Wooden buildings on the rise in Japan

Japan is starting to see more mid-rise buildings constructed from wood materials. A revision to the Public Buildings Wood Use Promotion Act will go into effect on October 1, 2021, encouraging the use of domestic forest plantations planted after WWII not only in public buildings but also in privately developed buildings.

Mitsui Home is working on its first wood-frame rental apartment building in Tokyo’s Inagi City. The 5-story building will be reinforced concrete on the 1st floor, with two-by-four wooden construction on floors 2 ~ 5. The construction method is said to offer similar soundproofing, fireproofing, and earthquake resistance as reinforced concrete. Completion is scheduled for this November.

Construction costs for the developer are around 10 ~ 20% lower than concrete, partly due to the fact that they were able to secure the wood materials prior to the current Wood Shock. 

In 2013, Takenaka Corporation completed construction of the 3-story wooden Mokuzai Nakagai Kaikan (Osaka Timber Association Building). In 2016, Kansai’s first mid-rise large-scale retail complex to be built from wood was completed in Muko City, Kyoto. Named Subaco, the 5-story building has rental offices and retail tenants.

In 2020, Nomura Real Estate Development started sales on a 14-story wood-frame hybrid apartment building in Ochanomizu, Tokyo. This is the first wood-frame hybrid condominium-style building over 10 stories to be built in Japan. The building was completed in January 2021 and all apartments had sold out. Structural elements, such as pillars, are made from wood materials sourced domestically. Floors 2 to 11 incorporated laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and reinforced concrete walls, while floors 12 to 14 use cross-laminated timber (CLT). 

Despite being on fixed-term leasehold land, a compact 566 sq.ft two-bedroom apartment is currently listed for resale for 107.8 million Yen (approx. US$980,000), which works out to around 2,049,000 Yen/sqm.

Tokyo Land’s Dogenzaka 1 Chome Project in Shibuya will be the tallest wood-hybrid office building in Japan upon completion next year. The 13-story office and retail building will have a total floor size of 1,400 sqm.

In the United States, as many as 70 ~ 80% of multi-family dwellings are constructed from wood. In Japan, wood-frame buildings of 5 floors and higher have only been permitted since 2016. For 2-story housing in Japan, 87% is constructed from wood. For 3-story, the ratio is 56%. For 4 and 5-story housing, just 0.3% is wood, and for 6-story and above it is just 0.02% (according to the 2020 White Paper on Forestry).

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun, September 14, 2021.

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