In fiscal 2017, the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association conducted the char margin fire tests under the Nail Laminated Timber (NLT) Working Group. With increasing interest in the market potential of NLT, the Association decided that the Working Group be upgraded to an NLT Technical Committee in fiscal 2018. The number of committee members are anticipated to increase from 8 to 15. This increased emphasis is an indication that the Association foresees NLT as more reasonable and efficient structural element than other wood-based diaphragms such as CLT. The committee will be chaired by Dr. Masahiro Inayama, a professor and an architect, The University of Tokyo. The members also include Yosuke Komiyama, an active architect in Kyoto University. The illustration here is the part of his exhibition at Architectural Institute of Japan, where he proposes a temporary working shelter for fabricating NLT at building sites. In fiscal 2018, it is planned that the NLT technical committee will be actively involved in the publication of an NLT design & installation guide, an NLT demonstration building at Forestry Research and Management Organization in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture and proposing the building code amendment to allow NLT in PFC structures. COFI Japan will serve as an active member of this NLT Technical Committee.
During the first quarter Canada Wood commenced our branding and promotions campaign to raise awareness about the Midply high performance shear wall system. Thanks to multiple years of technical development work we anticipate ministerial and code approvals for Midply in fiscal 2018. A promotional campaign is being launched to coincide with these forthcoming approvals to raise awareness and encourage commercial adoption of this high seismic performance shear wall system.
Canada Wood worked with a graphic designer and media relations expert to develop the Midply branding and catch copy. The branding campaign is being rolled out through print and internet media through interviews with influential technical experts and a case study of the first Midply project in Japan. Our aim is twofold: to encourage the adoption of Midply in 2×4 housing as the next generation seismic performance solution and to provide a robust shear wall solution necessary for midrise and large scale non-residential buildings. The campaign example above shows a 2 page feature on Midply in the April issue of Kenchiku Chishiki, Japan’s leading architectural magazine with a monthly circulation of 45,000 copies.
On March 15th Canada Wood Japan launched a new “wood-solutions.org” website targeted at supporting architects and designers specifying wood products. The project was led by Yusuke Neriko, Canada Woods’ Marketing & Technical Support Representative – Hybrid Building Systems. The site is an interactive tool and resource base for designers interested in specifying in wood. It contains extensive case examples of Japanese and Canadian wooden projects as well as detailed specifications for structural assembly options. The site is also intended to generate increased web traffic and funnel leads to our technical team to support the increased specification of building assemblies that feature Canadian structural lumber and panel projects.
Total housing starts dropped 13.2% to 66,358 units in January. In particular, non-wood construction fell significantly while wooden housing largely held its own. The mansion condominium starts fell 50.2%, dragging down the non-wood starts average. I would caution against reading too much into this one month decline: condo starts are notoriously volatile depending on the timing of when large projects start or stop. Wooden starts totaled 38,962 units, just 0.3% behind last year’s pace. Single family owner occupied housing increased 0.1% while rentals declined 10.8%.
By building method, wooden housing broke down as follows. Post and beam starts fell 0.9% to 29,459 units. Wooden pre-fab dropped 13.9% to 910 units and total pre-fab declined 7.0% to 10,600 units. Platform frame starts gained 3.4% to 8,593 units with the breakdown as follows: custom ordered single family homes increased 0.6% to 2,274 units, rental apartments rose 5.0% to 5,144 units and spec housing improved 3.6% to 1,170 units.
Japan has been experiencing the longest period of uninterrupted growth since the 1980s, however, recent indicators possibly point to some rough sailing ahead. Exports have posted 15 consecutive months of growth, registering a 1.8% gain in February. From the beginning of January to the end of March, Japan’s Nikkei 225 equity index fell close to 14% to the low 21,000 level. With the imposition of new US tariffs on steel and aluminum there is growing concern Japanese exporters will be caught up in rising trade tensions. International trade uncertainty is also resulting in a strengthening of the Japanese yen from the 112 level to USD in January to the 105 level by late March.
Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda was reconfirmed for a second 5 year term and is widely expected to keep in place his monetary easing policies. But after 5 years of aggressive monetary easing, Japan’s core consumer prices are only rising at about 1% annually or half of the BOJ target. Economists also suggest that the BOJ stimulus program may have already reached its limits in terms of effectiveness.