HIGHLIGHT 3 Promoting Sustainable and Innovative Technological Development Taking the First Step Towards 2041 A New Research Building at the Tsukuba Research Institute

Sumitomo Forestry Group is actively developing technologies and products that enhance the value of trees and contribute to the sustainability of the society.

In time for our 350th anniversary in 2041, we have embarked on our W350 Plan, a research and technological development plan centered on the construction of a 350-meter-high wooden high-rise building and the advancement of the use of wood in all aspects of urban planning to greenify our environment. Construction of a new research building at our Tsukuba Research Institute, which will form the basis of our efforts to realize our so-called Timberized Eco City that will transform our cities into forests, will be completed in October 2019.

Birth of a New Base to Conduct Technical Verification Tests for Our W350 Plan

Because of the deterioration with age of the Tsukuba Research Institute building and the increase in the number of personnel, construction of a new building was begun in March 2018. The wooden structure has three floors and a total floor area of 2,532.67m². This new research building has offices to hold 140 people and at the same time, numerous research areas to conduct various technical verification tests needed to realize the W350 Plan. Construction utilized a variety of the latest technologies, both in terms of the actual physical building and the software to support it and was selected as a “pilot program for sustainable buildings (wood type) in fiscal 2017” promoted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of the Japanese government.

New research building at the Tsukuba Research Institute

New research building at the Tsukuba Research Institute

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The Technologies and Equipment That Contribute to an Earthquake Resistant and Low Carbon Building

One of the concepts behind the construction of the new research building is the pursuit of sustainability. A representative example of such is a structural technology called post-tension construction, which compensates for the lack of rigidity of wooden structures while maintaining its resistance and resiliency against earthquakes. Post tensioning is a technology that involves passing steel rods or wire ropes through the components to give it greater tensile force and increase the degree of fixation with other components. In conventional reinforced concrete or steel construction buildings, if a large earthquake causes the components to yield*, the building has to be rebuilt even if it does not collapse. However, in wooden post-tension construction buildings, damage is focused on energy-absorbing components, which can be replaced. With this technology, even if there is damage that goes beyond the limit, only a minimum of repairs or parts replacement is necessary to recover earthquake resistance, making it a sustainable wooden building.

In pursuit of making it a Zero Energy Building (ZEB), solar panels are being installed on the roof, thermal insulation properties are being enhanced, wooden palette boilers that have low greenhouse gas emissions are being installed and other measures are being taken to create an energy-creating and energy-saving structure. In addition, sensors are being placed throughout the building based on wind environment simulations so that windows automatically open or close to allow natural breeze to flow in and out of the offices. This is a Sumitomo Forestry developed design method called Ryouonbou. It helps to significantly reduce energy consumption for cooling or heating of the building while maintaining a comfortable environment for the people inside.

* When a component is deformed beyond its elastic limit and does not go back to its original state

Post Tension Construction

Post Tension Construction

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Software Technologies That Utilize the Strengths of Wood and Verification for the Future

Using the Whole Building Evacuation Safety Verification Method, we confirmed that everyone in the new research building can safely escape in the event of a fire, and in a first for a wooden building structure, we obtained Certification from the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. With advanced simulation technologies, we verified safety in the event of a fire, cleared all restrictions related to interior materials, proactively showed pillars, beams and other structural components and created an interior environment where people can sense the beauty and calming warmth of wood.

In the atrium space, we planted trees in an inner courtyard to re-create a small forest within the building. In the future, we will verify various methods to maintain the greenery within the building and at the same time, gather data about the psychological and physiological impact an office environment filled with wood and greenery has on the people who work there.

By making this new research building the site of our own research, we plan to gather data and verify hypotheses that will contribute to the realization of a totally new type of office building that utilizes the benefits of wood and greenery.

Interior of the new research building

Interior of the new research building

Greenery on an exterior wall

Greenery on an exterior wall

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Sustainable Wooden High-Rise Office Buildings

The new research building is filled with many types of experimental features that are necessary in Sumitomo Forestry Group’s efforts to propose mid- and high-rise wooden buildings on a wide scale. The higher a building is, the more difficult it is to create countermeasures for earthquakes, fires and other disasters. This building, which is a three-floor wooden structure, will be the basis for our research and development efforts in the W350 Plan, and with the accumulation of technology and know-how, we will continue our work to develop wooden offices that are safe even in the event of a fire, good for both people and the environment and sustainable.

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Message from the Person in Charge of Development

We received the first proposal from the architect four years ago in August 2015. While even the first proposal utilized post-tension technologies, we had to have many discussions with the architect because the plan was different from what we were thinking. We were able to reach consensus on the current block structure around November 2016. The technical concept of how post tensioning could bring together disjointed wood blocks into one in a way that enables it to withstand the swaying of earthquakes was easy to understand and I really liked it as an architectural term, as well. While the technology behind large-scale wooden structures is in its infancy and there are many issues that still need to be resolved, by combining post-tension technologies with other construction methods and technologies, I think there is a lot of room for development. As we work toward fulfilling the goals set out in our W350 Plan, we will work to contribute to steadily achieving important technological development milestones along the way, such as W30 and W70.

Taisuke Nagashima, Team Manager Construction and Housing Group Tsukuba Research Institute

Taisuke Nagashima,
Team Manager
Construction and Housing Group
Tsukuba Research Institute

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With W30 As the First Step, the Roadmap to Realizing the W350 Plan

To fulfill an incredibly ambitious goal of building a 350-meter high-rise wooden building requires technological innovations that go beyond conventional wisdom and resolve a number of issues identified through backcasting. The proposed building will have 70 floors and will be a 9:1 ratio hybrid wood and steel construction. Basic R&D for this totally new type of technology is now taking place at the Tsukuba Research Institute.

On the other hand, it is also important that we utilize the technologies we have developed thus far and evolve them with forecasting. By 2021, we aim to achieve W30 and pursue the limits of post-tension construction with a 20~30-meter tall, 6~7 floor wooden structure. We are already in the site selection stage. Through the construction of W30, we will strive to advance our technologies, reduce costs and increase the possibility of achieving our W350 Plan.

W350 Plan Roadmap

W350 Plan Roadmap

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Sustainability Report