Responding to Climate Change
Adaption to Climate Change
In recent years, large-scale natural disasters triggered by earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons have increased and are causing significant economic damages, ultimately threatening our society and living.
By providing safe and reliable housing, Sumitomo Forestry wants to contribute to protecting people's lives and lifestyles.
Building Internal Systems to Adapt to Climate Change
Initiatives of the Disaster Prevention Department
Disaster Recovery Guidelines were put in place in the Housing and Construction Division and measures and action guidelines for operations were defined to quickly and accurately respond to damages from natural disasters to our customers' houses as they become more prevalent due to climate change. As one of measures, the Disaster Prevention Department has instructed each branch and group companies to implement disaster prevention measures on a regular basis. In the event of an emergency, we will direct relevant departments and affiliated companies and work to minimize the damage caused by disasters.
In 2021, we cooperated with the disaster-stricken branch office in the Fukushima prefecture offshore earthquake with a maximum seismic intensity of upper 6 in February and contacted the home owners about their safety while inspecting the damaged houses to support the prompt recovery. In addition, during the heavy rains in August that occurred in western Japan, the Disaster Prevention Department gave instructions to the branches in the disaster stricken area and provided disaster response stockpiles to support emergency responses.
Developing Disaster Recovery Support Services Using IoT
Issue of the Time It Takes to Assess Disaster
While Japan have experienced many earthquakes, in recent years, climate change has made natural disasters more severe with intense rainstorms, typhoons and other natural disasters causing extensive and frequent damage. In monetary terms, the total cost of damage caused by natural disasters in Japan from 1991 to 2018 reached $446.63 billion*.
The bigger the disaster, the longer the recovery efforts, and it now takes more time to assess the situation as well. For the Kumamoto earthquake that occurred in April 2016, it took about one and a half months for the government to conduct emergency safety assessment of buildings aimed to prevent secondary disasters. Disaster victims expressed their anxieties as "it takes too much time to get the information we need", which highlights one of the biggest hurdles in speedy recovery efforts.
* Created by The Small and Medium Enterprise Agency using the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters database (EM-DAT)
Quickly Gathering Data About Damaged Homes Using Sensing Technologies
Sumitomo Forestry is responding to such issues by developing services that promote quick recovery after disasters. Since 2017, we have been working on proving test of an IoT service that utilizes the analysis technology using sensor to measures, collects, and analyzes the condition of buildings. We place several sensors throughout a house to acquire data, such as the magnitude of an earthquake's tremors, flooding or other conditions, and gather this data through a network to analyze. At our Tsukuba Research Institute, we combine this data with the vast amount of seismic resistance data of wooden houses to facilitate high-precision analysis.
We have expanded the proof of concept that began in the Kanto region to nationwide 93 sites as of December 2021. In fiscal 2022, we will further improve the decision accuracy for service provision and aim to engage in initiatives to ready infrastructure to ensure comprehensive collection and processing of enormous amounts of data while striving toward actual implementation to ensure customer peace of mind and safety in the event of a disaster.
Overview of How Data Is Collected
Supporting the Speedy Recovery of Home Owners and Regions Affected by Disasters
If sensors installed in homes can be used remotely to determine the level of damage, we will be able to more quickly grasp, report and respond to the situation and arrange for repairs or other work to provide our customers the support they need. As engineers would no longer have to check each and every house on site, it would resolve the problem of taking too much time and can even be used for areas made inaccessible after a major disaster.
In addition, by utilizing this gathered data in different ways, we can develop new services that would give more people a sense of security. For example, we could collaborate with casualty insurance companies to provide quick damage assessments necessary for insurance benefits, which would help people rebuild their lives more quickly.
In addition, we could provide data to customers and local municipalities for emergency risk assessments that would help prevent secondary disasters. Furthermore, our data analysis results could promote development of technologies that enhance earthquake resistance and durability.
Housing Sales Adapted to Climate Change
Sumitomo Forestry Homes - Resistant to Earthquakes, Fires and Typhoons
Sumitomo Forestry's wooden houses are characterized by their unique BF construction method. The construction method uses the principal structural members, which are about five times thicker than a regular pillar and fixed with strong metal, and has high seismic and wind resistance. In the seismic resistance experiment with a full-scale model of a three-story house, we have confirmed that it withstands the same level of the Great East Japan Earthquake and aftershocks that repeatedly strike. In addition, our houses can withstand winds of 88m/second, much higher than Typhoon Faxai (highest wind speed: 57.5m/second) that hit the Tokyo metropolitan area in 2019. Furthermore, in terms of fire resistance, the standard specifications are compatible with "houses with a semi-fireproof structure under the ministerial ordinance".
