Houses That Can Heal Mutenka House CO. IP

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Mutenka House is combining the wisdom of traditional building practices with modern convenience to make truly natural living spaces

It may save money to choose inexpensive construction materials when having a new house built, but those decisions can have a greater cost down the line. Plastic doesn't last, harsh chemicals can be found in wallpaper, and some types of wood may even contain toxins. Mutenka House CO. sources building materials that are made to last – and keep residents healthy.

“Sick house syndrome” is the series of maladies that comes about from living in a building that contains too many harsh chemicals, and it can leave sufferers feeling like their own home is doing them harm. This was the case for one customer who came 16 years before to Kenji Akita, President and CEO of Mutenka House. Upon hearing the woman describe her illness, Akita – who is an enthusiastic student of biology as well as an architect – recognized that her problems may have been caused by many chemicals that could be found in construction materials, from wallpaper glue to flooring laminates.

A model kitchen at a Mutenka House product showroom, courtesy of Mutenka House CO.

Mutenka House CO. President and CEO Kenji Akita

Building a Prescription for “Sick House Syndrome”

Akita offered to construct her a house entirely from all-natural building materials, and her symptoms disappeared as soon as she set foot in the newly built structure. “Until then, I had also been using artificial materials in our company's buildings,” Akita explains. But after seeing the positive effect that these natural building materials could have on the people who lived in them, I knew that I should start a company selling just these products, and it still makes me proud of the work that we do every day.”

Thus Mutenka (“Additive-Free”) House was born, and some 16 years later, the firm now has more than 150 sales agents' offices around Japan. Recognizing the recent rise in demand in China for natural building materials, they are looking to expand there as well. The firm carries building materials from around the country, and the world: wood from Indonesia, natural cork from Portugal, and a variety of traditional products that have their origins in traditional Japanese craft. Specially treated shell plaster, or shikkui, is usually coated three times so that it will not crack as the temperature changes. However, Mutenka’s formula only requires one coat, saving both time and cost. The natural paint kakishibu is made from persimmons, and adds a natural color to wood. A final example is komenori, a glue made from rice, and making it is one of the company's secrets. As Akita explains, he wants to expand their brand by promoting their trademarked product – the “Mutenka House,” built with all-natural materials.

Log-house using Mutenka’s shikkui, courtesy of Mutenka House CO.

Mutenka House's shikkui, or shell plaster, is a natural insulator, courtesy of Mutenka House CO.

Built to Last

Although some of the products that the company sells are laboriously produced, Akita's inspiration is “to take the ideas behind traditional architecture and bring them to house design in a way that can be easily reproduced.” For example, the shikkui that Mutenka House sells can be used for interiors and exteriors and has natural insulating properties. It can be used to make houses that require no caulking, which cuts down on maintenance costs. “Our building materials may be more expensive, but in the long run, they are not meant to be replaced. Many houses in Japan are built to be torn down and replaced after about 30 years: we want to help build houses that will last for 100 years.”

Based on interview in February 2016