Daiwa House Group

Daiwa House Group

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Disaster area support

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Contributing to disaster-affected areas through projects
- Provisional Housing Efforts -

[DASH Project Interview] "I want our entire company to unite to help restore and revitalize the disaster areas."

Where were you when the earthquake hit?

Asai: I was in China when the earthquake hit, and caught word of it when traveling from Tianjin to Beijing. I was getting all kinds of urgent emails from my subordinates in Japan, telling me how our headquarters was shaking tremendously, and how the tsunami was battering Sendai Airport. When I heard Sendai Airport was caught in a tsunami, I knew it was a major earthquake. We experienced the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, and my intuition told me that in our position as Daiwa House Industry, we had to do something in this state of emergency as well.

Hirama: I was at our Tokyo branch when the earthquake hit, and felt a huge tremble. I heard it was centered off the shore of Miyagi Prefecture, so I contacted my family in Sendai to see if they were all right. Fortunately they were fine, but I was living and working in Miyagi Prefecture for 13 years, so I tried to get a handle on the damage situation at our emergency headquarters in Tokyo. In my heart, I knew it was time for me to step up, and that I was the one to lead restoration efforts in Miyagi after this terrible disaster.

Thoughts on building provisional housing

Asai: I supervised the "DASH Project for Emergency Provisional Housing" * in Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima Prefectures. I thought that housing was at the root of restoration, and as Daiwa House it was our mission to supply this housing through our power of mobility and ability to take action. To do this, I wanted to utilize the prefab construction techniques we've developed through the years. So the first thing to do was organize a system allowing us to secure offices and lodging in the areas of need, and to take on this task with employees rushing to our support from all over the country.

*A provisional housing project primarily carried out through the Construction Department.

Hirama: When I arrived in Sendai on March 17, I had a heavy heart and knew it was time to get started. Mr. Asai was already there, and we went to a meeting with the Prefab Association to figure out a construction schedule for the provisional housing, then we contacted employees and subcontractors who were working with us. When forming an organization to get this done, I called on some I'd asked in advance, as well as some new people, but it made me happy that everyone responded with a resounding yes to such a daunting task. I went to see the disaster site a little after I'd arrived, and knew the situation through various media reports, but to see it firsthand made me realize it was much worse than I'd imagined. After seeing the actual damage, I was even more determined to do something.

Sato: I grew up in Sendai City, and a lot of people close to me were affected by this disaster. As an employee of Daiwa House Industry, and of course on a personal level, I wanted to help in any way I could, so I volunteered to participate in the DASH Project. I heard that the disaster victims had no privacy at shelters, and they were physically and mentally drained, so as supervisor of this project I wanted to get the provisional houses up as soon as possible so that more people could be in homes. We're working as hard as we can on construction now.

Asai: Our slogan for the DASH Project is to "Build housing quickly and sincerely to help those in need." The conditions and environment are extremely difficult to work under, but we want to make homes as close as possible to what the victims are accustomed to, and as quickly as possible. In order to accomplish this, we need our employees to focus all of their abilities on a single goal, and active communication within the organization is essential.

Sato: To speak on that point, I feel as if everyone at the disaster site has been communicating and working together extremely well. Of course, everyone has different levels of experiences according to the department they work in, but they are all focused on a single goal, with "speed is the ultimate service" as a foundation while they move forward with construction. Our subcontractors are also working hard to figure out the most expedient way to move forward, and if we get stuck on something during the process, they're moving forward with what they can to get things done.
Daiwa House Industry is getting the provisional housing done as we speak, with all employees working to get victims out of shelters and into homes as quickly as possible. This cooperation is a testament to the excellent communication between employees and other workers who have come to lend their support.

Difficulties experienced

Hirama: It was bewildering to me that we only had one week's time for preparation from prefecture and prefab association orders to actual construction. Typically we move forward with construction based on a number of planned guidelines, but in this case we didn't know how many houses we had to put up, where they needed to go, or what was happening until right before the construction. We expected this kind of chaos in advance, so we assigned a construction supervisor on site, and another one at the office, for an organization that could handle the job pretty quickly.

