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Kajima develops technologies to cope with disasters

General contractor's domestic expertise also succeeds abroad with a diversified approach to BCP combining software, hardware

by Keisuke Okada

Special To The Japan Times

As a way to demonstrate its commitment to the growing corporate and social requirements for business continuity plans (BCP), Kajima Corp., Japan’s leading general contractor, conducted a large-scale anti-disaster drill on Aug. 30. It was conducted on the assumption that a magnitude 7.3 earthquake with the intensity of upper 6 on the Japanese scale (7 is the high), were to hit Tokyo at 9 a.m.

The drill was intended to train Kajima employees how to appropriately respond to a big quake immediately after its outbreak and on the following day and later, presuming that the road and railway traffic and communications networks in the Tokyo metropolitan area were to remain heavily disrupted.

Almost all the employees at the company’s Tokyo head office, branch offices and business offices all over the country were mobilized to take part in various programs of the drill.

The drill programs ranged from the safety confirmation of employees and activation of isolated power generating equipment, to establishment of an all-company communications network using satellite-based mobile phones and teleconference systems, to simulated collection of information about damage to the company’s properties, structures under construction and buildings that the company constructed.

A senior Kajima official said that it is of vital importance for Kajima itself to have its own BCP plan in place not only for its own sake, but also so the company is able to assist its customers in reinforcing their preparedness against emergencies.

The bottom line of BCP is that businesses need to avoid major business interruptions when they face emergencies. What is most likely to occur in the wake of a major earthquake are loss of power, loss of Internet and email access, lack of access to offices, disruptions to road and train traffic, and fires, among others.

BCP managers must address the difficult challenge of keeping afloat the “core” of their business operations, and the challenge of restoring the core operations within a predetermined target time, if temporarily suspended, thereby minimizing risks accompanying the disruption of business operations.

The government’s BCP guidelines, released in 2005 and revised in 2009, calls on businesses to formulate a BCP plan of their own on the assumption that a major earthquake should occur directly beneath the Tokyo metropolitan area.

As early as the 1960s, Kajima Corp. launched wide-ranging research activities concerning earthquakes, which include earthquake focal mechanisms and the impact of an earthquake on the ground at its epicenter as well as on buildings standing on the affected ground. The company also has been developing diversified technologies — both hardware and software — to cope with earthquakes.

Thereby, Kajima is now able to provide its customers with a combination of hardware and software technologies tailored to each customer’s requirements related to BCP, a Kajima official said.

Its BCP software technologies include the technology to monitor from remote locations the extent of damage to buildings in a quake-hit area. With the help of this technology, businesses are able to decide which locations they should set up their disaster countermeasure offices. Of other related technologies is one to draw up a wide-area hazard map, which could be used to grasp the personnel who can be mobilized for restoration work.

When it comes to the BCP-related hardware technologies, Kajima Corp. is a world leader, given its long track record of research and development and practical application.

Buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes by being constructed with braces and earthquake-resisting walls, as stipulated by the Building Code. However, more advanced quake-resistant measures are necessary to achieve more superior structural performance in certain types of buildings, in particular super high-rise buildings.

Kajima has two approaches to this formidable task — structural control and base isolation.

The structural control technology is designed to install dampers in a building to absorb and reduce the shaking of buildings. This solution is effective in controlling the vibrations caused by long-period earthquake ground motions. Various kinds of dampers are available, ranging from an active-passive composite mass damper system (DUOX) to a high-performance hydraulic damper system (HiDAX and HiDAM), and to a high-performance damping system for nuclear power facilities (Nu-DAM).

Kajima’s structural control technology and equipment were adopted at such new landmark high-rises as Shiodome Media Tower, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower and the Akihabara UDX Building, all in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Kajima’s base isolation technology features installation of isolators between the ground and a building to reduce the seismic force transferred to the building. With the application of this technology, the amplitude of seismic vibrations is claimed to be reduced from one-half to one-fifth. Eventually, the technology helps to prevent furnishings, appliances, utilities and furniture inside the building from falling.

Kajima’s base isolation technology was applied to the construction of such buildings as the National Art Center, Tokyo, and the 47-story deluxe condominium Capital Mark Tower, as well as to the renovation of the Tokyo Station Building on the Marunouchi side, an important cultural asset, which was reopened for public use on Oct. 1.