Kozo Keikaku Engineering Inc. has the DNA to go global.

Makoto Hattori, who is the founder of the company, was introduced as a Japanese “man who sold software to the U.S.” in a book published in 1972, “Nankan wo Toppashita Otokotachi:Kanbu Dokyumento” (Men who overcame difficulty: Document of Company Executives.)

Hideaki Araki, senior executive officer of Kozo Keikaku Engineering
Hideaki Araki, senior executive officer of Kozo Keikaku Engineering | SATOKO KAWASAKI

“It’s not a recent move that we go after the international market. We’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Hideaki Araki, the senior executive officer of Kozo Keikaku Engineering or KKE, a company established in 1959 that specializes in the structural design of buildings.

KKE is now taking the lead in introducing Japan’s technology to reduce disaster risk to the world. It is one of the 21 companies that founded the Japan Bosai Platform, or JBP, last June. “Bosai” is a Japanese word meaning a holistic approach to reduce disaster impact.

“Japan has many companies with excellent technology to prevent disasters and reduce damage from disasters. However, because there are so many, a single company doesn’t have a strong presence in the global market,” he said, explaining the need for an organization representing Japanese companies in the field. JBP’s mission is to market the Japanese holistic approach to reduce disaster impact he said, adding that he would like to tell the world that much of the knowledge of Japan’s disaster risk reduction methods comes from the country’s unique situation of experiencing many natural disasters.

“Generally, Japanese are highly aware of the importance of disaster preparation and mitigation,” he said.

Japan’s culture of disaster risk reduction comes from a long history of experiencing disasters as well as their tendency to take time establishing solid systems, rather than hurriedly making weak systems, he said.

For instance, while it takes a long time to create a guideline, everybody reaches agreement on it and that leads to strict obedience of it, he said. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995, which hit Hyogo Prefecture hardest, Japan set up investigative committees to research the causes of secondary disasters such as fire and structural collapse and discuss how to prevent them. The committees spent up to three years researching and proposing solid guidelines, which construction companies currently follow to build more stable structures, he said.

Also, Japanese have mentality of emphasizing unity of people in involved parties, he said. For example, when an unexpected problem arises at a construction site, everybody there becomes unified to solve it.

This is not easy to achieve outside Japan. In foreign countries, construction companies and their customers agree on potential problems in advance, and find it difficult to work together to solve unexpected problems, he opined.

“Japan can share with the world not only technology, but also the knowhow, culture and process to develop the technology, which will be truly useful to counter disasters,” he said.

Another of JBP’s missions is to increase the number of Japanese companies experiencing success with their disaster risk reduction business outside of Japan. The JBP will help create opportunities by providing services and chances a single company can’t do on its own. JBP will consult various countries and tackle issues facing them by putting together the wisdom of Japanese academia, governments and the private sector. To tackle those issues on disaster risk reduction, JBP sets up task forces consisting of experts of various sectors in Japan. Participants of JBP will share and exchange relevant information frequently to ensure these activities run smoothly.

Today, KKE provides various technologies to reduce risks of earthquakes, tsunami and other disasters. On the occasion of the 3rd U.N. World Conference of Disaster Risk Reduction, KKE introduces four such technologies.

3D seismic isolation system

Among many products, KKE’s 3D seismic isolation system is something the company is justifiably proud of. In 2009, KKE installed the large 3D seismic isolation system equipment under a residential building in Asagaya, in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, and dubbed it the Asagaya Project. There have been some instances of similar equipment being installed under commercial buildings, such as nuclear power plants, but never have there been the case with a residential building until Asagaya Project.

The 3D seismic isolation system reduces both horizontal and vertical shaking using “Hyper Air Suspension” technology. Regular seismic isolators cushion only horizontal seismic motion, but local earthquakes with a shallow focus can also generate vertical seismic motion that cause severe damage to urban cities, creating the need for protection from those as well.

The system is quite large and burying it underground is troublesome and costly, reasons many building owners shun installing it. It is their next aim to minimize the instrument.

Araki wants more structures to have 3D seismic isolation systems. For example, hospitals and municipal government buildings play an important role in protecting people’s lives after major quakes, thus such buildings should be protected with the best technology, he said.

Tsunami and flood analysis

Predicting how water enters the first floor of a house or where it spreads after flowing across an intersection is very difficult. This has been a challenge for users of water hazard simulation software.

“Particleworks” was developed to address the issues as it allows to simulate more realistic fluid behavior much easily and efficiently. The software shows how mud advances on mountains and hills in heavy rain and how water moves on streets in urban areas.

Prometech Software Inc., a University of Tokyo-incubated venture company, in which KKE holds a 36.7 percent share, developed Particleworks.

Southeast Asian countries typically face challenges in tackling water hazards, and can use Particleworks to assess their countermeasures against floods, typhoons and other natural disasters.

Evacuation simulation

Disaster risk reduction measures have conventionally been reinforcement of infrastructure, such as building higher levees and using stronger materials to build structures.

But the lesson from the Great East Japan Earthquake, March 2011, is that reliance on infrastructure alone cannot protect people, who cannot react appropriately to unexpected situations.

KKE helps provide solutions through evacuation simulators, which show how people will react to disasters such as tsunami, with technology dubbed multiagent simulation.

It can also show, for example, how many people will be caught in tsunami if warnings are given five minutes before arrival; 10 minutes before and so on.

Using the information, municipal governments, which are typical customers, will know how soon tsunami warnings should be released. And if they know that, they will also find out how far off the coast they need to place tsunami sensors.

To provide this solution, KKE will input a large amount of data such as population, age, roads, road signs, how many people have cars and other information. In the simulations, each agent, which represents a person on a computer monitor, moves differently depending on age and other factors.

Damage estimation system

A damage estimation system provides manufacturers with the business continuity plan, or BCP, in case large earthquakes paralyze their supply chains.

The system enables users to assess damage to their factories and factories supplying components to them beforehand. The assessment results would help to come up with appropriate BCP measures and consider ways to minimize quake risks before they happen. Also after an earthquake occurrence, the system informs estimate damage in near-real time. Gathering information and responding in order of priority will help efforts to reduce damage and achieve early recovery.

KKE began in July providing consulting services and the system when the need to secure supply chains arose especially in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, where people realized they could not take action without any information of off-site facilities.

An evacuation simulation shows the coming of a tsunami and the movement of people heading to various evacuation sites.
An evacuation simulation shows the coming of a tsunami and the movement of people heading to various evacuation sites.
An evacuation simulation shows the coming of a tsunami and the movement of people heading to various evacuation sites. | KOZO KEIKAKU ENGINEERING INC.

Download the PDF of this UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

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