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Industry & Trends

Japan Continues to Grow Its Mass Timber Structure Base

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November 15, 2023 | Warren Shoulberg

The latest entry in the burgeoning global mass timber movement is the Port Plus building in Yokohama, outside Tokyo.

The worldwide market for mass timber buildings and structures continues to expand and many are rising in Japan, often combining modern construction techniques with traditional Japanese joinery. The latest is the Obayashi Port Plus building in Yokohama, the port city that serves Tokyo.

Completed last year, Port Plus is a fully wooden-framed, fire-resistant high rise composed mainly of 540 wooden rigid cross-joints that are 9.2 feet wide by 13 feet tall.

“We believe that the utilization of forest resources will lead to the realization of a low-carbon society and the revitalization of local communities,” Shinji Yamasaki, chief engineer in Obayashi’s timber construction promotion department, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg which reported on the new structure. “The company is committed to wooden construction and actively forming alliances across the forestry industry,” Bloomberg reported Yamasaki adding.

The news story went on to say that “the building’s main technical innovation is also its architectural highlight: The rigid cross-joints effectively combine traditional columns and beams into single prefabricated units, composed of LVL wrapped in multiple layers of fire-resistant plasterboard and a finishing layer of wood. Glued-in rods and nuki joints, a traditional Japanese carpentry technique, strengthen and connect the units. No adhesives are used in the larch core, so the timber can be reused at the end of the building’s life.”

Japan is aiming to cut its carbon emissions by 46% by 2030 from 2013 levels and achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century, the report says. The use of mass timber in new construction is a big part of the effort and for Obayashi the Port Plus building is as much a learning experience as it is a functioning structure. “We learned that a building can be fully made out of wood,” said Yamasaki.

Image and video: Port Plus website

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