What do Yves Béhar, Kanye West, and IKEA have in a common? In addition to wide-reaching influence, these famous changemakers are also thinking up big ideas for prefab design. From innovative social housing to exciting new hotels, their prefab plans take advantage of advances in technology, sustainable construction methods, and reduced costs through economy of scale.
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Last fall, Amazon made headlines with its first investment in a homebuilder—California–based Plant Prefab. Although Plant Prefab is primarily known for high-end modular homes that cater to wealthy customers, the new partnership with the tech giant is expected to pave the way for more affordable prefab housing across the nation. Amazon’s investment in customizable prefabricated homes over traditional site-built construction is also a strategic move to gain ground in the smart-home market. Buyers of connected Plant Prefab homes will be able to preinstall Alexa-enabled devices—from voice-controlled thermostats to doorbells.
After making waves in music and fashion, Kanye West is now trying his hand with prefab architecture and property development. The multitalented artist's long-time passion for architecture and design led him to launch Yeezy Home, the architecture arm of his fashion label Yeezy, last year. West recently announced plans for Star Wars–inspired prefab houses for low-income communities, and the dome-shaped housing prototypes are currently being developed on his property in Calabasas, California.
IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer, but home goods aren’t the only easy-to-assemble products they offer. In the 1990s, IKEA teamed up with Swedish construction company Skanska to launch BoKlok, a prefab housing developer focused on sustainable, quality, and low-cost homes. Although BoKlok homes have only been built in Scandinavian countries thus far, these economical modular houses will soon be available in other countries—earlier this summer, UK’s Worthing Council gave BoKlok UK the green light to deliver 162 IKEA-designed, factory-built homes to the seaside town.
Like IKEA, the Japanese home goods retailer Muji has also added prefab housing to its product range, albeit on a much smaller scale. Only available in Japan, the single-module, nearly 100-square-foot Muji Hut epitomizes the brand’s minimalist aesthetic. Each house features a simple, open-plan layout, mono-pitched roof, charred Shou Sugi Ban cedar cladding on the exterior, and untreated Japanese cypress plywood for the interior. Muji sells the prefabricated customizable homes at a starting price of $27,000 and has not yet disclosed plans for international sales.
As one of the world’s most influential industrial designers, Yves Béhar has produced many groundbreaking designs driven by his commitment to positive social change. In a bid to fight the affordable housing crisis, the Swiss designer teamed up with Amazon-backed Plant Prefab to create LivingHomes YB1—a line of tiny prefab homes that are completely customizable, take about one month to build, and can be installed on-site in a single day. The homes start at approximately $280,000, although that figure should drop over time as production scales up.
Eighty years after designing the now-iconic pedal trash bin, Vipp has brought their elegant Scandinavian design sensibilities to everything from modular kitchens to fabrics, furniture, prefabricated housing, and hotels. In 2015, the Danish retailer unveiled Vipp Shelter, their line of factory-made micro homes outfitted with the brand’s top-of-the-line metal and ceramic homeware products. The sleek 592-square-foot "plug-and-play" units can be constructed in less than five days and are built to house four people. The brand has also turned one of its prefab model homes into the first Vipp Hotel, located on the shore of Sweden’s Lake Immeln.