Green for a Day

Posted by Jim Ivanoff
January 26th, 2009

I observed some FII organized focus groups on Japanese architects.
research is meant to uncover trends and opinions about green building and how
Japanese specifiers view Canadian wood.


more research and analysis needs to be done to draw any scientific conclusions,
I was struck by two common themes expressed in each session: 1) the meaning of
environmentally friendly housing is very different in Japan than in North
America, and 2) “Canada” does not mean very much to these architects.


casual conversations with industry people over the years, I already knew that
North American green building concepts which espouse being “green” for the sake
of being green were non-existent in Japan. Yesterday’s focus groups proved this
to me. Here, being “eco” as they call it means building homes that use as
little energy as possible while also offering the healthiest possible environment
to the inhabitants. By having homes face south with big windows means that the
sun can heat homes naturally thus requiring little energy for heating even in
winter. Conversely, allowing for good air circulation with the outside reduces
the need to use AC in warmer seasons. As for the healthy environments,
sick-house syndrome caused by poor quality adhesives, carpeting, and wall
coverings has led most home buyers to seek out natural wood products to finish
homes or at least materials certified as having low VOC emissions.


being green is really about “me” in that it helps save money on energy while
offering healthier living. It is much more practical to the individual buyer
and actually follows building concepts that date back centuries in Japan. As a
side benefit, you can claim to be doing your part to reduce CO2 emissions as
your home doesn’t require as much energy to be produced.


the definition of “green” in Japan was not a surprise, I was taken aback by
hearing that Canadian wood products did not have any warm and fuzzy feeling for
these architects. We always assume that everyone respects our forestry
management practices and that this is a natural advantage for our products.
However, yesterday’s respondents showed that even in this regard the Japanese
are a lot more pragmatic.


biggest concern was the value (performance and quality versus price) that
products offered. Next was how much they trusted the distributor carrying the
product. They didn’t seem to care if the materials used in the products were
imported or where they came from. To me this reinforced the BC Wood product
focused strategy for marketing in Japan. You can use all sorts of great images
of Canada, but in the end it is the product that makes people buy or walk. That
is why it is crucial that we bring members and their products into the market. The
fact that the architects placed great emphasis on the role of distributors
means that we are also correct in building and strengthening our position in
Japanese distribution networks. After all, these are the companies that really
sell our products to the Japanese construction industry.

By Jim Ivanoff

BC Wood Japan Office

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