Mass customisation for zero energy housing: the potential of Japanese manufacturing practices in the context of sustainable housebuilding in the United Kingdom
This research focuses on describing the relationship that mass customisation has with sustainable housing, particularly with the consumption and production of zero energy houses. It explains how Japanese housebuilders are using mass customisation to produce zero energy houses and how this applies to the United Kingdom (UK). The current options for sustainable housing in the UK open market are extremely limited. In contrast, Japanese house manufacturers allow customers to customise their houses in detail, including energy efficiency features, through a process known as ‘mass customisation’— a phenomenon that mirrors the automobile sector. The building energy costs and carbon impacts, when concerning embodied and operational energy, are seamlessly communicated with sophisticated tools, visuals, catalogues, guides and models that allow customers to make an informed choice. With such an approach comes many benefits rarely seen in UK housebuilding, high levels of quality control through off-site manufacture and critically an opportunity to choose a level of specification. Japanese house manufacturers are leading the production of zero energy and zero carbon houses. This research consists of a comparative analysis of the Japanese and UK housebuilding, to identify how mass customisation strategies are used to drive the sales of zero energy houses in Japan, and infer how to apply them in the UK. This research found that some housebuilders in the UK are currently using production strategies that resemble Japanese practices. However, the sustainable benefits observed in the Japanese context are not present in the UK because housebuilders’ co-design tools and marketing strategies are limited and unsophisticated. Production and consumption of sustainable houses would increase in the UK if housebuilders implement full mass customisation, meaning selecting existing robust production processes, defining an appropriate space solution and using informative navigation tools.