We ensure the safety of residents with our proprietary BF construction method that boasts outstanding strength, and with attached facilities such as a solar power generation system and rainwater tank, etc., and satisfying stockpile space which enable to live for a certain period of time until restoration even when the lifeline is interrupted. By selecting a video door phone with a network camera, residents are able to check the situation of their houses remotely in the event of a disaster. In addition, securing of stockpile space is useful for organizing belongings in the daily life, and the original built-in furniture ensures safety by preventing falls in the event of an earthquake, and can also make the room a harmonious and organized space.
Housing Using the BF Construction Method Stands Up to Disasters and Enhances Daily Comfort
The Thinking Behind Taking Evacuation life at Home
Many people who come through a large-scale disaster often find themselves falling ill due to the stress of living in an evacuation shelter even if they survive the disaster. And sometimes it takes days before utilities such as electricity and running water are restored.
What is important during times like these is the thinking behind "taking evacuation life at home".
Sumitomo Forestry provides various preparations based on the ZEH performance for houses with a highly seismic resistant BF construction method so that residents can live at home even after the disaster. The high heat insulation performance of the ZEH specifications enables an energy-saving life that suppresses the effects of the outside temperature, while securing electricity of solar power generation systems, household fuel cells, storage battery systems, etc. In addition, it supports "evacuation life at home" with various resilience-compatible specifications such as a slate roof that can handle strong winds, a short circuit fire alarm that prevents fires from a short circuit, a home security light that can also be used as a flashlight in the event of a power outage, a rainwater storage tank that can be used as domestic water when water is cut off.
With high insulation properties and energy-saving housing equipment, these ZEH properties not only help in the event of a disaster but also offer residents a comfortable lifestyle they can enjoy while reducing their energy consumption. In addition, Sumitomo Forestry's high-insulation wooden ZEH houses can protect the health of the residents by preventing violent fluctuations in blood pressure due to sudden changes in room temperatures when bathing or getting out of bed in the winter.
Strengthening of Resilience
Sumitomo Forestry Homes have continued to demonstrate further resilience against unprecedented natural disasters with technologies leveraging the properties of wood and performance backed by a wide range of testing. Our recommended settings are with resilient materials to allow residents easier livng at home after disaster strikes.
The Three Keys of Strengthening Resilience
- Seismic Resistant BF Construction Method
- Ministerial ordinance on semi-fireproof houses for fire resistance (prevents catching fire from outside or spreading fires inside rooms with wall and ceiling materials that have high fire resistance as well as a fire-stop structure)
- Roof construction with specifications to stand up to strong winds and sleeves with basal tunnels for disasters are set to ensure readiness against unprecedented disasters for its "strong rain and wind resistance".
In 2020, we included the specifications below as part of our recommendations to improve resilience performance.
- Rainwater Tank
- Slate roofs with specifications for strong winds
- Drain sleeves with basal tunnels for disaster (allows for initial recovery by putting in place a sleeve to drain water pooling in the foundation in case of below floor and above floor level flood)
- Home security lights (night lights to use as security lights during power outages, or can be removed and used as portable lights in an emergency)
- Short circuit fire alarms (sounds an alarm to alert residents of an abnormality in the event of a short circuit)
We will continue to provide safer Sumitomo Forestry Homes for home owners to feel peace of mind.
Proof testing for adaptation to climate change
Start "proof of concept on advanced green infrastructure"
Due to the climate change, heat island phenomenon in urban areas and flood damage caused by torrential rain have become social issues. The development of the green infrastructure that utilizes the functions of nature is expected to be one of the solutions, but in the coastal areas, chloride damage to plants and fallen trees due to strong winds swirling up seawater are occurring frequently. To address these issues, in October 2021, we started the proof test for "selection of salt tolerant plants and wind resistant plants" and "plant growth method for efficiently using surplus water from rainwater and irrigation" by using the planting tray with a water tank used in the development of the rooftop greening field. These proof tests were adopted in the "proof test at Yumeshima, the venue for the Osaka-Kansai Expo in 2025", which was publicly solicited by Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition and the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Utilizing the results of this verification, we plan to work to solve social issues through advanced green infrastructure technology, while enabling coexistence with nature in urban areas and coastal areas. We will contribute to the realization of a decorbonized society by realizing a Timberized Eco City with wooden structure and abundant greenery.