CLT could soon be incorporated into Japan’s building code

Miyamura Vet Clinic Japan
The Miyamura Pet Clinic. Constructed in 2015 using Laminated-Veneer Lumber. Image via Daiwa Komuten.

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) could soon become more popular as a building material in Japan. While it is already possible to construct a building using CLT, current regulations require additional structural consideration and specific approval from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

The government has been working on introducing legislation that will provide clear and concise standards under the Building Standards Act, and these changes could be introduced as early as this year. According to a white paper issued by the MLIT and the Forestry Agency in 2014, CLT production is estimated to reach 50,000 cubic meters in 2016. By 2024, it is hoped that annual production will reach 500,000 cubic meters (Europe produces approximately 700,000 cubic meters annually).

Since the 1990s CLT buildings of around 5 ~ 10 stories have been constructed in Europe, while a 24-storey building is planned in Vienna. In recent years there have been a small number of two and three-storey CLT buildings constructed across Japan, including detached homes, staff dormitories, bus shelters, and even public housing.

Japan’s first CLT hotel is currently under construction in the Huis Ten Bosch resort in Nagasaki Prefecture. The two-storey, 72-room hotel is scheduled to open in March 2016. Phase 2 of the resort’s ’Henna Hotel’ will utilise Toshiba’s H2One independent energy supply systems, which allows suites to be self-sufficient by using solar, hydrogen and fuel cells. The eco-friendly ‘smart hotel’ has roombas and a self-service check-in desk featuring robot staff.

Huis Ten Bosch Henna Hotel
Huis Ten Bosch’s ‘Henna Hotel’

In December 2015, Daiwa Komuten, a Tokyo-based carpentry firm and home builder with a history dating back over 160 years, Atelier OPA, and buildinglandscape, designed the Miyamura Pet Clinic in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo. The 3-storey, 246 sqm clinic was built using laminated veneer lumber (LVL). Initial plans were to build a reinforced-concrete or steel-frame structure, but the relatively softness of the ground in Edogawa would mean that RC or a steel-frame building would need additional bearing piles that would add to the total construction cost.

If CLT as a building product catches on, it may finally revitalise regional areas with abundant planted forestry. One prefecture that is looking forward to the increased use of CLT is Fukui. Approximately 75% of Fukui’s land is forestry, of which 43% is planted forestry. Only 15% of the planted forestry is felled each year, leaving the prefecture searching for ways to utilise the remaining resource.

CLT might even make an appearance in the new Olympic stadium, which is designed by Kengo Kuma.

CLT House Ise Mie Japan
A CLT house in Ise City, Mie Prefecture / Built: December 2015 / Floor area: 162.86 sqm / CLT: 38.7 cubic meters / Design: Bioform Architectural Design Studio (http://bioform.jp).

Sources:
The Fukui Shimbun, January 25, 2016.
Housing Industry News, January 8, 2016.
The Sankei Shimbun, October 30, 2015.

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