News Archive : Japan Real Estate

Friday, November 25, 2005

Japan to charge architect who falsified data

Japan to charge architect who falsified data
>By Mariko Sanchanta in Tokyo
>Published: November 22 2005 14:45 Last updated: November 22 2005 14:45

Japan's land ministry says it is preparing to file criminal charges against an architect who admitted falsifying data regarding the structural soundness of 21 buildings in central Tokyo, 13 of which could collapse in the event of a strong earthquake.

The revelations, which emerged over the past few days, have deeply rattled the Japanese public, who believed that Japan's buildings were now earthquake-proof and its building regulations the most stringent in the world, following the devastating Kobe earthquake a decade ago that killed 6,500 people.

The existence of other structurally unsound buildings could surface in coming weeks, as Hidetsugu Aneha, the architect concerned, took part in the planning of at least 194 buildings since 1996, including houses, steel structures and temples.

Following a government check, it was found that 13 of the 21 buildings in Tokyo could collapse if an earthquake struck with an intensity of upper 5 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7.

Television reports showed residents - some tearful - beginning to move out of the buildings involved, which have to be rebuilt. The Keio Presso Inn, a Tokyo hotel that is among the 13 structurally unsound buildings, closed its doors on Friday.

The land ministry is also considering filing criminal charges against a construction company and other architectural firms involved in building the 13 structures.

According to Japanese media reports, Mr Aneha has admitted that he falsified the data on the 21 buildings because he was under pressure to have them built quickly and at low cost.

“There is still overcapacity in the construction industry in Japan, and margins are not recovering,” said Yoji Otani, construction analyst at CSFB. “There is enormous pressure placed on prices.”

Mr Otani estimates that around 15-25 per cent of the buildings in Tokyo would likely collapse in the event of a strong quake.

The falsified data emerged after a routine audit by eHomes, a Japanese company commissioned by the government to routinely check the structural safety of buildings. The government handed these audits to the private sector after the Kobe earthquake, in which scores of buildings were reduced to rubble.