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BoKlok – ready for the big world

10/25/2011 1:55 PM CET
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After more than a decade of success in Sweden, BoKlok (Live Smart) is ready for the big time. The Skanska-IKEA home concept is targeting international expansion. BoKlok is Skanska hardware with a typical IKEA marketing and interior design twist and is designed for the smart, not for the rich. These affordable, modern homes are meant for many people.

Sold at IKEA, BoKlok is as close to a flat pack home you can get. Developed and built by Skanska, the homes are manufactured in an industrialized way that supports lean construction. Every piece fits, and there is not a trace of bling. But let’s go back in time. It all started in 1995 when Skanska's former President Melker Schörling and IKEA’s founding father Ingvar Kamprad decided to offer quality homes to homebuyers who wanted to save a buck or two for other things. The target customers were people like nurses, sales clerks, single parents, young families still at university.

A strong brand

Of course, IKEA soon came up with a brand name in line with its bestseller, Billy the bookcase. In Swedish, "Bo" is both a man's name and a word meaning "live"."Klok" is "smart". BoKlok – Live Smart – is today a brand in its own right.

Skanska's developer Inger Olsson and IKEA's interior designer Madeleine Nobs (now with Skanska), assisted by architect Gunn Ahlström, took on the challenge to realize the goal. They were eager to start but did not attack the drawing board directly. Instead, they consulted Pia Nilsson, Sweden's leading household economist, with a question never asked before. "How much can a nurse afford to spend on a home?"

The answer, about SEK 3,000/month at the time, set the financial framework. Only then did the trio start drawing.

High in volume, low in price

BoKlok was designed the IKEA way: large volumes, low prices. Industrialized production and large volumes – in other words, repetition – cut prices and save time in planning. Efficiency is key.

The aim was also to use space efficiently; every corner should be useful. And the standard should be high: full of light through big windows, using natural and sound materials such as wood.

In 1997, the first BoKlok areas were completed in Swedish cities Helsingborg, Stockholm, Örebro and Sundsvall. They were all a success. The daily papers as well as top-end design magazines raved about the first flat-pack homes. People were queuing at the IKEA stores for an apartment. There were more potential buyers than homes, so buyers were selected by drawing lots. This is still the way to become the owner of a BoKlok home. It gives everyone an equal chance of buying one of the attractive apartments.

Getting greener. Version 7.0 on its way

Today's BoKlok has advanced through sixth versions from the prototype; for example, BoKlok Radhus (row houses) were recently launched. But the basic idea remains. It should be affordable to those who are not so well off and it should have a nice feel and atmosphere. With this in mind, continuous improvements have been made.

"We have upgraded the concept along the way. We have improved the product for customers and still managed to reduce the number of pieces in the BoKlok puzzle. This facilitates production in the plant and on-site," says Ulrika Nordeborg, Product Developer at
BoKlok.

Inger recalls an IKEA boss who always asked homebuyers: "What can we do better?" "This is something I have carried with me ever since: Listen to the users and buyers. There is always room for improvement."

Recently, an improved and more energy-efficient Bo-Klok was launched. It exceeds Swedish norms for standard housing by almost 30 percent (about 80 kWh/sq m/year), and an optional add-on package reduces energy consumption to 60 kWh/sq m/year.

To date, more than 5,000 BoKlok homes have been developed, built and sold, most of them in Sweden, with a small number in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Major breakthrough

Now BoKlok is ready for the big time. Skanska's offer to homebuyers is developed in three lines (value, core and premium), in both multiple and single-home segments, where BoKlok represents the value offer. A new specialized team is responsible for developing the concept and initiating new projects. Jonas Spangenberg is President of BoKlok Housing, owned by Skanska (The BoKlok concept is co-owned by Skanska and IKEA).

"We will grow in volume. This way, BoKlok will be profitable and still be affordable for our target groups. We'll be profitable by being efficient and increasing volumes," says Jonas.

"We'll also focus on new markets. We already have a platform in Norway, and our presence in the UK and Germany can definitely expand. We're also looking into the Czech Republic."

Local preferences

Will the Swedish wood style be modified for international markets?

"We will adjust to local preferences. For example, land is more expensive in the UK, so we'll probably have to build taller blocks to be able to stick to our reasonable prices."

What is key for BoKlok going forward?

"Land is crucial. In Sweden we know exactly how much the land can cost. Internationally, we're analyzing this now.

"Also product development and efficiency are key areas. Establishing our own production plant is crucial. In Sweden, we can rely on Skanska Industrial Production in Gullringen. Products and processes are developed hand-inhand, and that's what we want to do in other markets, too," says Jonas.

 

More articles in the Skanska group magazine Worldwide

This article is found in the Skanska group magazine, Worldwide (no. 2, 2011).

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