JAPAN’S Construction pioneer embraces sustainable, resilient buildings and communities

Relevant implications for the Building and Construction sector identified in GEO-5 for Business:

  • Increasing consumer demand for building materials and designs that incorporate renewable resources, recycled materials, and energy- and water-efficient technologies and processes
  • Increasing pressure to change construction practices — and expanding markets for sustainable buildings and sustainable design and construction skills — in order to reduce consumption of water and resources and generation of waste
  • Increasing concerns about climate change, waste, and resource scarcity driving adoption of on-site renewable energy and energy-, water-, and resource-efficiency
  • Increasing regulatory measures to drive green building practices and technologies, reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize waste
  • Increasing demand for buildings and infrastructure with enhanced resilience to climate impacts
  • Increasing consideration of long- and short-term climate impacts in selection of building sites and design

Construction and buildings in Japan are covered by a range of laws, including laws requiring recycling of construction and demolition waste and laws and codes promoting energy efficiency in buildings (reflecting the government’s long-standing concerns about energy security and climate change).

Laws are just one of the key drivers in the Japanese construction sector.  Japan has suffered economic challenges since the 1990s, and the world financial crisis in 2008-2009 hit Japan’s construction sector hard. In addition, compared with other countries, electricity in Japan has always been relatively expensive. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that hit Fukushima further challenged the country’s energy supply, buildings, and economy.

Shimizu Corporation responded to the economic situation, regulatory trends, environmental trends (particularly climate change), and natural disasters by focusing its business on sustainable, resilient buildings.

Today’s work, tomorrow’s heritage

Shimizu Corporation, founded in 1804, is Japan’s oldest general construction company, with annual sales of more than US$ 14 billion in 2013. In 2010, in the aftermath of the world financial crisis, Shimizu made a decision to try to achieve growth by focusing on environmental innovations and solutions and by making environmental leadership a core part of its corporate brand — striving to give credence to its corporate vision of Today’s Work, Tomorrow’s Heritage.

Shimizu also recognized that increasing regulatory demands concerning energy and the environment meant that it had to find innovative ways to conserve energy, use more sustainable construction materials, and deploy more sustainable construction practices.

Accordingly, in 2010, the company launched its Smart Vision 2010 plan, a long-term vision to guide the company for the next 10 years that had environmental awareness at the core of all business activities. Smart Vision 2010 and subsequent mid-term plans to implement it have included goals of helping to establish a low-carbon society, developing innovative technologies that enhance sustainability, recognizing and responding to government actions to promote renewable energy, and being an industry leader with regard to energy and the environment. In addition, after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, the company’s mid-term plans recognized the growing need for disaster prevention, mitigation, and resilience.

Recognizing climate change as a serious issue, Shimizu has also set companywide targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions 30% below 1990 levels by 2020 — to be met by designing energy-saving buildings, promoting resource conservation and fuel- and energy-efficient activities at construction sites, promoting procurement of materials that have reduced environmental impacts, implementing energy-saving renovations and building management, achieving energy savings at the head office and branch offices, building renewable energy facilities, and using Certified Emission Reductions.  Emissions in FY2013 from its buildings were 18% below 1990 levels.

Advancing smart, resilient, sustainable green buildings and communities

There is increased demand for smart buildings in the Japanese property market due to the need for energy conservation, as well as the public’s heightened awareness of energy scarcity and safety after Fukushima. New homeowners want features such as solar power systems, LED lighting, and earthquake and fire resistance. Shimizu has become a leader in providing solutions to meet these emerging needs.

Shimizu’s efforts in this regard focus on its “ecoBCP” concept, which combines energy conservation measures and the use (and sharing) of renewable energy during ordinary times with business continuity planning (BCP) and efforts to secure energy sources in case of natural disaster or other emergencies.  Shimizu has applied this combination of low-carbon development and disaster resilience both at the building level and more broadly.

Shimizu’s head office, which opened in August 2012 in Tokyo’s Kyobashi District, is an excellent example of the ecoBCP concept applied at the building level. The head office building is equipped with solar panels, LED lighting, and other systems to reduce energy consumption. The building’s CO2 emissions in 2013 were 61% lower than the average Tokyo office building. In the event of an emergency, Shimizu’s head office also has: emergency power generation equipment, storage cells, and other systems to enable energy independence; measures to respond to underground flooding; and key electrical and computer equipment located on above-ground floors.

Applying the concept at a broader scale, Shimizu is advancing smart community development in the Kyobashi area, extending ecoBCP beyond its head office to the community surrounding the building. The Kyobashi Smart Community Council is working to reduce the region’s carbon footprint, promote business continuity management, and assist area residents in the event of an emergency.  Shimizu’s smart community development efforts are in no way limited to Kyobashi, though.  For instance, in the Kesennuma Smart Industrial Park, a cluster of seafood processing facilities have not only adopted a smart energy management system to enable joint demand response and peak power shaving, but are also using electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles that can be tapped as an emergency power supply if needed.

Recognizing that the Asian region had been hit by major natural disasters almost annually, Shimizu also developed the Shimizu Global Hazard Evaluation System to help improve the selection of construction sites and the design of developments’ disaster resilience.  While the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011 helped spur its development, the system also incorporates hazard data on floods, cyclones, torrential rainfall, and other natural disasters to enable location-specific analysis and to facilitate development of risk countermeasures.  Shimizu has deployed the system to assess hazards at the sites of client facilities, providing this diagnostic service to about 150 buildings so far.  For instance, Shimizu used the system in planning the Simatupang Mixed-use Project in Indonesia in 2013, finding the site to be prone to concentrated rain and lightning; Shimizu therefore incorporated a range of resilience measures (e.g., relocating electrical systems above flood levels) into the planning of the project.

Dreaming big for the future

The Shimizu Institute of Technology, the first building and construction research institution in Japan, plays a leading role in modernizing construction technology by pursuing research and development across a broad range of fields.  In 2013, Shimizu completed construction of two new laboratories at the Institute, one to advance the development and evaluation of sustainable construction materials and one to test and verify the company’s environmental and energy technologies (including experiments aimed at achieving zero energy buildings).

About Shimizu

Shimizu Corporation is a leading Japanese architectural, engineering, and general contracting firm, offering integrated, comprehensive solutions for a broad range of construction and engineering projects worldwide. It is recognized as one of the top contractors in Japan and around the world. Shimizu’s international operation is based in Singapore, where it serves a vast range of clients across Asia.

“To Shimizu, going green has become a mainstay of our business and profitability. Our motto, Today’s Work, Tomorrow’s Heritage, started as a noble mission to look after the planet and its people. It is still exactly that, but at the same time it has evolved to become a major business driver as the markets for green buildings, both residential and industrial, are opening up. We plan to stay in this business and to expand our business well into the future.”

  • Yoichi Miyamoto: President: Shimizu Corporation

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