The leaning tower of Sendai

Sunny Heights Takasago, a 14-storey, 189 unit apartment building in Sendai City, suffered serious damage during the March 11 Earthquake which left it tilting on an angle.

Following the earthquake, 400 residents evacuated their apartments and stayed in the 1st floor meeting area or at the nearby school hall. The pillars in Sunny Heights had developed cracks and the reinforcing steel was poking out of the concrete. From a distance it was easy to see how much the building was leaning.

In order to rebuild an apartment building the Apartment Ownership Law requires 4/5ths of the building association members to agree. However, to demolish a building the entire building association must agree before any work can begin. Due to the ranging opinions of the residents and apartment owners, it can be very difficult to obtain a full consensus.

The residents of Sunny Heights Takasago only took 1.5 months to agree to demolish the building. This is an exceptional case as it is very rare to have the residents agree in such a short period of time. Residents realized there was a time constraint as the building posed an immediate danger to the neighboring building and had to be torn down.

Approximately 90% of Miyagi Prefecture’s condominium apartments are in Sendai City. Of those buildings, the management companies of 10 apartment buildings have approached Sendai City Council regarding demolition and 2 buildings are currently in discussions with the City over demolition. According to the City, Sunny Heights is the first large apartment building to be demolished after the earthquake.

The building was completed in 1976. The 1978 Miyagi magnitude 7.4 earthquake caused some damage to the foundations but they were repaired. After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the City designated the building as one that required special attention. However, an aftershock on April 4th prompted the city to upgrade the building status to dangerous, and an earthquake insurance company assessed the building as being a complete loss.

On April 29th, the management association held an emergency meeting and put forward the following three scenarios:

(1) Rebuild
The total estimated cost to rebuild the apartment was 3.07 billion Yen (40 million USD). Each apartment owner would face a burden of 16 million Yen (207,000 USD) and it would take 3 years before the new building was complete.

(2) Demolish
The estimated cost was 250 ~ 300 million Yen and would take 8 ~ 9 months to complete.

(3) Repair the building by conducting groundwork strengthening. They had no idea how much this would cost.

The residents agreed on option (2) and the demolition fees will be covered through public earthquake assistance funding. Demolition is scheduled to begin in Fall of 2011 and should be completed by Spring, 2012. Residents that have been moved into temporary accommodation are currently exploring possible reconstruction options but no plans have yet been made for the 3500 sqm site.

Building Details:

Address: 2-5-40 Fukumuro, Miyagino-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
Built: 1976
Construction: 14 Stories
No. of units: 189

Source: The Kahoku Shimpo, August 6, 2011

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