ENTERPRISE FUTURE
-Interview Report- Further Evolution of Near-future Experimental Housing

Housing that can achieve a high level of energy-saving, CO2 emissions reduction and comfortability

I have heard that, since 2020, a new housing experiment has started under a new theme.
Toru Shiba

We have so far conducted various experiments with a theme for each six- to seven-year phase, but we have decided to implement our experiment project more flexibly in timely response to housing issues from 2020. From the perspective of achieving a low carbon society, the most urgent housing issues include energy-saving and CO2 emissions reduction. However, we don’t want to sacrifice comfortability for them. Therefore, we have set a theme of developing comfortable housing that can also help reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
Another issue we now focus on is disaster readiness. The recent frequent occurrence of natural disasters has heightened public awareness of disaster readiness and also public expectations for housing to function appropriately in response to disasters. Therefore, we have defined our second theme as developing housing that is ready for emergencies.

Toru Shiba
What specific experiment have you been conducting to pursue your first theme “developing comfortable housing”?
Toru Shiba

We entirely renovated apartment No. 503 in the building to create a housing facility named “Wellness ZEH Kazekaoruya.”

Wellness ZEH Kazekaoruya

I have never heard of “wellness ZEH.” Is it different from so-called ZEH*?

* ZEH (net zero energy house): A house that has the enhanced functions of heat insulation and energy-saving and is installed with high-efficiency energy equipment and energy generation equipment to ensure the annual primary energy consumption in the house is equivalent to or lower than the annual primary energy generation therein

Toru Shiba

The ZEH has already become an ordinary style of general single-family houses. Therefore, we have decided to combine an energy-saving ZEH with wellness functions of ensuring the good health of residents and comfortability for them. More specifically, we have defined a wellness ZEH as a ZEH that can maintain the winter indoor temperature at 18°C or higher and the inter-room temperature gap at 3°C or lower. If the ongoing experiment can verify that the apartment has these functions, we will propose our wellness ZEH as next-generation housing to the general public.

How have you succeeded in developing a ZEH?
Toru Shiba

First of all, we enhance its heat insulation function to the ultimate level in structural terms while installing 3.6 kW solar panels and the latest high-efficiency Ene-Farm for dual power generation. We have thus successfully transformed the urban apartment building into a ZEH building.

3.6 kW solar panel installed on a handrail in an external corridor latest-version 700 W Ene-Farm unit with a power generation efficiency of 55% installed in the area behind an apartment
A 3.6 kW solar panel installed on a handrail in an external corridor and the latest-version 700 W Ene-Farm unit with a power generation efficiency of 55% installed in the area behind an apartment
Have you added the wellness functions to an apartment in the ZEH building?
Toru Shiba

Yes, we have. In those terms, we had an outside expert participate in our project to design the apartment while checking the indoor thermal environment distribution and its changes over time through simulation. After residents begin to actually live in the apartment, we will verify whether or not the apartment can really satisfy the requirement of the winter indoor temperature at 18°C or higher and the inter-room temperature gap at 3°C or lower.

Coldest time zone (January 10, 6:00) Room temperature Coldest time zone (January 10, 6:00) Room temperature
What other functions did you focus your efforts on to make the apartment comfortable housing?
Toru Shiba

One of those functions is air conditioning. Since some people feel uncomfortable with the wind from an air conditioner, we have installed apartment No. 503 with a gas-fueled hot-water floor heating system and a ceiling panel cooling system to lessen dryness and discomfort caused by currents from the air conditioner.
In addition, we also focus our efforts on ensuring the apartment is airy and fragrant, as its name “Kazekaoruya” (lit. “housing with fragrant breezes”) implies. Many houses today have small or fixed-sash windows to ensure a high level of heat insulation. In contrast, we have chosen to ensure good ventilation in the apartment, especially in spring and fall with mild weather, so that residents can live comfortably. For that purpose, we have cut openings on the south and north sides to let winds pass through.

The shoji sliding door to the entrance hall has frames that can move vertically to create openings at the top and bottom and let winds pass through.
The shoji sliding door to the entrance hall has frames that can move vertically to create openings at the top and bottom and let winds pass through.
The multiple windows are small enough to prevent someone from breaking into the apartment, so residents can go out with the windows open.
The multiple windows are small enough to prevent someone from breaking into the apartment, so residents can go out with the windows open.
What do you mean by “fragrant”?
Toru Shiba

Fragrant natural wood is used for the apartment. A study has shown that wood used for about 70% of the interior surfaces of housing helps residents sleep more deeply. Under the supervision of the outside expert who had conducted the study, we aimed to create a living environment where residents can relax and lead healthy lives while enjoying the excellent fragrance of wood.
Since comfort achieved with air conditioning, ventilation and a fragrant natural material cannot be measured numerically, we will interview the residents on how they feel about their lives in the apartment to verify whether the objectives of our design have been fulfilled.

The excellent fragrance, relaxing effect, and humidity adjustment function that are inherent in natural wood help create housing for a healthy life. The excellent fragrance, relaxing effect, and humidity adjustment function that are inherent in natural wood help create housing for a healthy life.

Collective housing designed for the residents to evacuate at home independently for 72 hours after a disaster occurs

What experiment have you been conducting for your second theme “developing housing that is ready for emergencies”?
Toru Shiba

In recent years, natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons and torrential downpours, have hit Japan more frequently than before, so higher importance has been given to solving the problem of how we can endure such emergency situations. Although we were supposed to evacuate to public evacuation centers in the event of an emergency, the need to avoid crowded places due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made it recommendable to evacuate at home separately from other people. To respond to such trends, we have renovated NEXT 21 so that it will enable the residents to stay at home independently for 72 hours after a disaster occurs, even if power and water supply are suspended.

