 the company launched a 15-foot-wide three-story prefab perfect for Japan’s disposable home culture*. It sells for just $180,000. They also came out with a line of Muji Huts — three cabin-like structures more suited to vacationing than permanent residency. They reportedly cost $25,000-$40,000.

*This figure is from 2012.

IKEA, Toyota, and Muji Are Building Prefab Homes You Can Afford
IKEA Better Shelter

Muji Wood House

Muji Hut

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