Table Speech

Smart City Plus Human City

March 31, 2021

Masanori Yanagi
President, The Japan Economic Research Institute

 Smart City policy constitutes one of Japan’s strategic focus areas. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) defines smart cities as “a sustainable city or region incorporating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and other new technologies to solve various challenges it faces and manages itself for its overall optimization.” MLIT published an interim-report in 2018 and identified a number of issues to be addressed in promoting smart cities. Let me highlight two points as how to provide convenient and flexible transport services in regional cities as well as how to bring new opportunities and values to tourist attractions by restricting private cars and allowing pedestrians, cyclists and autonomous driving shuttle services.

 Today, I want to focus on how we can build a people-friendly “human city” to champion sustainability, diversity and inclusion. In April 2018, the Japan Economic Research Institute and the Development Bank of Japan conducted a joint research on “City Planning and Transportation” in the U.K., France and Germany. I joined the research project together with CEOs of 4 railway companies in Kanto area (Tobu, Keio, Keisei and Sagami Railway Companies). Let me share what we learned in Strasbourg, France, an international city with a total population of 280,000 where the legislative body of the European Union is headquartered. The city faced severe traffic congestion and air pollution in the 1980s. In 1989, the city government led by female mayor Ms. Trautmann took drastic actions to improve local environmental conditions by constructing a tram network (or Light Rail Transit) and promoting transit malls that made the city center car-free, except for emergency and service vehicles, while building large car parks next to tram stations to facilitate park-and-ride schemes. There are currently 28 cities in France where LRT operates. Low-floor barrier-free LRT is a people- and eco-friendly next-generation method of daily transportation for urban residents, especially in keeping vulnerable road users assured of mobility in the era of aging population and declining birthrates.

 Here in Japan, many tram lines were replaced by bus, subway and commuter railway services due to the progress of motorization during the mid-1960s. There are only 17 cities across the country where trams still operate. MLIT is currently promoting LRT through grants and subsidies provided to local municipalities and transport operators with the goal to lessen environmental loads, streamline urban traffic flow, ensure barrier-free access, expand public transportation networks, and revitalize urban and local areas. A 15-kilometer LRT line is currently being constructed in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture, scheduled to be completed in March 2022. The national government will shoulder half of the construction cost estimated to total 40 billion yen.

 I believe the introduction of LRT together with the park-and-ride scheme will be equally important as the promotion of smart city projects so as to build a safe, secure and human-friendly society while addressing the needs of all age groups.

How to Tackle Exacerbating Natural Disasters through Comprehensive Building Management

March 31, 2021

Hiroshi Nomura
CEO、JP Building Management Co., Ltd.

 The ongoing global pandemic of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as climate-fueled natural disasters that increase in frequency and intensity all take a heavy toll on our business activities. Given the fact that natural disasters are inevitable, let us think how we can enhance disaster resilience through robust building management.

COVID-19 countermeasures showcase essence of resilient building management
 COVID-19 countermeasures taken here at the Imperial Hotel showcase an ideal seamless procedure. Once you step into the building, hotel staff take meticulous care for the safety of guests and hygiene of facilities while Rotarians follow comprehensive sanitation protocols in meeting rooms.

 We can ensure safe and secure building management when a building operator and tenants form collaborative and trusting relationships. The Fire Service Act sets the basis for “fire and disaster prevention management scheme” at leased buildings and advices to establish a “Joint Council” among building operators who are responsible for common areas and tenants who are expected to form voluntary firefighting groups to manage their rental space. To facilitate engagement and promote “face-to-face interaction” through emergency evacuation drills and Joint Council meetings is the key for robust building management, especially during these difficult times that call for prompt information sharing and infection preventive measures to ensure business continuity.

Countermeasures against earthquakes
 Following the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake in 1995, building structures and facilities were re-examined to enhance aseismic performance and promote seismic design and retrofitting. The revised hazard map estimates 70% of Tokyo metropolitan area will experience seismic intensity level 6-upper or higher which will cause massive number of stranded persons unable to return home due to interrupted public transportation. Building operators are encouraged to conclude “disaster mitigation agreement” with local municipalities and provide temporary shelters to avoid mass movement of people trying to return home in the event of earthquake disasters. The latest large-scale urban development projects take into account such “area-based disaster mitigation” measures where building operators come to play an increasingly important role.

Countermeasures against floods
 Flood risk management requires a much wider perspective. Looking back on history over 400 years, there have been numerous large-scale projects to modify river routes, establish reservoirs, develop floodwalls, drain marshy lands, build dams and floodways so as to prevent flooding, develop agricultural lands and secure shipping channels. Thanks to long-term comprehensive flood control measures, the metropolitan area escaped inundation when a massive typhoon Hagibis hit the area in 2019. Global warming can cause more extreme weather patterns, increase flood risks and raise vulnerability of underground facilities. Given the physical, social, economic and environmental factors, Tokyo remains to be exposed to high flood risk. As such, area-wide flood control measures constitute an integral part of resilient building management.

 In March 2018, the Disaster Risk Management Economic Consortium was launched and the Cabinet Office called on to private business operators to “advance preparations for large-scale natural disasters” and to ensure “business continuity based on self-help and mutual support approaches because of the limitations of public support.” As disasters keep intensifying in scale and damages, we need to make area- or city-wide preparations based on strong partnerships among people and businesses. As a building operator, I believe “face-to-face interaction” among different stakeholders will be the key to ensure comprehensive building management.