Lessons from Japan: A Look at Century Housing System

DSM 2010: Proceedings of the 12th International DSM Conference, Cambridge, UK, 22.-23.07.2010

Year: 2010
Editor: Wynn, D.C.; Kreimeyer, M.; Eben, K.; Maurer, M.; Lindemann, U.; Clarkson, P.J.
Author: Schmidt, R. III; Eguchi, T.; Austin, S.
Section: Dependency Modelling in Construction
Page(s): 361-373


Japanese traditional wooden houses are a good example of system architecture. Originating from Chinese temple construction, the housing is based on the distance between column centres known as a ken. Both the widths and depths of all spaces were multiples of this standard unit and formed the frame of reference for the remaining components – timber structure, tatami mats, doors, and even furniture. Modern housing moved away from this type of construction in an effort towards mass production. In the mid-70s, when the number of houses surpassed the number of households, a shift occurred from focusing on quantity to quality, and the emphasize returned to a more systemic approach in the context of the industrialized era inspired by a systems approach to schools in the UK (CLASP) and the US (SCSD). Several projects arose led by KEP (Koden Experimental Housing Projects), but it wasn’t until 1980, and the start of The Century Housing System (CHS) that a national campaign took place in an attempt to coordinate all of the previous efforts into a single system.
CHS started as a government-led research initiative formed primarily by academic members from 1980-1982. The objective was to extend the longevity of housing by developing a systems approach to the housing sector focused on the changeability of components throughout the building life, reducing premature functional obsolescence by increasing the building’s adaptability. As shown in this paper, the approach utilized interface matrices, essentially DSMs, to identify the types of relationships between components stressing their capacity to be changed without damaging other parts (i.e. the interfaces between components). This paper looks at the system, process, and key findings from their experience to understand their applicability to DSM, system design, buildings, and designing for adaptability in today’s context.

Keywords: Century Housing System, Construction, System Engineering, Adaptability


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