News Archive : Japan Real Estate

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Structural Reports Falsified On 21 Buildings - Residents Flee, Fearing Collapse

Quake data falsified on 21 buildings / Chiba-based architect designed condos that could collapse in upper-5 tremor
2005/11/18 The Yomiuri Shimbun
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20051118TDY02010.htm

A chartered architect falsified mandatory structural strength analyses for 20 condominiums and a hotel in Tokyo and Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, the Construction and Transport Ministry said Thursday.

Two of the buildings might collapse in the event of an earthquake registering an intensity of upper 5 on the Meteorological Agency's scale of seven, officials said.

The Building Standard Law requires buildings to be capable of withstanding an earthquake with an intensity level of 6 or stronger.

In cooperation with the relevant local governments, the ministry has already begun briefings to residents of the buildings in question, touching on possible evacuation, large-scale repairs or even demolition and reconstruction.

Of the 21 buildings, 13 buildings with a total of 471 apartments and a hotel have been completed. Of the remaining seven, four are under construction and three have yet to be built.

Eleven buildings are in Tokyo--including two each in Minato, Chuo and Adachi wards and one each in Sumida, Shibuya, Koto and Shinjuku wards and Inagi. Six others are in Chiba Prefecture--five in Funabashi and one in Shirai. The remaining four are in Kanagawa Prefecture--one each in Yokohama, Kawasaki, Fujisawa and Sagamihara.

The architect is Hidetsugu Aneha, 48, holder of a first-class architect license and owner of the Aneha Architect Design Office based in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture. He designs medium-sized apartment buildings and handles subcontracted work on structural strength calculations.

According to the ministry, the numerical values of the external forces applied to the 21 buildings' pillars and beams written in structural analyses compiled between February 2003 and October this year were about half the actual values.

As a result, the buildings have been or are designed to be built with pillars and beams that are smaller and weaker than stipulated by the Building Standard Law, making them unable to withstand powerful earthquakes and typhoons. Some buildings have also been constructed with less reinforced steel than normal.

The strength of pillars and beams of one condominium in Kawasaki and another in Funabashi have been found to be about 30 percent of the required earthquake-resistance level, ministry officials said.

It is not yet known to what extent the buildings were affected by a strong earthquake that jolted Tokyo and its vicinity in late July and registered a maximum intensity of upper 5, the officials said.

The Building Standard Law obliges buildings to be built to withstand undamaged an earthquake measuring a lower 6 and to not collapse even in the event of a quake measuring an upper 6 or higher.

It has been normal practice to review the original designs when pillar and beam sizes and the volume of reinforcing rods have been found to be insufficient during strength calculations.

Aneha reportedly told the Chiba prefectural government that he was under pressure to cut costs, but declined to go into detail. The ministry will shortly file a complaint with criminal investigators against the architect for suspected violations of the Building Standard Law.

The falsification of structural strength data came to light during an in-house inspection by eHomes Inc., a Shinjuku-based firm certifying construction applications on behalf of local governments.

However, eHomes itself failed to detect the falsified calculations in the first place, ministry officials said.

The private sector was given the green light to certify construction applications in 1998 when the Building Standard Law was revised.

The ministry is now looking into certification results handled by designated firms to check for any other flaws. It also is checking whether the private sector certification system itself has any shortcomings.

(Nov. 18, 2005)

Scared and shocked, residents moving out as fast as possible
(IHT/Asahi: November 18,2005)
http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200511180337.html
The Asahi Shimbun

Architect Hidetsugu Aneha's reputation lay in tatters Friday after he admitted to falsifying reports on the structural strength of 21 buildings in and around central Tokyo.

Residents of buildings designed by the 48-year-old Aneha were in shock after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport dropped the bombshell that their units lack adequate earthquake-proofing and may not be strong enough to withstand a powerful jolt.

Some residents were so scared that they were making plans to move out as soon as possible.

And a business hotel in Tokyo's Chuo Ward that is fully booked announced it was suspending its services because it could not ensure the safety of its customers.

The ministry on Friday made public the names of two apartment complexes that were completed without meeting the required quake-proofing standards due to Aneha's falsified reports.

