2×4 Housing Promotion Initiative

COFI SPF Group’s initiative to promote 2×4 single-family housing continues to gain momentum. Since finalizing and posting four animations based on the story of the “Three Little Pigs” in April 2016, outlining the advantages of platform frame construction, we have had over 6,000 accumulative views on COFI Japan’s YouTube account. In addition, we have also had requests for 45 copies in DVD format from our customers, so they can show the animations to the general public and end users at their model show homes, sales offices and other housing related events. Currently about 20 Japanese companies and organizations are also featuring the 2×4 animation series on their websites. To further facilitate these website linkage requests, we have created a website advertisement banner as below and will continue to distribute accompanying promotional leaflet, to customers at meetings, seminars and industry events. “Click to see the Three Little Pig’s 2×4 Animation Videos with English subtitles”!

COFI Invited to MLIT’s Midrise PFC Building Code Project

From the fire resistive perspective, PFC buildings with 4 storeys or more are now theoretically achievable, thanks to the 2-hour fire resistive approvals.  From the structural design perspective, however, buildings with 4 storeys or more require “Retained Lateral Force calculation”, known as a structural design route with quite complicated procedures.  Under a national program, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) established a two-year technical project to facilitate structural design work for PFC buildings with 4 storeys or more.  This project aims to enable midrise PFC buildings to be structurally designed under the allowable stress design method, which is a relatively simple and comparatively cost effective approach.  The technical committee for this project consists of the top scientists and structural engineers in Japan in addition to MLIT officers.  COFI has been invited to this committee.  At the first meeting in fiscal 2017, the committee asked COFI brief the members on the transition background in 2009 when BC relaxed the PFC building code from maximum 4 storeys to 6 storeys.  COFI is preparing to make a presentation referencing the APEGBC Technical and Practice Bulletin.

COFI Invited to MLIT’s Midrise PFC Building Code Project

From the fire resistive perspective, PFC buildings with 4 storeys or more are now theoretically achievable, thanks to the 2-hour fire resistive approvals.  From the structural design perspective, however, buildings with 4 storeys or more require “Retained Lateral Force calculation”, known as a structural design route with quite complicated procedures.  Under a national program, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) established a two-year technical project to facilitate structural design work for PFC buildings with 4 storeys or more.  This project aims to enable midrise PFC buildings to be structurally designed under the allowable stress design method, which is a relatively simple and comparatively cost effective approach.  The technical committee for this project consists of the top scientists and structural engineers in Japan in addition to MLIT officers.  COFI has been invited to this committee.  At the first meeting in fiscal 2017, the committee asked COFI brief the members on the transition background in 2009 when BC relaxed the PFC building code from maximum 4 storeys to 6 storeys.  COFI is preparing to make a presentation referencing the APEGBC Technical and Practice Bulletin.

NLT Technical Work Begins

Ms. Satoko Aida, the Curator of the Gallery

As part of our technical program for 2017, Canada Wood has commenced the of “Code Recognition of NLT (Nail Laminated Timber) Floor Systems” project.  As this is the collaborative work with the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association, we started by making plans for the fire tests to confirm how realistic it can be to apply sacrificial char layer design approach to NLT in the Japanese building code.  The “Nail Laminated Timber Construction Guide” that was recently published by Binational Softwood Lumber Council is remarkably useful reference to make the test plan.  Apart from the fire tests, we conducted a survey looking for any existing structures that have been built with NLT in Japan.  We found a small building that was completed in June, 2016, at Motoyoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.  This building is a small gallery with the floor area of only 17m2, sitting just beside the

Yamanote Avenue, known as one of the heaviest traffic in downtown Tokyo. Kenichiro Arazeki, the architect, used NLT both structurally and decoratively. The NLT walls and roofs are visually exposed as the interior finishing.  The NLT in this gallery was fabricated at site with SPF dimension lumber; 2x8s for walls and 2x10s for the roof. There is growing interest in NLT within the Japanese construction industry. NLT is thought to be a potentially cost effective alternative to CLT and would open up design opportunities for more exposed wood in large scale buildings.

Japan Economy & Housing Starts

Japan’s economy continued along a path of modest growth in an environment of low inflation and tightening labour conditions. Thanks to recovering inter-Asian trade, Japan’s exports jumped 9.5% between January to June. The strengthening outlook helped the Bank of Japan in lifting its GDP growth forecast for 2017 to 1.8% from 1.6%. Japan now has now had five consecutive quarters of GDP growth.

The nation is now at the limits of full employment with the unemployment rate averaging 3.0% and a jobs to works ratio at its strongest level in four decades, despite increasing participation of women, foreign laborers and the elderly into the economy. Lack of available labour has been identified by government officials as a barrier constraining growth. These constraints are in turn driving change in the workplace. While traditionally the retirement age for full time salaried employees was 60, according to a recent Reuters poll more than half of Japanese companies surveyed plan to increase the retirement age to 65 and even in some cases 70 years of age. In rural regions the government is developing new standards to permit self-driving tractors and farm machinery to help combat regional labour shortages.

Yet despite tight labour conditions, consumer spending remains weak and inflation remains below 1% despite the Bank of Japan’s aggressive monetary easing. The Bank of Japan commenced its monetary stimulus program in 2013 with a goal of achieving annualized inflation of 2%. However, after a recent BOJ meeting the inflation target was pushed back for the sixth time into 2019. Japan’s monetary easing program is widely considered to have reached its limits of effectiveness

Japan Housing Starts Summary for May 2017

Total housing starts tapered off 0.3% to finish at 78,481 units. Wooden starts were up modestly, but non wood starts fell thanks to a 12.6% decline in the mansion condominium market. Total wooden housing starts increased 4.6% to 44,761 units. Post and beam housing led these gains with a 5.4% increase to 34, 074 units. Moderating this increase however was a 3.5% decrease in floor area for post and beam housing. Wooden pre-fab starts shrank a modest 0.8% to 1,051 units and total pre-fab starts remained essentially flat at 11,148 units. Platform frame starts increased 2.4% to 9,636 units. Platform frame starts broke down as follows: custom ordered single family homes advanced 0.9% to 2,627 units, rental apartments were up 1.3% to 5,796 units and spec housing jumped 10.9% to 1,192 units.