Sato: I feel the same way. We were racking our brains trying to figure out how to deal with such a tight construction schedule. Although it varies by model, we're generally limited to a three-week period to put up these provisional houses. The entire process is no different than under normal circumstances, but in this case it was urgent. We had to quickly run a check from blueprints to materials, and ordering was difficult as well. In some instances the materials never arrived, so we had to supply them on our own.

Hirama: We needed more houses than originally projected, and we had a hard time securing enough on-site managers and subcontractors. At the same time, we had to figure out how to keep each person motivated, so to keep the working environment positive, we came up with a system where the workers could think for themselves, taking initiative to get things done instead of waiting around for orders. I feel that it's okay to do things differently if we can get good results out of it, and this was the time to put that philosophy into effect, so that our people could work with a sense of vitality.
Also, being at the top of the industry, others watch us very closely in every aspect of the business. So it's vital to stay at the top of our game when it comes to quality and safety management, to be a model for other construction and housing businesses.

Sato: Thinking of the people who will live in these houses is what drives us to maintain a high level of quality. As someone involved in the construction process, it goes without saying that I pour everything I have into this, even though the homes are provisional.

The superiority of Daiwa House Industry prefab construction

Asai: One thing that sets prefab technology apart is that we can put up a high-quality building with precision and speed. The roots of prefab housing in Japan can be traced back to our very own "midget house" model. We continued to develop the technology from there, and now it has expanded into provisional housing, shops, and various types of dwellings. So basically, provisional housing utilizes a technology that we started in Japan, and in emergency situations such as earthquakes, the functionality of prefab housing is maximized. The superiority of Daiwa House Industry and Japanese prefab housing is internationally recognized, and is highly spoken of by global businesses.
Another superior quality offered by this technology is that most materials used for provisional housing, etc. can be reused. Houses put up in Rikuzentakada City are made of reused materials, and supplies we already had in stock were brought to the disaster sites. Because of this, construction can be completed within several weeks. It can also be easily disassembled several years later, and by reusing materials we dispose of less, which means less environmental strain, one of the major topics of this era *. We also built a lot of provisional housing during the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. Those materials were disassembled and reused, currently serving a new purpose as provisional housing overseas. Systematic, quick, and reusable. That's the sort of prefab technology we pride ourselves in utilizing, developing, and improving for so many years.
Now that this disastrous earthquake has hit Japan, we want to contribute to rebuilding the local communities through our superior prefab technology.

* Since a great deal of construction is planned to deal with the after effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake, we will also be using new materials.

What Daiwa House Industry can offer to revitalization efforts

Asai: In the coming revitalization efforts, I feel we have to look at things from a long-term perspective for city building. Since people from various walks of life are living in the provisional housing sections, I think we need to build up a sense of community in those areas, even if it's limited to two years. These sections will also need shops for people to buy groceries and daily goods. Also, factories and industrial complexes will have to go up in the area nearby to support all aspects of living.

Hirama: I agree. One option is to rebuild the areas to what they were before, but if we really want to revitalize the afflicted areas, that perspective is essential. This is something our company specializes in, so we should be able to truly contribute to the community in this respect.

Asai: Of course, rebuilding a city will take years. For example, procurement of land alone can take a huge amount of time. So from the time a general concept is formed to completion, it would be best to put up provisional shops, offices, and factories in the limited amount of time available. Once the city is completed, and the buildings are repositioned, this should be achievable at relatively small social and environmental costs. Our company can handle all of these aspects. We also have experience building provisional factories, etc. in the aftermath of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.
Concepts from an academic perspective are also important, but forming highly-feasible concepts based on actual experience is what Daiwa House Industry is all about. Our goal is to use our highly-feasible, experience-based concepts to provide continuous support to those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and to do it in a way that all of us throughout the company are of one mind.

Katsunori Asai, Supervisor and Director of the DASH Emergency Provisional Housing Project

Yutaka Hirama, Head of the DASH Project in Miyagi Prefecture, and General Manager of Tokyo's Residential Construction Department

Junichi Sato, Head of Construction for the DASH Project in Miyagi Prefecture, and Manager of the Yamagata Office Construction Section

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