18 January 2012 ­– Private developers in Japan may qualify for 50 per cent subsidies to build shared use buildings under a program to foster more sustainable cities. And buyers of energy efficient homes may soon qualify for tax breaks.

The move is just one of several sustainability initiatives from both the public and private sector under way in Japan, some of which are a response to last year’s earthquake disaster.

Under one program, the Japanese Land Ministry will look to support the growth of centralised, low-emission cities with legislation that would provide subsidies to companies that undertake development in line with local governments’ vision, a report in The Nikkei said on Wednesday.

The ministry will submit a bill in the coming Diet session, aiming for the provisions to go into effect in fiscal 2012.

“The idea is to create compact cities where stores, administrative buildings, hospitals, schools and so on are clustered within a roughly one kilometre radius,” the report.

“The ministry sees provincial cities suffering from population decline and areas ravaged by the earthquake last March as candidates for such a transformation.”

As part of the moves the government would also consider removal of red tape for projects such as heat pumps to harness waste heat from sewers and installing solar panels in public parks.

In the private residential sector the Land Ministry is also seeking to create a certification system for energy-efficient homes and to provide incentives such as tax breaks for buyers of such homes.

In other initiatives in Japan include the following.

Smart Streetlights
The City of Tsukuba is deploying smart streetlights as part of the Japan Ministry of the Environment’s “2011 Challenge 25 Regional Development Project” to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help with environmental conservation.

The move is expected to help the city save money without sacrificing public infrastructure or safety, a news report said.

“The project will use energy control networking technology from the smart-grid company Echelon, along with power line communications (PLC) on the existing infrastructure, to operate segment controllers across the city’s street lighting system.

“Management software will help to monitor energy consumption, save power by dimming individual lights, adjust lighting schedules and intensity as needed for public safety and identify failures and other problems on the network, making it easier to locate and repair street lights that have gone out.

“Tsukuba, also known as Tsukuba Science City, represents one of the world’s largest cities committed to accelerating the rate of and improving the quality of scientific discovery.”

Data collected during the early stages could lead to Japan’s nationwide smart street lighting rollout for approximately 10 million streetlights.

Read the whole story

Panasonic’s Smart Town

In an interview last year with Inhabitat Haruyuki Ishio director of Panasonic’s corporate division for promoting energy solutions business said that the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town plan “is about Panasonic showing in a very visible way the company’s comprehensive solutions capabilities (for private homes, multi-family dwellings and facilities) in a real town setting, while establishing new business models for our energy solutions businesses.

“In the beginning of 2007, Panasonic started to consult with Fujisawa City about how Panasonic could utilize the vacant land after we stopped production in our plants there.

“Fujisawa City focused on being an ‘Ecology-Oriented Town’ in its city development strategy, while Panasonic has set its focus on becoming the ‘Number 1 Green Innovations Company in the Electronics Industry by 2018’. With similar overall aims in mind, Fujisawa City and Panasonic agreed to use the cleared land to contribute to society in terms of ecology.

Mr Ishio said the town would comprise about 1000 households in a layout based on a leaf-like pattern, built on the cleared site of a former Panasonic factory.

Sustainable features will include four kilowatts of solar power as a standard feature for each house, along with storage batteries in all homes. Fuel cells would also be an optional feature. Energy savings are expected to be 70 per cent in each individual house and 20 per cent in public spaces, Mr Ishio said.

Floating forest
Tokyo Bay will soon spot a forest planted amid “a mountain of incinerated trash, 12 million tons of what was once a toxic heap of rotting fish and vegetables, old clothes, broken furniture, diapers and all manner of discarded items.”

Architect Tadao Ando’s vision for a “Sea Forest,” or “Umi no Mori,” will transform 88 hectares of reclaimed land, a 30-metre deep mound of alternating layers of landfill, into a dense forest of nearly half a million trees, news reports said.

The 12.3 million tons of waste from Tokyo’s households was collected between 1973 and 1987.

“Umi-no-Mori (Sea Forest) will become a symbol of our recycling-oriented society through which Japan, a country that has a tradition of living hand-in-hand with nature, can make an appeal to the world about the importance of living in harmony with the environment,” Mr Ando said in the report.

The forest would become a refreshing retreat for stressed out city workers and would create a cool ocean breeze to sweep through the capital and with an oxygenated “wind tunnel,” to temper the city’s heat island during the sweltering months of July to September.

Read the whole story

Hitachi’s smart cities
Hitachi Ltd has announced it wants to create smart cities in Tohoku, the northeastern part of the country devastated by the March earthquake disaster, company president Hiroaki Nakanishi said this week in a company announcement.

Hitachi is considering joining hands with the local governments of Sendai and a dozen or so other locales in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.

“Rather than pushing ready-made packages for building mini-versions of Tokyo, we’re offering to create together a concept that solves the issues facing each city,” Mr Nakanishi told reporters.

Hitachi hopes to use its track record of being the most involved private-sector firm for sewage and other infrastructure work in the Tohoku region, he said.