New Tokyo office buildings should be disaster-resistant
Strengthening functions of office buildings in Tokyo can also help the nation revive its economy. Tokyo is urged to restore its status, as major cities in other Asian countries are gaining competitive edges against it.
Central Tokyo has seen the opening of a number of major office buildings in recent months.
Among others, DiverCity Tokyo in Koto Ward, Shibuya Hikarie next to Shibuya Station and East Tower at the foot of Tokyo Skytree in Sumida Ward have become popular among sightseers who are attracted to the complexes' commercial facilities.
Not a few of these newly opened buildings may become landmarks of their business districts, with JP Tower as an example. Built on the site of the historic Tokyo Central Post Office across the street from JR Tokyo Station, the high-rise was partially opened earlier this week.
According to a real estate industry estimate, the total floor space in large-scale buildings to become available this year in Tokyo's 23 wards will be about 1.8 million square meters--equivalent to the footprint of 38 Tokyo Domes. This marks the highest level since 2003, when the Roppongi Hills complex in Minato Ward was opened.
The latest building boom is marked by high-rises created by the renovation or replacement of older structures in efforts to redevelop the capital's central districts, such as Marunouchi, Shibuya and Shinjuku.
Tenants' priorities changing
It should be noted that today's tenants have different standards in choosing the buildings they pay rent for.
Companies looking for office space used to focus on where buildings were located and how convenient they were. Nowadays, more and more firms are paying increased attention to whether a building would allow them to continue their business operations in the event of a disaster, considering such factors as its degree of earthquake resistance and whether it has an emergency power supply.
Last year's Great East Japan Earthquake encouraged many companies to put a higher priority on preparing for a possible quake that could directly hit Tokyo.
The real estate industry has been implementing disaster management measures, such as equipping newly constructed buildings with high-tech systems to inform tenants of the degree of damage sustained in an earthquake.
It is important for the industry to further strengthen its efforts to make office buildings safer.
Considering the possibility of power shortages in the medium to long term, it is also vital for office buildings to work on energy measures, such as enhancing energy efficiency and diversifying power sources.
As the number of high-rise office buildings increase and more and more people work in them, it will become more important than ever for business districts to be prepared for a disaster.
Companies renting different buildings should work together to come up with plans to respond to a disaster, including ways to help people who are unable to return home.
Excessive supply negative factor
It is a cause for concern, however, that a glut of office space could harm the real estate market. The vacancy rate of these rooms remains high due to sluggish demand, causing rents to fall over a prolonged period. Some brand-new buildings even find it difficult to reach full occupancy.
Therefore, there is serious worry about a "Year 2012 Problem" for the real estate industry.
A growing gap between supply and demand in office space could put downward pressure on land prices, negatively influencing the economy. The government, therefore, should keep an eye on the real estate market.
In March, the Tokyo metropolitan government compiled a basic strategy to promote local industry, which stipulates that it should help foreign companies settle in the capital.
Overseas investors have resumed pouring money into Japanese real estate. The metropolitan government should become more aggressive in promoting foreign investment, which will also help narrow the supply-and-demand gap for office space.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2012)