Though the building code requires structures to withstand earthquakes with an intensity of upper 6 or even 7, the highest reading on the Japanese scale, two of the buildings could collapse in an earthquake with an intensity of just upper 5. Ministry officials said the buildings in question were at most 70 percent of the standards for withstanding a major earthquake.

One of the buildings is a block of rental apartments in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.

The 10-story building is in a residential area close to city hall.

Jarred by the news, a 27-year-old company employee who lives on the ninth floor said: "I've just recently noticed a crack, about 30 centimeters long in the terrace wall. I'm very scared now."

He added: "What were they thinking when they were constructing the building? I bet building codes were the last thing on their minds; probably target dates and money. Not lives. It makes me so angry."

The man said the rent for a single room apartment is 70,000 yen. Most are single-member households.

A 23-year old woman who lives on the first floor moved in late March. As a survivor of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake she is fully aware of how destructive temblors can be.

"I've just heard the appalling news," the woman said. "No one was thinking about the residents. I can't let this matter go."

Business hotel Keio Presso Inn Kayabacho in Tokyo's Chuo Ward said Friday it had decided to suspend business.

An official of Keio Corp., which owns the hotel, said: "It is no small matter. But as long as there is a safety concern for our guests, we felt we had no other choice."

The 260-room hotel that opened in August, boasting easy access from a subway station, was usually booked full on weekdays.

Grand Stage Kawasaki-Daishi, a condominium in Kawasaki, was identified by the ministry as being at risk.

A 32-year-old homemaker complained that she had even gone to the trouble of confirming the strength of the soil foundation with ward officials before moving in.

"I was so sure I had made the right choice. I don't know what to do now," she said. "I want the whole building redone."

A new 10-story apartment complex in Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, was sold off in lots this past summer. Nineteen families now live there.

A 47-year old resident said: "My youngest child is going to take an entrance exam for a private junior high school soon. I am so worried now."

The family had moved in to the new and bigger place in September so that each of their two children could have their own rooms.

The woman said: "I always thought defective buildings were something that happened elsewhere. I never dreamed it would happen to us."


Architect faked structural data to 'cut costs'
2005/11/19 The Yomiuri Shimbun
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20051119TDY02010.htm

ICHIKAWA, Chiba--"I was pressured by the buildings' owners and designers to cut the costs of parts," architect Hidetsugu Aneha told reporters at his office-cum-home here Friday morning, a day after it was discovered he had falsified data used to get his buildings certified as structurally sound.

During an hourlong discussion at his front door, Aneha, a licensed first-class architect, said he padded the data because he could get away with it.

When asked by one reporter if he intentionally doctored the structural analysis, Aneha, 48, replied, "If you look at the numbers, it's pretty obvious."

"I've been certified by eHomes Inc. since about 2003. I thought they were easy to take advantage of because even when they checked the numbers, some of the faked data slipped through," the architect said. "I didn't change the numbers for other companies because they stringently check the figures."

As for his motive, Aneha said: "I wasn't hard up for work or for money. But after I started doctoring the information, my actual workload increased, and as I tried to deal with that, I forgot about the people [affected]."

"I felt pressure [to change the data], but nobody, including the landlords, told me per se to alter the numbers," Aneha said. "As for the designs of the buildings, though, I'm completely responsible."

When asked if he thought his buildings would survive a major earthquake, Aneha said: "In a worst-case scenario, they could be completely destroyed. Even if that didn't happen, the pillars might bend or the building could collapse. People would get hurt."

But was he aware that his actions would put people's lives in danger? "Yes. I'm truly sorry for making the residents of these buildings worry," he said. "I think I bear some legal responsibility for this."

(Nov. 19, 2005)

ANEHA USED FALSE CONSTRUCTION DATA
Certifier hoodwinked on quake-proofing
The Japan Times: Nov. 19, 2005
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20051119a3.htm
By KAHO SHIMIZU
Staff writer

A Tokyo-based company that state-certifies construction applications said Friday it noticed no problems during its examination of faked applications by a Chiba-based architectural firm.

Kawasaki - This apartment building in Kawasaki Ward was found not to be quake-proof.

The assertion by eHomes Ltd. follows revelation Thursday by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry that Aneha Architect Design Office submitted false data on the structural strength of the Keio Presso Inn Kayabacho in Tokyo and 20 apartment buildings in the capital, and in Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures.

