Renovating a historic home in Kamakura may soon become easier


Kamakura City is considering introducing an ordinance that would allow owners of historic buildings to bypass some of the regulations under the Building Standards Act that normally apply for renovations, extensions and changing the use of a property.

When making structural additions or alterations to older buildings, it can be very difficult to make the building comply with the Building Standards Act while still retaining the original features. In many cases property owners simply give up and either rebuild or leave the property to deteriorate. As a result, the neighbourhood begins to lose its character over time as the older properties are demolished.

The proposed rule change would apply to National Tangible Cultural Properties, Structures of Landscape Importance, and other cultural assets designated by prefectures and cities. The owners of these properties, which may includes residences, merchant houses, temples and so on, can submit a restoration plan to the city mayor. If the building is determined to have no problems with regards to earthquake resistance or fire safety, the city can declare the building exempt from having to comply with the Building Standards Act. This will also make it easier for the city to convert donated historic homes into public facilities.

Both Kyoto and Fukuoka cities have already introduced similar regulations, although it is unusual nationwide. Kyoto City has a similar ordinance in place to encourage the preservation and improve handicapped access of the city’s traditional wooden kyo-machiya (local merchant houses).

Under the Cultural Properties Protection Act, buildings that are designated National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties are already exempt from meeting the current construction act. However, meeting the criteria to be designated as a national treasure or important cultural property can be very difficult and many historic homes and structures do not qualify.

The Building Standards Act was introduced in 1950. Buildings built before this date are not considered to be compliant with the act.

Kamakura City Homepage, June 14, 2016.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, August 30, 2016.

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