Old buildings in Nagoya slow to retrofit

Retrofitting older buildings in Nagoya is taking longer than anticipated. A major change to earthquake building codes was enacted in June 1981, with buildings with construction planning certificates issued before this date referred to as ‘kyu-taishin’, or old earthquake resistance, and those after this date referred to as ‘shin-taishin’, or new earthquake resistance. In many cases, these older buildings need retrofitting to bring them up to current standards, but this is not a simple task.

Owners of large ‘kyu-taishin’ buildings fronting onto designated emergency transport roads are obligated to carry out an earthquake resistance inspection, with the results made public. Depending on the results of the inspection, cities may offer financial aid to assist in the cost of retrofitting. In Nagoya, up to 70% of the cost, not exceeding 60.5 million Yen, may be made available to building owners.

The designation of emergency transport roads was carried out in response to the devastating Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. The rescue and response effort after the quake was hindered by buildings that collapsed onto main roads. A recent survey of 358 of ‘kyu-taishin’ buildings fronting onto major roads in Nagoya City found that 279 of them were ‘at risk’.

It’s not just commercial buildings that are falling behind in retrofitting. A 51-year old condominium-style apartment building near
Kakuozan Station also received a poor earthquake resistance result. The homeowners association decided to retrofit the structure. Even with the maximum subsidy from the city, there is still a remaining cost of 40 million Yen that has to come out of the building’s reserve fund. Luckily the owners association had enough funds set aside. Retrofitting the building will require wall reinforcing on the first five floors, affecting 15 apartments. Several supporting walls will have an extra 14cm added to their thickness. This is a rare case. Not all apartment buildings have sufficient funds set aside for retrofitting, and obtaining consensus from apartment owners to carry out the work can also pose a challenge.

While the earthquake inspection and reporting is mandatory, the actual carrying out of any retrofitting and reinforcing is entirely at the discretion of the building owner/s, and the local governments have no powers to enforce owners to go through with retrofitting.

The financial aid only applies to buildings on the emergency transport raids, and does not apply to at-risk buildings outside of these zones.

Source: CBC TV, March 18, 2022.

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