The frauds committed by Aneha were exposed by a recent in-house inspection by eHomes, which said it failed to detect the false calculations as Aneha was clever in hiding the fraud.

"We were unable to detect (the fraudulent data) during our normal screening process. We had to use different approaches to find out," eHomes President Togo Fujita told a news conference in Tokyo.

The company said it immediately reported the falsifications to the ministry when they were discovered.

The ministry has said two of the Aneha buildings could collapse if hit by an earthquake of an intensity level above upper 5 on the Japanese scale to 7.

It released the addresses of these two structures -- apartment buildings in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, and Kawasaki.

Under the Building Standards Law, a building must be designed not to collapse in the event of an earthquake with an intensity level of 6 or higher.

The strength of the support beams and pillars in the buildings in question are weaker than the standard set by the Building Standards Law, ministry officials said.

But ministry officials withheld the locations of the remaining 11 buildings already completed, saying they have yet to clarify how weak the structures actually are.

Some might be almost as strong as normal buildings, and disclosing their names and addresses might unnecessarily hurt property value, the officials said, adding that they will wait until the ministry completes recalculations of structural strength.

Of the 21 buildings in question, 13 apartment blocks with a total of some 471 units and the hotel, owned by the Keio Presso Inn Co. in the Kayabacho district in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, have already been completed, while four condominiums are still under construction. Work has not begun on the remaining three apartment buildings, ministry officials said.

Nine of the completed buildings, including the hotel, are in Tokyo, two others are located in Chiba and three in Kanagawa.

The ministry began contacting the owners and residents of the buildings to explain its plan to conduct seismic assessments and to warn them that they may have to vacate the buildings if they are considered dangerous.

The ministry Thursday also ordered local governments nationwide to check that their procedures to calculate buildings' structural strength are sound.

Falsifying quake-proof analysis is a violation of the Building Standards Law and the land ministry is preparing to file a criminal complaint against Aneha.

In cooperation with municipalities, the land ministry is also checking documents submitted on the 90 buildings handled by Aneha over the past five years, but they are finding it hard to locate them, officials said, adding that the fraud might have been prevented had the entities designated to inspect building strength demanded that Aneha submit the necessary documents and made appropriate inspections.

Keio Presso Inn Co., which operates seven business hotels in Tokyo, said Friday that it closed its Kayabacho hotel once it learned of the falsified calculations. Keio Presso officials said the 265-room hotel will not resume operations until the company is confident the building has passed a seismic assessment.

Keio Presso said it is now investigating whether the other six hotels have the same problem.

Quake-safety questions shut Tokyo hotel / Architect's false structuralreports force inn to close doors 3 months after opening
2005/11/19 The Yomiuri Shimbun
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20051119TDY02009.htm

A hotel in Nihonbashi-Kayabacho, Tokyo, decided Friday to close indefinitely after discovering it was one of dozens of buildings falsely certified as structurally sound by a Chiba Prefecture-based architectural firm.

The Construction and Transport Ministry on Thursday said Ichikawa-based Aneha Architect Design Office had falsified documents certifying the structural integrity of 20 condominiums and the Keio Presso Inn Kayabacho.

Though it has not been confirmed exactly how unstable the hotel building is, the hotelier said, "We've decided to put the safety of our guests first and foremost."

The 14-story, 265-room hotel opened Aug. 5 and was the sixth in the Keio Presso Inn business hotel chain, founded in 2002 by Keio Corp. Group.

Touting its low cost and convenient location, the Kayabacho branch was full most days of the week.

Executives at the railway firm had been locked in discussions over what to do since they found out about the bogus certification Thursday. While they were able to confirm the Kayabacho hotel was one of the buildings in question, the danger to the building's occupants remains unclear.

Following a safety-first approach, the hotel's management on Friday morning placed notices throughout the inn notifying clientele it would be closing. Staff also have been working to contact its guests with pending reservations and helping them to get rooms elsewhere.

"I first found out about this when I got up this morning and found fliers from the hotel under my door," an Osaka businesswoman staying at the hotel said. "I'm relieved nothing happened, but who would have taken responsibility if there had been a huge earthquake?"

===

Architect firm filed false reports

A Tokyo-based firm certifying construction applications on behalf of local governments failed to notice certification papers submitted by Aneha had been falsified, a Construction and Transport Ministry investigation into the matter revealed Friday.

