Increased attention is being paid to Nail Laminated Timber (NLT) in wooden building industry in Japan. As opposed to fire resistive PFC buildings, where wooden structures are cladded with gypsum boards, NLT presents an opportunity to visually expose wood. In particular, designers prefer NLT in floor applications because the occupant downstairs can appreciate the wooden ceiling surface above. Those applications are usually in large scale buildings where fire resistive or quasi-fire resistive performance is required. NLT can be used in quasi-fire resistive structures if a fire test shows that the remaining cross section can be structurally safe after burning. This approach is defined as the “char margin” or “sacrificial layer” design method. On December 14th, 2017, COFI and the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association collaboratively conducted the fire test to the NLT with Canadian SPF 2x10s nail laminated edgewise. The specimen was burnt in the horizontal furnace at the Tsukuba laboratory of Center for Better Living, one of the MLIT-designated performance evaluation bodies. After one-hour burning, the surviving cross section of the NLT showed sufficient load bearing capacity against the dead loads applied vertically to the specimen. This was the preliminary test for the Canada Wood next fiscal year project, seeking the quasi fire resistive ministerial approval jointly with Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association.
Construction continues as Unimat Group’s expands its Koyarunosato Doggy’s Island Resort & Villa property on the outskirts of Tokyo in Yachimata City, Chiba Prefecture. The last time COFI staff visited the site was when BC Minister Doug Donaldson led a Canada Wood industry leaders mission to tour the site on November 16, 2017. At that time, there was just a large hole in the ground where foundation work was being done to prepare for phase 3 at the property, a 42 room, 3,656m²3-storey 2×4 fireproof structure which now has been fully erected. Upon completion of this building in April 2018, the resort will have 141 guest rooms and the various PFC structures at this resort project will have roughly consumed 1,795 m³ or the equivalent of approximately 36 containers SPF dimension lumber in its construction. Our organization looks forward to working with Unimat and the construction project team to show case the project as an excellent example of market opportunities for large scale non-residential wooden buildings in hotel/lodging market segment in Japan.
A series of positive economic indicators are boosting Japan’s prospects for prosperous 2018. With the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe government now at its five-year mark, Japan is currently in its second longest growth phase since the end of WWII. GDP growth for 2017 is widely expected to reach 1.8%, beating out initial forecasts in the 1.2-1.3% range. The Nikkei 225 equity index reached the 23,000 mark in January, achieving its strongest performance since 1992. At 2.7% unemployment, one has to go back to the early 1970’s to find a similar statistical expression of virtually full employment. Broad based global recovery in 2017 supported multi-sector growth in Japan including exports, inbound tourism, public infrastructure, capital investment and commercial real estate. Even seemingly moribund industries such as Japanese semi-conductors, electronics and machinery are showing signs of life and repatriation of manufacturing.
How are the prospects lining up for 2018? With the OECD forecasting world economic growth to accelerate to 3.7%, global tail winds are expected to support continued growth in manufacturing and exports. Domestically, rising capita investment and wages are expected. Corporate Japan has accumulated a war chest in excess of US $2.5 trillion. Economists suggest that as the labour pool crunch becomes increasingly severe in 2018, Japan’s companies will need to loosen the purse strings to accelerate capital investment and boost wages to overcome growth capacity restraints and secure needed help. Prime Minister Abe is currently lobbying business leaders and labour groups to push for 3% wage increases in 2018. And while only modest low single digit raises are only likely in the cards for most salaried employees, industries with severe labour shortages, such as logistics and transportation, witnessed pay increases by as much as 12% in 2017. While consumer spending and inflation have thus far remained relatively tame, strong global growth, full employment and improving wages, rising asset values and capital investment build a strong context for improving consumer spending moving forward into 2018.
At the request of the publishers, COFI wrote articles for three wood industry magazines in this autumn. October issue of “Housing and Wood”, published by HOWTEC*, featured a COFI’s technical note on post & beam horizontal diaphragm with Canadian dimension lumber. HOWTEC is also the publisher of Grey Book known as a bible for P&B structural design. This article could give a great impact to engineers’ community as the Grey Book publisher explained in its own monthly magazine how the Canadian dimension lumber can be applicable for Japanese the P&B structures. In November issue of “Wood Industry” magazine, COFI wrote about the recent technical developments on Midply Wall System. The autumn issue of “Two-by-Four”, published by the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association, dealt with the article from COFI regarding the “Wood Best Practices: Industry Forum”, held by FII in 2016 in Vancouver.
* HOWTEC: Japan Housing and Wood Technology Centre
Between October 23rd and 24th Canada Wood Japan hosted a Korean delegation of architects led by Canada Wood Country Director Tai Jeong. A total of 14 participants attended a two-day program which included a series of Canada Wood Japan presentations on the Midply shear wall, a visit to Mitsui Home Component’s Saitama factory, a visit to the 6 storey PFC demonstration project at the Building Research Institute and a visit to the Centre for Better Living in Tsukuba to witness Midply P&B infill shear wall testing. The Korean architects were impressed by the development of Midply in Japan and appeared interested in adopting the use of this system in Korea.