On June 21st, Canada Wood’s Shawn Lawlor delivered a guest lecture to 75 architecture program students at the Showa Women’s University in Tokyo. The event was in collaboration with the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association. In my presentation I introduced the many species and wood products Canada exports to Japan, discussing their respective strengths and suitable end use applications in wooden design. The lecture also covered an introduction of the platform frame building system with examples shown of residential and non-residential construction in both Canada and Japan. The wooden demo projects completed under the Canada Tohoku Reconstruction Project were also detailed with a discussion on the design details. Lastly, we introduced our new “wood-solutions.org” design resource so that the students could deepen their exposure to wooden design. In the exit survey conducted by the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association, a total 83.9% of participants either “approved” or “highly approved” of the lecture. Canada Wood’s collaboration with the Showa Women’s University is intended to encourage the up and coming generation of architects to support the growth of PFC wooden construction.
Total May housing starts fell 1.3% to 79,539 units. The declines were uneven based on markets and building types. The mansion condominium market posted the strongest results with a 20.7% increase. Wooden starts fell 3.0% to 43,399 units. Pre-fab housing fell 11.5% to 9,870 units. Post and beam housing held firm with 34,078 units. Platform frame starts fell significantly with a 12.2% drop to 8,464 units. The decrease was led by a 20.4% drop in rental housing. Owner occupied starts fell 2.4% to 2,564 units, however, built for sale speculative housing increased 6.0% to 1,264 units. While this is only the first month that we see PFC significantly underperform when compared to P&B, the trend is concerning: recent feedback from builders and component plants suggest that the recent run-up in dimension lumber prices is making it increasingly difficult to compete versus P&B.
In recent economic news Japan continues to forge ahead with free trade and has formally approved gambling resorts. On the trade front, CPTPP negotiators met in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture in July to expedite implementation of the agreement. According to Japanese trade officials the agreement is scheduled to come into effect in early 2019. Negotiators also began discussions to expand CPTPP membership to include Columbia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Formal negotiations for entry of these nations is expected to commence as soon as the initial agreement among founding members is implemented in early 2019. Also in July, top officials from the European Union visited Tokyo to sign and implement the Japan-EU EPA agreement. Based on the largely on the template of the Japan-EU EPA and the CPTPP, Japan is also advancing negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement with 16 Southeast Asian nations. Beneath the global trade war headlines, Japan is quietly doubling down and moving forward on multilateral global free trade agreements.
After years of rancorous debate, Japan’s LDP government pushed through its Integrated Resort law in July, which will permit gambling at resort type casinos in Japan. The law initially allows for three Integrated Resorts to be established in Japan. The leading locations are rumoured to be Nagasaki, Osaka, Yokohama and Tomakomai. The intent of the law is to stimulate tourism and growth in local economies. Leading gambling industry heavyweights such as MGM, Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and the like are lining up investment proposals rumoured in the 10’s of billions of dollars.
Recently Kevin Bews (COFI, SPF Group) and I had the opportunity to visit a 1-storey non-residential platform-frame construction site in Yokote City, Akita Prefecture. Once completed, a Tokyo-based shoe design and manufacturing company will produce their hand made high-end women’s shoes in this new factory. The architect originally planned for a steel frame building but as this was over budget they decided to look at wood. Due to the heavy snow loads in this area – up to 2 meters – the building had to have a very strong roof structure so they eventually chose a wooden truss system constructed with Canadian SPF lumber. To provide for higher insulation values the walls used 2×6 dimension lumber, sheathed with 9 mm, 3 x 10 Canadian OSB. The excellent cost performance of long-length Canadian OSB allowed for cost savings that the companies involved believe will help achieve a project that is within budget.
While visiting the project we were happy to discover that Canada Tsuga treated sill plates were used throughout the building so the various wood products that the Canada Wood Japan Office promote were well represented in this one project!
The platform-frame wall panels were provided by Akita based Taguchi Mokuzai and the wood trusses from Prime Truss’s Tohoku plant near Sendai. The floor area of the building is 462 m² and construction will use 8.46 m³ of OSB, 41.43 m³ of SPF (17.43 m³ in the walls and 24 m³ in the trusses) and 4.71 m³ of Canada Tsuga. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of October this year.
In 2018, Canada Wood is actively promoting the Midply Shear Wall System to architects, builders and wood products end users in Japan. During a recent visit to Vancouver in June, Scott Anderson and myself visited FP Innovations to discuss Midply Wall System with Dr. Chun Ni and Dr. Marjan Popovski. The reasons we went there were to bring them up to speed about the present situation of Midply Wall System in Japan and to understand more of the background in the development and use of Midply in North America. The knowledge that we gained helps us deal with questions that we receive from Japanese architects and builders as part of our promotion activities. In order to promote Midply Wall System in Japan, we have to prepare convincing answers about the various questions that we are asked. Thanks to the support of FP Innovations, we are better prepared to field questions among our stakeholders.