Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses

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Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses

Sweden has the world’s highest percentage of factory built wooden houses in the world, mainly using closed wall panels. So, Sweden is leading the world in prefab houses.

The U.S. also once looked to modular construction as an efficient way to build lots of housing at scale, but Sweden picked up the idea and put it into practice. Among the myriad influences that have led to Sweden’s dominance of the offsite space in terms of skills, expertise and industry structure, the most frequently cited factors are the country’s abundance of slow growing, premium quality timber and its uniquely challenging climatic conditions.

The most remarkable difference between the United States and Sweden is regulatory. Building codes in the U.S. try to make buildings safe by prescribing exactly what materials must be used and how (a prescriptive code). In Sweden, the government does this by setting goals and letting builders come up with a way to achieve them (a performance code).

The Lindbäcks Bygg facility in Sweden can build apartment buildings that are 16 stories and can be assembled in a matter of days.

Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses
From the Västhusstugan plant.
Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses
Summer house by Västkuststugan.

“In Sweden we have a long tradition of prefab housing, about 80 years,” confirms Leif Litzell, of VästkustStugan AB, one of the 10 largest and oldest housing companies in Sweden, which specializes in compact single dwellings across three sub-brands: VästkustStugan, VästkustVillan and Borohus.

“It is a safe way to build in order to protect details from rain and moisture. Prefabrication means that within a couple of days, we have everything assembled and protected under the roof of the building. Since windows and outer doors are mounted in the factory, the house is rapidly weather protected and secured from uninvited visitors. A prefabricated house still can be very flexible. Everything you can build is possible in prefab, and consumers in Sweden are aware of that.”

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Related: Modular Construction: Scandinavia’s Answer to Urban Housing Challenges
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At the Lindbäcks factory in Sweden, one unit of volumetric housing is created every half an hour. Sweden is currently undergoing a major building boom; with skills shortages in traditional construction trades placing further pressure on the sector, prefab houses are in high demand.

Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses
Residence house by BoKlok
Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses
House by Eksjöhus.

Sweden’s prefabricated housing market size is estimated at USD 4 billion in 2024, and is expected to reach USD 5.70 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 7.01% during the forecast period (2024-2029).

Suppliers are rising to the challenge of meeting this demand. BoKlok is a joint venture between two Scandinavian behemoths, construction specialist Skanska and furnishings giant IKEA. It supplies homes that benefit from the inherent economies of scale offered by standardization while offering price accessible variation across around four to five models.

BoKlok homes are built primarily from wood, using a smart, industrialized and efficient process. Homes are completed off-site in a safe and dry environment using modern methods of construction. This enables predictability, high quality and low costs.

To date, BoKlok has developed about 15,000 homes. BoKlok is currently operating in Sweden, Norway and the UK.

Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses
Björkenes by Eksjöhus.

Another operator, Eksjöhus, offers panelized homes that are designed to be both beautiful and impressively rapid to build; the time frame from slab being finished to lock up can be a matter of days. The company’s origins date back to 1941; it has its own sawmill, manufacturing operation and transport capabilities.

Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses
Timber from Dertome.

It seems that Sweden’s timber and construction industry have evolved to be ideally structured to produce housing efficiently. Vertically integrated company, Derome Timber exemplifies this. Derome owns forests, a sawmill and hardware stores. It also builds residential schemes.

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Sweden – Leading the World in Prefab Houses
Houses from BoKlok

The company takes forest stewardship as seriously as the houses it builds, investing significantly in state-of-the-art timber processing technology. Evident at its sawmill was computer driven quality control of timber, leading edge scanning equipment for cutting and sorting, drying furnaces and more.

The overall market has, however, some limitations, such as durability issues and a need for appropriate financing options for prefabricated living spaces. Sweden’s prefabricated houses are mostly timber-framed, which means they are not radically different from most mid-grade structures design-wise. However, when it comes to production, the process is different from the current industry standard of crews erecting stick-built houses piece by piece. For production, measurements and specifications are planned by computer.

Sweden – Leading the World in Terms of Prefab Houses, written by Tor Kjolberg

Feature image (on top): Workers at Lindbäcks.

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.

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