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Japan to Push for 200-Year Homes

Posted April. 11, 2008 03:06,   


Japan is moving from a consumption-oriented society toward a “stock-style” one intended to promote more durable housing for generations.

Faced with a daunting task to replace public buildings and infrastructure established after World War Ⅱ, the Japanese government has been promoting a transition to sustainable development including the “200-year home” project.

This means the Japanese government, which has been obsessed with rapid economic growth through promoting consumption, is trying to break away from the old habit to seek a new way of thinking by creating more durable social values.

In a cabinet meeting on the economic directions and strategies earlier this year, the Japanese government made it clear that the country will shift toward a society that seeks to minimize the need to rebuild housing.

▽ Implementing durable housing

Compared to the average life spans of residences in other countries, including 77 years in the United Kingdom and 55 years in the United States, that of Japan is much shorter at only 30 years.

In its effort to promote more durable housing projects, the government intends to reduce the environmental burdens stemming from housing replacement plans. With regard to this measure, a bill designed to promote long-term housing maintenance is pending in the Japanese Diet.

The durable housing plan, more often called the “200-year home” project, intends to provide residential places to be lived by generations and allows making easy renovations in accordance with the family size and needs.

This plan was introduced last May by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda who served as president of the committee on housing and land survey of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The Japanese government plans to build public trust in purchasing and trading houses by issuing the housing records including lists of repairs. The government explains that this durable housing requires a 20 percent more construction cost, but eventually benefits home owners by allowing them to sell the house with more desirable prices.

According to the LDP estimates, if all the residential houses could be used for about 200 years, an annual average of 10 million tons of housing-related wastes is expected to be reduced due to the reduced housing construction.

In order to promote this sustainable housing plan, the government intends to provide a variety of incentives of tax cuts including consumption tax, fixed property tax and income tax, as well as lowering interest rates in bank loans. Beginning with this year’s fiscal budget, the government allocated government subsidies of 13.5 billion yen for housing developers of durable residential homes.

▽ Building sustainable infrastructure

Replacing rundown infrastructure, such as bridges and tap water facilities, is the most urgent task that the Japanese government faces today. To meet this challenge, the government has sought ways to prolong the utilization through developing technology.

With this in mind, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation has carried out a wide range of investigation on bridges, waste water and ports across the country since last year. The national statistics suggest that the number of bridges with more than 15 meters in length is 140,000 nationwide. Among those, the number of ones that passed its working lifetime stood at about 8,900 as of 2006, which means the number is expected to rise to 68,000 in 2026.

Another problem is the aging pipelines for tap water that covers about 600,000 kilometers nationwide. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reported that some 40 percent of the pipelines will pass their durable years in a decade.

Unlike the economic boom era focusing on construction, the replacement of tap water pipelines is a new task assigned to those in the water industry. The related industry is also hastening its efforts to develop technology to meet this demand.

Rei Hirasawa, a professor emeritus at Tokyo University, said, “We need a comprehensive national strategy that can overlook a century to build the society based on sustainable development.”