Made-to-order condominiums are gaining popularity in Japan as people seek more distinct housing.

Potential owners form cooperatives and engage firms to deal with getting land, designs and construction. They decide on their floor space, interior fixtures and decor. As a result, the concept is known as cooperative housing.

The Japan Cooperative Housing Association, a nonprofit organization for promoting such dwellings, says there are more than a dozen coordinating companies to handle the needs of people interested in such homes.

It says cooperative housing has been growing steadily in the Kanto and Kansai regions, adding that demand is expected to increase as more people are growing dissatisfied with conventional condominiums.

Housing industry sources said the mechanism of cooperative housing has been around for a long time but its realization was difficult because of the complexity of building such dwellings and the time needed to reach agreements among occupants.

However, they said, there are more coordinating companies to support potential residents, thus giving momentum to the spread of cooperative housing.

Kenichi Saita, an architect and senior coordinator of Urban Design System Co., said his coordinating company has established a system to enable occupants to decide on the period and cost of building their homes.

The Tokyo-based company is the biggest in the industry and has built about 60 units since its establishment in 1992.

It locates sites, fashions general outlines, such as basic construction designs, and looks for prospective residents from among members registered on the Internet.

Saita said that once occupants are chosen, an individual architect takes charge of each dwelling, consults with future dwellers on their lifestyles and works on designs from scratch.

He said the coordinating company receives a commission of about 7 percent of the cost of building each unit.

Many residents cite a “good community” environment in such housing. Normally, a unit consists of 15 to 20 households whose residents have met seven to eight times during construction, which lasts 16 to 24 months.

Thus, the dwellers feel a sense of security as they are acquainted with one other by the time they move into their new homes.

Kazuhisa Oriyama, president of Archinet Inc., a cooperative design company in Tokyo, who also lives in a cooperative housing unit, established his firm in 1995 and has handled the construction of 24 units. Previously, he was at a consulting firm and was involved in regional development.

He said he set up his company so he could make more use of the “space” created by Japanese architects that were on par with the world’s standard for ordinary homes.

He said cooperative housing can be built at a cost of 20 percent to 30 percent less than normal condominiums in the same area by finding sites not facing public thoroughfares and those without other condominiums and houses.

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