What’s Happening Overseas?

The labor shortage is one of several reasons that, in many countries, the industry has responded with an increase in prefabricated options. Below is a quick roundup of some players in Europe and Asia. In coming months we’ll continue following the prefab market by profiling various companies.

In Britain, construction starts are down 30 percent since 2015, but there is a need for new homes, particularly in London. Brexit hasn’t helped matters in terms of trade labor. Last March, leading British homebuilders, Berkeley, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon and Your Housing, told Reuters they were either planning new developments of prefabricated homes or considering doing so. Citu, a Leeds-based company is also gearing up.

It was reported in February, that Berkeley, with 40 developments in 257 properties, is set to build a factory “capable of producing 1,000 modules for homes a year including plumbing, electrics, internal finishing, flooring and fittings.”

Citu, which has a timber-framed energy-efficient housing system has invested nearly $4 million (plus municipal grant money) in a 60,000-sq-ft factory on a 3.5-acre brownfield site in Leeds city center. The new factory will eventually be able to produce up to 750 low-carbon homes each year. The company has planning permission for about 900 homes so far in Sheffield and Leeds.

In Dec. 2016, Your Housing Group, which plans to do more affordable housing, entered a joint venture with Welink Group. Additional support comes from China National Building Material Company’s (CNBM). The group will build up to six factories at strategic locations across the UK, which will produce up to 25,000 homes per year, making it the UK’s leading modular housing developer.

In Sweden, about 84% of its detached houses use prefabricated timber elements. Lindbäcks cranks out apartments, condos, student housing and seniors buildings at a rate of 20 units per week. In 2016 it completed a second factory. Not long ago, Derome Group, which manufactures components, partnered with Setra Group. Working under the name Plusshus, it builds single-family homes and apartment buildings mainly using modules.

Germany’s prefab market skews toward luxury homes. The big player is 105-year old Huf Haus, whose homes all feature steel-reinforced beams, floor-to-ceiling windows, and airy interiors. The houses run at about $500- to $600-per-square-foot. Others in the market include Meisterstuck Haus, Baufritz and WeberHaus.

Japan is the world’s leader in prefabricated housing. In 2016, more than 15 percent of the nearly 1 million new homes and apartments built there were made inside factories. Sekisui Heim (about 14,000 houses and apartments per year), along with about a dozen other major manufacturers, including Daiwa, Toyota (about 5,000 homes a year) and Panasonic, produces about one of every six new homes built in Japan annually. The typical prefab home in Japan costs in the $300,000s — comparable to conventionally built houses.

Many of these overseas players are moving into the U.S. In 2016, Daiwa House acquired a majority stake in the single-family homebuilder Stanley Martin, based in the Washington D.C. metro area. The following year, Sekisui House purchased the Salt Lake City’s-based Woodside Homes. Both companies claim to be studying the U.S. market before committing to building and opening prefab factories. It was reported in December that Toyota may enter the U.S. market. Germany’s Huf Haus also has targeted the U.S. and has a sales office in Ohio. It is now licensed to sell and distribute Huf houses across the country.


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