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Asia

Architect banks on low-energy houses in Japan

Most Japanese have not heard of passive houses but energy-saving has becoming an increasingly hot topic since the natural disasters struck in March. The architect Miwa Mori is hoping for a breakthrough.

Front of the passive house in Ishioka (Photo: Silke Ballweg / DW)

The model passive house was built to attract potential customers

A passive house was recently built in the town of Ishioka, about one and a half hour’s drive from Tokyo. The house was designed by Miwa Mori in cooperation with a local contractor, Keiichi Shimada.

Mori explains that the underlying principle was to transport heat into the house through the windows and keep it there, which is why double-glazing is so crucial as well as high-quality thermal insulation.

Showcase to attract customers

View of kitchen and kitchenette (Photo: Silke Ballweg / DW)

Cedar wood preserves heat very efficiently

As is usual in Japan, visitors to the showcase house have to take off their shoes at the entrance door. Having passed the threshold, they not only get a view of the complete first floor, but can also directly look up to the second floor.

Shimada and Mori built the showcase house to explain to potential buyers how the concept works and win them over to their conviction that low-energy houses are the future for Japan.

On the first floor, at the back, there is a wide kitchenette with some open space for a table. A spiral staircase leads to the upper floor and to a kind of gallery with three adjacent bedrooms. The dominant material of the interior fittings is wood. Japanese cedar preserves the heat very efficiently, says Mori.

Japanese architect with a German degree

Architect Miwa Mori (Foto: Silke Ballweg / DW)

Miwa Mori picked up many energy-saving ideas in Germany

Miwa Mori is 34 years old. Twelve years ago she went to Stuttgart armed with a degree in architecture and a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service. She had never heard about thermal insulation or energy-saving in construction but she quickly became accustomed to the idea.

In fact, she was so impressed and inspired by low-energy houses that she decided to introduce them to her home country. Two years ago, she and her German husband set up an architect’s office that has become a pioneer of energy-saving construction in Japan. They have already finished two low-energy houses and have several ongoing projects.

The number of inquiries has increased significantly since last month’s earthquake. Mori hopes that her fellow Japanese will now begin to value energy as something that is extremely precious and is hoping the change of mentality will spell her breakthrough.

Author: Silke Ballweg (ef)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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