Earthquake-retrofitting an unpopular choice despite government assistance

Earthquake RetrofittingNot far from Shin Osaka Station is a 11-storey, 40 year old apartment building that was built to the older earthquake codes (called kyu-taishin). A member of the building owners’ association said that the building has been carefully maintained over the years with new flooring in the common areas and re-painting of the exterior walls. However, no efforts have been made to retrofit the building for earthquakes. They are also yet to conduct any official earthquake-resistant building diagnosis, although they did consult with an architect several years ago. The architect’s opinion was that retrofitting was absolutely necessary and could cost around 100 million Yen.

The building, with 100 apartments, has 90 million Yen in the repair fund. If they were to carry out retrofitting, the building management and repair fees charged to each apartment owner would have to double. The issue about retrofitting is brought up each year at the owners’ association annual meeting, but those in favour are in the minority.

Hotels worried about new earthquake-retrofitting obligations

Nikko HotelsFrom 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.

Voting rules may change to speed up earthquake-retrofitting

A building damaged in the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) is considering bringing in relief measures that will reduce the number of votes needed by apartment owners when deciding on earthquake-retrofitting.

Currently, a majority vote is needed for small repairs, but if the building association wishes to carry out large-scale repairs which may include earthquake-retrofitting, at least 75% of apartment owners must agree to the repairs. Proposed changes by the MLIT would change this to a majority vote. 

Earthquake-resistance checks on old apartments not progressing

Of Japan’s apartment buildings built prior to 1970 to older and less stringent earthquake standards, only 16% have been inspected to see whether they can withstand a large earthquake.

In February, the Condominium Management Companies Association conducted a survey of 2100 pre-1970 apartment buildings nationwide. From the individual management companies that responded, only 16% reported that a building inspection was carried out to assess their building’s earthquake resistance, and almost all were found not to meet current standards. Only 3% of the surveyed buildings had actually carried out any earthquake reinforcing work.

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