From November, large-scale buildings such as hotels built before 1981 will be obligated to ensure that their buildings meet current earthquake-resistant codes.
Building inspections must be carried out before the end of 2015, after which the results will be made public. This has left some hotels worried that guests will avoid places that receive a low score. However, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) says that this information is necessary for hotel guests.
There are also concerns over the costs required to bring a building up to code.
“Earthquake-retrofitting is going to cost us several hundred million Yen. It is difficult enough to pay staff salaries at this point.”
– An employee from a hotel in Atami City, Shizuoka, that was built in the 1950s.
The interiors of the 70-room hotel are showing signs of age. A complete overhaul is required to bring the building up to code, but their only option is to do the repairs on a gradual basis. The changes are expected to affect 15 ~ 20 hotels in the hot spring resort area of Atami.
Although the exact type of buildings that are obligated to carry out earthquake-retrofitting have not been clearly defined, the MLIT expects the revision to apply to hospitals, shops, hotels etc that are over 3 storeys and with a floor area over 5,000 sqm. The obligations also extend to aged care facilities and schools.
In many cases, earthquake-retrofitting involves adding additional steel bracing to the building. These diagonal braces can be unsightly and block views – something hotel guests may not be too excited about. Construction noise can also disturb guests, and the hotel may be required to temporarily close while repairs are underway.
Many hotels are in a difficult position where they have to consider the safety of their guests, while trying to find a way to pay for repairs without going broke.
Financial support is available to assist with building inspections (1/3 of costs covered) and retrofitting (11.5% of costs covered).
The Izu Shimbun, July 17, 2013.
The Nikkei Shimbun, October 3, 2013.