June 2020 Japan Housing Starts
Recessionary pressures and the Covid 19 pandemic weighed heavily on construction activity. June total housing starts fell 12.7% year over year to finish at 71,101 units. Owner occupied housing declined 16.7% and rental housing fell 13%. The mansion condominium market fell 2.0%. Wooden housing fell 14.3% to 41,218 units. Post and beam starts fell 10.5% to 32,981 units. Wooden prefab fell 11% to 957 units. Platform frame starts dropped 27.4% to 7,280 units. By housing type, the breakdown in platform starts is as follows: custom ordered homes dropped 24.2% to 2,389 units, rentals declined 29.6% to 3,996 units and built for sale spec homes decreased 25% to 892 units.
June 2020 Non-Residential Construction
June wooden non-residential starts totaled 1,514 buildings for a floor area of 287,060m2. Year over year June non-residential wooden floor area declined 16.6%. Non-residential wood use for the month is estimated roughly at 50,236m3. Wood held a market share of 35% by number of buildings and 9.5% by floor area for the month. In the first 6 months of 2020, wooden non-residential floor area declined by 10.7%. By usage elderly, medical care and social welfare facilities topped the list, followed by mixed residential-commercial and agricultural buildings.
May total housing starts continued to trail year prior results, falling 12.3% to finish at 63,683 units. Owner occupied housing declined 20.7% and rental housing fell 8.1%. Wooden housing fell 15.6% to 35,632 units. Post and beam starts fell 15.5% to 27,914 units. Wooden prefab fell 4.5% to 940 units. Platform frame starts posted a 17.5% decline to 6,778 units. By housing type, the breakdown in platform starts is as follows: custom ordered homes dropped 26.8% to 1,977 units, rentals declined 8.5% to 3,975 units and built for sale spec homes decreased 30.6% to 805 units.
May wooden non-residential starts totaled 1,287 buildings for a floor area of 249,167m2. Year over year May non-residential wooden floor area declined 10.2%. Non-residential wood use for the month is estimated roughly at 43,604m3. Wood held a market share of 37% by number of buildings and 7.4% by floor area for the month. By usage elderly, medical care and social welfare facilities topped the list, followed by mixed residential-commercial and agricultural buildings.
As a result of a multi-year market access initiative aimed at opening the Japanese market up for nail-laminated timber (NLT), COFI recently received certificates from MLIT* for the quasi-fire resistive structure approvals. The approvals confirm 1-hour quasi fire-resistive performance for NLT floor assemblies and 30-minute quasi-fire resistive performance for NLT roof assemblies. After a Building Standard Law amendment in 2018, large scale buildings or any buildings in fire protective districts can be built with char-margin (sacrificial layer) design approach. This approach can be achievable with quasi-fire resistive approvals. The ministerial approvals we obtained this time can be a trigger to facilitate the spread of large-scale wooden buildings using NLT horizontal diaphragms that are visually exposed. COFI has been working with the Japan 2×4 Home Builders Association since 2017 to conduct the fire testing of NLT at the laboratories of Centre for Better Living and Japan Testing Centre for Construction Materials. The MLIT issued the certificates jointly in the name of COFI and the Japan 2×4 Association Home Builders Association.
*MLIT: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
With its environmentally friendly and economical design, the Muratakai Shonan Oba Hospital recently opened on July 1, 2020. The hospital is located 50 km southwest of Tokyo in Fujisawa City in Kanagawa Prefecture. It is one of the largest wooden 2×4 hospitals to be built in Japan to date. The uniquely designed 3-storey hybrid reinforced concrete (RC) and platform frame structure has a total building floor area of 3,288 m². To design and build this large wooden structure, nail plate roof trusses were used with spans ranging from 14.5 m to 18.6 m. The first-floor RC structure incorporates hospital functions such as an examination room, operating rooms, and rehabilitation rooms. The wooden 2nd and 3rd floors are mainly patient rooms consisting of 72 hospital beds. There is also a daycare center on-site to look after working hospital staff’s children. The hospital is owned and managed by Medical Corporation Muratakai and was designed by architectural firm Medox.
The general contractor for the project was a joint venture by Shiraishi Kensetsu and Yamamura and the roof trusses were designed and supplied by Primetruss. The building consumed about 400 m³ of structural wood products in its construction including Canadian OSB and SPF dimension lumber. This is another strong example of how COFI’s joint promotion efforts with the Japan Wood Truss Council (JWTC) is really paying off in expanding opportunities for Canadian wood products in non-traditional market segments in Japan.
Two prominent wooden warehouses were recently designed and built by platform frame construction (total floor area for each building is approximately 1,400 m²) in an economical and environmentally friendly way in Fukushima Prefecture. The large warehouses, both 20 m wide and 70 m long, were built with structural wood product members (composite double beam girders, i.e. box beams) in order to construct a roof span of 20 m, while the walls were assembled using dimension lumber. The volume of wood used in these two warehouses, including plywood sheathing, is about 550 m³, in which 350 m³ of this amount was Canadian SPF dimension lumber. This project was initially proposed to be constructed in steel, but it was redesigned and constructed in wood to reduce the foundation construction cost, and in order to realize a shorter construction period. The warehouses are owned by Ichiro Co., Ltd., designed by Sasaki Architect Office and the wooden structure was engineered and supplied by Japan Kenai Co., Ltd. The warehouses are a great example and highlight the possibilities of large-scale wooden commercial buildings requiring longer spans. Construction cost for these buildings was 495,000 yen per tsubo – a Japanese unit of area equal to approximately 3.31 m². In COFI’s recent market research into non-residential construction, logistics centres, warehouses and manufacturing facilities were identified as the most promising in terms of untapped market potential for wood construction.
Exterior and interior photos of Ichiro Warehouse in Fukushima Prefecture