The bogus structural analysis certificates issued for the buildings by the Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, architect's office did not include certification numbers required to be printed on the documents, or the necessary ministerial seal that completes the certification.

Shinjuku Ward, Tokoyo-based eHomes Inc., which certifies construction applications on behalf of local governments, missed the amateur methodology used in forging the documents, leading the ministry to consider taking action against it for violation of the Building Standard Law.

Aneha used ministry-approved structural record software, according to the probe by the ministry and the Chiba prefectural government. Software users are required to enter information including the number of beams and pillars to be used in a building, as well as the ratio of external force the structure will be able to withstand.

If the results are up to code, an eight-digit certification number is printed in the upper left-hand corner of each page of the report.

However, because the number of rebars Aneha entered into the program was lower than required, the software deemed the buildings unsound. The architect's office then mixed uncertified documents in with papers that bore the proper numbers, and sent them to inspectors.

When Aneha sent the papers, it did not send with them the required ministry seal showing the software had certified the buildings. "Checking the documents for a seal and certification is quite basic. I can't imagine how they managed to miss it," said an official at the ministry's Building Guidance Division, which is questioning the inspectors.

When questioned by a Yomiuri Shimbun reporter, an eHomes official said, "Bogus data isn't very easy to detect."

(Nov. 19, 2005)

Structural problems in the building trade?
2005/11/29 The Yomiuri Shimbun
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/editorial/20051119TDY04006.htm

Properly constructed buildings are a prerequisite for living in this earthquake-prone archipelago, but a recent news report has cast doubt over the safety of buildings in this country.

It has been revealed that an architect of Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, who holds a first-class license falsified mandatory structural strength analyses for buildings in planning applications for 20 condominiums and a hotel in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures.

Structural strength reports are important documents certifying the soundness of buildings in respect of criteria such as their ability to withstand earthquakes. The falsification of data in the analyses means the buildings in question were installed with insufficient rebar, and their columns and beams were not designed thick enough.

According to the Construction and Transport Ministry, 14 of the 21 buildings have already been constructed, and all 14 may fail to meet antiseismic standards. In particular, two condominiums--one in Kawasaki and the other in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture--could collapse if an earthquake with an intensify of upper 5 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7 struck those areas.

In July, an earthquake with a maximum intensity of upper 5 hit the Tokyo metropolitan area. The hotel, in central Tokyo, that was one of the buildings whose structural strength was misreported, has been forced to shut down only three months after opening.

The ministry and local governments concerned must act to ensure the safety of those who live in or near the buildings in question.

===

A catalogue of errors

In the past five years, the architect at the center of the scandal has compiled structural strength analyses for about 90 buildings besides the 21 in question. Those who bought condominiums in that period must be feeling uneasy. It is a matter of urgency for buildings constructed following the submission of falsified data to be identified, and necessary measures taken, such as rebuilding and reinforcement.

The structural strength reports drawn up by the architect were so botched up that certificates indicating ministry-approved computer programs were used in the compilation of the reports were not attached to them.

As for the 21 buildings in question, the two ministry-designated inspection organizations conducted construction confirmation, a process to examine whether construction plans conform to relevant laws, including the Building Standard Law.

Yet the organizations failed to conduct these basic examinations properly and were unable to detect the falsification of the data. Such failures call into question the reliability of the inspection system.

We wonder why neither the architectural design firms that subcontracted the job of drawing up structural strength reports to the architect, nor the building contractors that constructed the buildings, nor the clients that commissioned the buildings questioned the construction data.

===

Rigorous probe needed

The ministry will bring criminal charges against the architect for violating the Building Standard Law. But those who purchased units in the condominiums in question were victims of the deceptive business practice of selling faulty housing.

The architect said he was pressured to reduce construction costs. A careful investigation should be carried out to determine whether the latest scandal reveals structural problems in the construction industry.

The central government set antiseismic standards so buildings can withstand major earthquakes. If practices such as falsifying data for construction blueprints are widespread, however, sizable damage could result from a major earthquake.

