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How one man’s labour of love led to sustainable construction breakthrough in Japan


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Some would simply refer to it as the first FSC project certification for a newly constructed detached house in Japan. But for those who labored shoulder-to-shoulder to construct the house, it will always be known as ‘A House with Many Good Stories’.

The two-storey house is privately owned by Masahiro Kawatei. As a representative from CEPA Japan, a pro bono association in environmental communication, Masahiro was concerned with what he perceived as a decline in forestry leadership and good management practices. He decided to lead by example and used FSC-certified domestic timber to build his own house.

To turn his vision into reality, a new procurement route had to be established to obtain the needed materials. He reached out to Shuichiro Ishikawa, president of the building company Home Sweet Home Made and the designer Yoshiyuki Endo, to make this possible.

Masahiro’s journey started with a personal visit to the forest in Minamisanriku Town to select the perfect tree. He was accompanied by Taichi Sato, Director General of Minamisanriku Forest Stewardship Alliance and an active promoter of local timber, and Kunio Onodera, President of Maruhei Timber Co., Ltd., who works on the revitalisation of residential buildings. They chose a Minamisanriku cedar for the exterior walls and the interior of the house.


It takes a village

To complete the house, Masahiro rallied over 50 members of his community to roll up their sleeves and get to work. These dedicated citizens worked side by side with carpenters, craftsmen and a DIY advisor. They spent three weeks undertaking tasks such as surface preparation and applying plaster to the walls. The plaster is made from Hokkaido scallop shells, which are known to be an environmentally friendly material that regulates humidity.

There are currently 36 FSC-certified forests in Japan (as of 13 November 2017). Masahiro used two types of FSC-certified timber, namely Larix kaempferi from Yamanashi Prefecture, and Cryptomeria japonica from Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture, a town close to his heart as he was involved in its reconstruction after the great eastern Japan earthquake of 2011.

The ‘House with a Story' is really a story of one man and the community he assembled to show the world that a few dedicated people can make a difference

About the certification

FSC project certification is certification for one-off articles such as buildings, vessels and event venues. There are two types of project certification: full certification and partial certification.

For full certification, at least 50 per cent, by volume or cost, of all wood materials used in the project must be FSC 100 per cent, FSC Mix or post-consumer reclaimed materials, with the remainder being controlled wood. 

For partial certification, there is no minimum requirement on the ratio of certified materials used, but all materials claimed to be certified must be 100 per cent FSC-certified and this must be stated clearly in all communications.

This project was awarded partial certification as some plasterboard had to be used.