This article is available also in spanish here

Why does Japan routinely destroy ‘new’ buildings?

My list

Written by | M. Martínez Euklidiadas

Many regions in Japan have houses that were not designed to last, but rather have a useful life of 30 years. It is not uncommon when someone dies, for their house (no longer with any resale value) to be demolished to build a new one. Why does Japan destroy houses like this? Is it sustainable?

Emergency reconstruction after the World War

The scrap and build policy takes place in many of Japan's suburban development projects. That is, it is a practice delimited in space, but also in time.

The houses that are demolished today have suffered one or two destruction cycles, a method that began with the construction of peri-urban and cheap housing after World War II.

When these districts were built, they were thought of as emergency living solutions, 'low' houses for Japan's current standards and with somewhat poor qualities.

Earthquakes and regulations, another reason to demolish a house

In addition to the above, the frequent earthquakes on the island have changed regulations over time. Houses built about 30 years after the end of the war, second generation buildings, would be demolished in around 1990.

Now these plots of land are in their third iteration. The Japanese people obviously do not value living in old houses that do not comply with regulations and with specifications that are nearing or exceed their useful life. However, something is changing their way of thinking.

Houses for 30 years is not a sustainable solution

Houses must last for as long as possible. Many decades at least, some centuries if possible. During the construction of a building, the amount of embodied energy, the energy needed to manufacture, transport and manage the materials, is extremely high. Global CO₂ emissions from construction activities account for approximately 35% of the total.

"Durability, flexibility and energy efficiency must be considered cornerstones of sustainable architecture", according to Huw Heywood in '101 basic rules for sustainable buildings and cities'. An urban design policy that goes beyond architectural aspects includes transport in the efficiency equation. The ideal solution? Make it last.

A change of paradigm in Japanese 'suburban' urbanism.

japan house 3

The scrap and build technique is being abandoned. Party due to the environmental impact, which is reflected in construction costs and partly because that suburb is being abandoned. As the population decreases and ages, more people are concentrating in metropolitan areas and abandoning the suburbs.

It is estimated that 13% has already been abandoned, and that this figure will reach around 30% by 2033: 21.7 million abandoned homes. The country has a general problem with abandoned houses and unclaimed land. This is resulting in the few people who still live in these areas not being able to maintain their public infrastructures such as train networks, hospitals or roads with their taxes.

Restore, not demolish, buildings

It is increasingly common in suburban development in larger cities not to demolish houses that are over 30 years old, unless they breach an earthquake regulation (if that is the case, they are built to last). Instead, in Japan many young people are living in 'old' houses and they renew them when they can, renovating them to take advantage of the existing building.

Obviously, the cost of renovating a property is much lower than demolishing it and rebuilding it, an aspect that did not concern previous generations, but which is now a factor taken into account by the younger generation.

The Japanese practice of demolishing to rebuild is ending as new buildings are constructed to last, in line with sustainability policies.

Images | DLKR, Alex Knight

Related content

Recommended profiles for you

Remember to activate your profile to network!
Activate profile
SP
Sudeepta Pattnaik
Suddhananda group of institutions
I am the head of the institution and also completed urban management and governance from XIMB.
AA
Ahmad Kabir Abdullahi
Hamada Smart city
VE
Valdemar Espinoza de León
UNO A UNO ARQUITECTURA
Founder. Architect and designer, creator of visualization of projects and salesman.
as
angelo susin
2S Engenharia
engineer manager
CC
Claudia Carrasco
Honext Material SL
BD Manager
VigneshDhanapal VigneshDhanapal
VigneshDhanapal VigneshDhanapal
VK Architects
Founder
STEFANO CRUCIANI
STEFANO CRUCIANI
Titan4
Operation
Frido Stutz
Frido Stutz
V-Locker AG
Founder and President
MA
Muhammad Alfin Fauzi Akbar
Indonesia University of Education
As a Civil Engineering Student at Indonesia University of Education
GG
Geovanny García
SITU
CEO
Olga Korshunov
Olga Korshunov
Minute.ly
BA degree in Sustainability and Government. Seeking a new opportunity.
carlos cubillos
carlos cubillos
Gensler
Principal. Global leader in Cities + Urban Design
LT
Leandro Teodoro Andrade
Biazzo Simon Advogados
Full Advisory Lawyer / Biazzo Simon Advogados
AZ
Augusto Zavalaga Fernández
CONECTELL SRL
Ra
Raphael attias
Innotech
CEO innovation strategist
DR
Duncan Ramage
Forum Equity Partners
Partner, Private Equity
Alfonso Jimenez Labora
Alfonso Jimenez Labora
Ecologika
Director
ID
Isabel Delgado
Instituto metropolitano de patrimonio
Asistente de Diseño e investigación
Geraldinne  Rosales Vigueras
Geraldinne Rosales Vigueras
ITS & C
In charge of the enterprise accounts in Mexico. Develop Smart City solutions in Vancouver.
Samitha Adylia Thanos
Samitha Adylia Thanos
University Of Sam Ratulangi, Manado

SmartCity
Thank you for registering to Tomorrow.City. You can now start exploring from your computer, or with your phone or tablet downloading our app!
Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$