Private firms have been allowed to handle administrative procedures for construction confirmation since 1999. The ministry and other concerned entities should conduct a thorough check into whether the examination of construction plans is being conducted strictly, and whether there are other irregularities connected with the construction industry.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 19)

(Nov. 19, 2005)

Developer tied to suspect condos / Ordered 12 buildings falsely certified by cost-cutting architect
2005/11/20 The Yomiuri Shimbun
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20051120TDY02003.htm

A private developer ordered 12 of the 20 apartment buildings in the metropolitan area that were falsely certified as structurally sound by an architectural firm in Chiba Prefecture, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The developer also instructed six other architectural firms to use Aneha Architect Design Office, run by 48-year-old Hidetsugu Aneha, as a subcontractor to keep costs down, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The firms, which are registered by the metropolitan government, were involved in the construction of the 20 apartment buildings and a Tokyo hotel. The hotel has decided to close indefinitely after discovering it was one of the buildings.

The developer based in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, builds and sells apartment buildings and has recently been stepping up its activities in and around the Kanto region.

Of the 12 condominiums, six were in Tokyo, four in Kanagawa Prefecture and two in Chiba Prefecture. Eight of them have been sold to customers.

Of the 21 buildings, Aneha evaluated the structural integrity of three of them as the original contractor and 18 as a subcontractor for the six architectural firms, according to the Construction and Transport Ministry. The ministry summoned representatives of the six architectural firms into the metropolitan government building Monday and Tuesday to hear from them directly.

The representatives reportedly denied involvement in falsifying documents, saying they had not realized data in the documents were falsified. Asked about why they used Aneha office as their subcontractor, they reportedly answered they had been told to do so by the developer.

In a document sent to the press Thursday, the developer said it was surprised to learn buildings it owned were on the list. A spokesman for the developer said the six architectural firms had ordered evaluations from Aneha of their own accord.

When asked by The Yomiuri Shimbun on Friday whether it had introduced Aneha to the six firms, a spokesman for the developer replied, "No comment."

===

Ministry to act in matter

The ministry is considering disqualifying Aneha as a first-class registered architect, sources said Friday.

On the basis of the Architect Law, the ministry will summon Aneha to the ministry Thursday to hear from him about the falsification of documents certifying the structural integrity of the buildings. After hearing his testimony, it will decide how to deal with him after obtaining the approval of the Central Examination Committee for Architects.

The ministry is to make an urgent inspection beginning Monday of all local government-overseen building-confirmation applications as well as private firms certifying construction applications on behalf of local governments, to determine whether they properly examined documents on structural integrity.

Although the ministry has directed them to conduct in-house inspections, it decided to dispatch special teams to the local governments and firms to receive reports directly. The special team is empowered to conduct on-the-spot investigations.

Anxious residents hound bureaucrats
2005/11/20 The Yomiuri Shimbun
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20051120TDY02008.htm

Bureaucrats were busy taking calls from anxious residents Saturday following news reports of falsified structural strength data for 21 buildings in Tokyo and in Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures.

In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, structural strength reports of five apartment buildings--including two that have residents--were falsified, it was revealed by the Construction and Transport Ministry on Friday.

Seven officials of the Funabashi municipal government's building guidance division came to work Saturday to respond to residents' inquiries. They were kept busy answering a spate of phone calls from residents from about 8 a.m.

The city government has not released the names and addresses of the buildings, except one in which its structural strength is only 30 percent to 70 percent of the earthquake standards given under the Building Standard Law.

"We can't say anything until after examining the buildings' structural integrity," a division official said, referring to the reason for not releasing the names of the four other buildings. Most people who called the division asked whether their homes were safe.

The Yokohama municipal government also received a number of phone calls from residents. City officials were quizzed by the callers who asked: "Should we move out from our apartment?" and "Is the building I live in all right?" One said, "I'm worried as I'm going to buy an apartment."

In Chuo Ward, Tokyo, where a 36-unit apartment building was listed as one of the 21 buildings certified with falsified data, ward officials were busy taking phone calls from residents, who asked them for more information than that provided in flyers informing about the false data.

However, a ward official said: "We've also been waiting for the result of a reassessment of the building's structural strength from the ministry. We can't say whether the building is safe or dangerous at the moment."

Officials dealing with the issue in other municipalities also were having a hard time. One of them asked, "How can we explain to residents when we don't have any data?" Another asked, "Should I just tell the residents to evacuate their apartments?"