What specific disaster readiness measures have you adopted?
Toru Shiba

Concerning power supply, NEXT 21 is installed with intermediate pressure gas pipes, which are not supposed to be blocked even in the event of a disaster, so these pipes will be used to put into operation the cogeneration system installed in the basement in preparation against power failures and the household fuel cell Ene-Farm unit installed in each apartment, so that a minimal amount of necessary electricity will be supplied for the entire building. Concerning water supply, the water stored in the water storage tank in the basement will be supplied as service water through water supply pipes leading to each apartment, while recycled water will be used for toilets, in order to prevent water shortage for 72 hours. In addition, in anticipation of the need for evacuation for a long period, various emergency supplies, including drinking water, food, blankets and toilet rolls, are stored in the common areas.

Bench-cum-cooking stove
Bench-cum-cooking stove, which is usually used as a bench but can be turned into a cooking stove in the event of a disaster
Manhole toilet
Manhole toilet, which was constructed by improving the catch basin during the latest renovation works
It is difficult to experiment with these systems to verify their actual effects, isn’t it?
Toru Shiba

Actually... we recently conducted a demonstrative experiment with them in the simulation of a disaster. In the “experiment for independence in emergency situations,” as we named it, the residents had a simulated experience of evacuation at home for a total of 48 hours—three days and two nights—on the supposition that grid power supply had been suspended due to a typhoon or the like.

Great! Such an experiment can be conducted only with a housing building dedicated to experiments like NEXT 21. What results did the experiment produce?
Toru Shiba

Although data analysis is yet to be conducted, I believe we have acquired know-how about equipment, supplies, operation and other elements necessary for collective housing from the perspective of disaster readiness. Some experiment participants commented that, even when the air conditioner didn’t work, good ventilation enabled them to manage to live even in their small apartment. I believe that a good combination of these functions of housing and the creative ideas of residents will enable the residents to endure evacuation at home for 72 hours, a longer period of time than in this experiment.

IoT-assisted housing that enables residents to manage their health in their ordinary daily lives

I have the impression that housing today is required to have more and more functions and utilities.
Toru Shiba

That’s exactly right. Actually, we have started another new housing experiment to develop IoT-assisted housing for health management. A growing number of people have recently become interested in data on their own physical condition, and various methods have been available for that purpose, including obtaining and managing health data by wearing a wearable device and using a system that makes a weight scale and a smartphone function in coordination. Against this background, we have decided to develop housing that enables residents to manage their health in their ordinary daily lives.

What do you mean by “in their ordinary daily lives”?
Toru Shiba

For example, such housing may enable you to measure your body weight while brushing your teeth standing on a designated point or to have your skin analyzed while looking into a mirror... We aim to develop housing that can detect and collect various vital data on residents, who are not wearing any devices, in a noncontact way without making them aware of it and that can store and manage the data on an individual basis using a facial recognition system.

Camera installed next to the mirror Camera installed at the top of the room
Cameras installed next to mirrors and above residents’ heads in rooms will identify individual residents and collect vital data without them being aware of it.
It would be very convenient if such housing is realized.
Toru Shiba

Our experiment covers not only daily health management but also safety functions in case of a medical emergency. If your body temperature significantly changes, your apartment may inform your family members about the change. If you have sleep apnea or fall down in your apartment, sensors and cameras installed in the apartment may detect it and issue an alarm... However, we have still just installed a basic system. From now on, we will take steady steps to make progress in development and experiment.

If someone falls down in an apartment, the apartment will detect the impact of the fall on the floor and issue an alarm to a registered device. If someone falls down in an apartment, the apartment will detect the impact of the fall on the floor and issue an alarm to a registered device.
Today, you explained the initiative you had launched early in 2020. It seems to me that this initiative is an experiment in anticipation of the age of coexistence with the coronavirus. Is that the case?
Toru Shiba

It’s really the case. It can be said that Kazekaoruya with air channels for good ventilation and other functions happens to have a high level of affinity with the age of coexistence with the coronavirus. Moreover, our experiment for independent life amid power failures has enabled us to recognize again that, since evacuation at home helps people avoid crowded places and protect their privacy, functions related to evacuation at home are also important. Furthermore, I believe that, in response to growing demand for remote work, we can make the most of the results of the past and latest demonstrative experiments we have conducted with NEXT 21 through various efforts of trial and error, including planning of lighting and sound insulation, ensuring a work space at a sufficient distance from spaces for the activities of other family members, and creating co-working spaces in common areas in the apartment building.

I see. What plan do you have for the future?
Toru Shiba

The diversification of lifestyles entails changes in the necessary functions of housing. I hope to advocate ideal housing in line with such changes in a timely manner. Surprisingly, few people have a clear vision of ideal housing. Therefore, many apartments and condominiums have versatile and conventional room arrangement. However, I believe housing can be more diverse and meet the various needs of different individuals. From now on, I aspire to accurately identify the diverse needs of residents through experiments with NEXT 21 to meet the needs through room arrangement, equipment and other aspects and to propose various styles of ideal housing, including lifestyles.

Thank you for joining us today.
Toru Shiba Toru ShibaEnergy Solution Business Unit
Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.
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