Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Why are Japan's building energy standards low and lax compared to Northern Europe?

Just looking back over some homework. After a lesson last year on building standards, including comparisons between standards in Japan and Europe, I asked my students this question: Why do you think Japan's building energy standards are low and lax compared to Northern Europe?

(The letters afterwards correspond to the nationality of students. See below for a key.)

Some of them commented on the climate, for example:
The Japanese Archipelago extends from north to south, and Japanese climate has more variety than Northern Europe. Japan region has its shape long from the North to the South, (not like Denmark, UK), It has a really cold winter like in Hokkaido, but most of the population is located in the warmer place like Tokyo, Osaka. (K, J1, V)
Northern Europe has a higher latitude than Japan. That means the winter is colder so for the very survival of the people they need to be concerned about building houses which will lose less heat. There comes the idea of low energy building. The example is same as Australia and Sweden when we compare the death rate from cold. (B)
Because, the climate change of Japan is more irregular than Northern Europe. When every season changes, temperature of Japan is changeable. (K)
There's a lot of earthquakes and typhoons in Japan. Rather than focusing on energy saving, Japanese focus more on preventing their house from getting blown away by typhoon or getting crushed by earthquake. (M)
There's a rumour in Malaysia that Japanese tend to build cheaper and simple house, so that when natural disaster comes, they won't have much loss even when their house is crushed, and they could have their house rebuilt in a shorter period. (fast, easy, and cheap) (M)
Old building ways focus on summer (even though low energy building would help them in summer too) (P)
Typical 1960's Japanese house (!)

They also commented about building industry:
The Japanese tend to treasure their own traditional buildings and they are not flexible to accept new standards. (J2)
Often demolishing old houses and building new ones instead (not enough time for payback of a more expensive to build low-energy house) (P)

And they made comments about Japanese culture:
I think that there is cultural differences. Japanese have table known as kotatsu and they love it, They usually prepare to stay in kotatsu rather than keeping the whole house warm. Therefore they aren't paying any attention towards the overall warmth of the building. (M)
Culture of shouganai [there's nothing we can do about it] and 'living with nature' (P)
They are patient to changes of season because Japanese island has basically the four seasons and it means they don't need to employ efficient standards because of their acquired patience. (J2)

They also mentioned population and technology.
Northern European specially Scandinavian countries have way less population than Japan. When you have more people, the matters you need to worry about increase by number. Also it takes time to solve them. I think that is another reason of having a less standard. (B)
Japan try to reduce a consumption of primary energy by installing housing equipment. (J3)

(B: Bangladesh; J: Japan; K: South Korea; P: Poland; V: Vietnam)

This year I just asked a multiple choice question. Fifteen students gave answers. The number of responses is in brackets.

"In your opinion, what is the biggest reason for Japan's lax low-energy building standards? (There is no correct answer. I'm just interested what you think!)"
Scandinavian countries have a similar climate, but Japan is an archipelago going from very hot places to cold places. (4)
Creating low-energy electrical appliances and products is more important for Japan's economy. (3)
Northern European buildings are built for the cold winters, but Japanese buildings are built for the hot summers. (3)
Japanese builders like traditional buildings, and they do not want to change. (1)
All of these reasons are equally important. (1)
Some other reason. (Please tell me next lesson!) (1)
Because of earthquakes and other natural disasters, Japanese people do not want to spend a lot on buildings. (0)
I don't know. (2)

Some of these answers are interrelated, so the question doesn't really lend itself to the multiple choice format. Looking back on it, the most commonly selected answer doesn't clearly answer the question. I guess the implication is that Japan's varied climate makes it difficult to set single standards. I'll have to try again next year! Perhaps they should be able to give ratings to several different reasons.