(Nov. 20, 2005)

Debate rages in Aneha scandal / Who should shoulder costs of fixing condosnot built to code?
Hiroyuki Takataand Yukihiro Nagura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
2005/11/20 Daily Yomiuri
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20051120TDY03003.htm

Thirteen of the 20 apartment buildings in Tokyo and Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures for which architect Hidetsugu Aneha has admitted falsifying structural strength certificates have been completed and 400 families are living in them.

Debates are under way on what measures can be taken to bring the buildings up to code, and how residents--who are justifiably concerned--can be compensated.

The discussions also are looking to determine who should be blamed for the scandal and who will have to shoulder the costs of structural reinforcement and compensation.

"Basically, the first-class architect, who holds a government certified qualification and acted dishonestly, bears heavy responsibility," Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said at a press conference Friday in reference to 48-year-old Aneha, of Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, who owns Aneha Architect Design Office.

But Ishihara went on to say the government also was to blame because it failed to properly oversee eHomes, the Tokyo private organization that checked documents filed by Aneha on behalf of the government.

"I think it [eHomes] didn't read the documents properly and was slack about issuing approvals," Ishihara said.

"As the government commissioned the task to the private sector, the government should have properly guided the private sector," he said.

"The government should be blamed for the scandal," he added.

But the government is reluctant to consider providing assistance to the condominium residents.

"Basically, it is an issue that occurred as a result of private economic activities," a senior Construction and Transport Ministry official said. "As it is clear that the cause of the scandal was a deliberate falsification of documents, it is difficult for the government to help them."

The government has asked local governments to provide public housing for the residents, but moving costs and rent likely will have to be paid by the residents themselves.

Commenting on the central government request that local governments house the residents, Ishihara said: "It's not like a natural disaster. The Tokyo metropolitan government can't accept the residents [in public housing] unconditionally."

"We'll study what we can do for them, but we can't give them priority because they're not likely to become homeless," the governor added.

The metropolitan government said it had little available public housing, stressing that currently there are 40 applicants for every public housing unit.

Provision for public housing for disaster victims are made under the Basic Law on Natural Disasters. But there are no laws and ordinances that can be applied to the Aneha case.

"If I have to give an analogy, I would compare it to becoming a victim of a crime. Even if the government wants to extend assistance, it can't take bold measures," a metropolitan government official said.

"But we are concerned what would happen [to the falsely certified buildings] if a strong earthquake were to strike," the official added.

The scandal is complicated because, in addition to the architect, eHomes and developers of the apartment buildings, among other private entities, may be culpable, and it is unclear how responsibility should be apportioned among them.

"Costs stemming from the falsification, including the costs of reinforcement work, should be paid for by them," another metropolitan government official said.

Under a law governing the quality of house construction, building contractors and real estate agents are responsible for repairing any defects in the basic structure of a new building that occur within 10 years of the date of completion.

If this law is found to be applicable in the Aneha case, residents can seek redress from the developers and other related parties.

Construction and Transport Ministry is reportedly ready to file a criminal complaint against Aneha on suspicion he violated the Building Standards Law. The ministry is also reportedly considering plans to take disciplinary action against eHomes .

Some of the residents of the buildings said they also were thinking about filing a civil case against Aneha.

===

Safeguards easily flouted

Four processes are involved in checking the earthquake-resistance of condominiums and other buildings:

-- Preconstruction examination of documents.

-- Interim inspections carried out during construction.

-- Daily supervision of construction.

-- Inspection upon completion of construction.

After the preconstruction examination of related documents, the building contractor obtains construction approval from a local government. Since 1999, private companies have been permitted to do this task on behalf of local governments.

In the Aneha scandal, eHomes carried out preconstruction examinations for 20 of the 21 buildings that were falsely certified.

The company failed to notice the structural strength reports submitted by Aneha did not bear certification numbers indicating a building has been designed properly under the Building Standards Law when using government-approved software.

Aneha, who provided the falsified reports, said the falsification is easy to detect if one does a simple calculation, but eHomes failed to spot it.

The interim inspections and inspection upon completion of construction provided no safeguards for the residents of the 13 completed apartment buildings because they were carried out by eHomes, which also inspected the hotel.

An industry source said a company that is unable to do carry out a preconstruction inspection would likewise be unable to perform interim and postconstruction inspections.

(Nov. 20, 2005)