Japan leading the way…again

You may have heard of the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town already, but if not, it’s a brand new 1,000 home (mix of apartments, detached dwellings and town houses) town to be built on a 19 hectare site of a disused Panasonic manufacturing plant (Fujisawa is a coastal city, 50km west of Tokyo) – sponsored by, you guessed it, Panasonic (great marketing opportunity there) in partnership with 8 other companies.

Initial doubts aside, the development will be a fully integrated, sustainable and independent energy system. It uses a range of Panasonic technology which aims to reduce energy, produce solar electricity and use battery storage at each home. Communication systems linked to each household and each home’s appliances will manage the energy needs to balance what is coming in with what the occupants require, using the battery systems for storage. Given the 2011 tsunami and the ensuing power plant issues, exploration of alternative power sources is timely (I note this was not the driver of the project but certainly brings into perspective its importance).

This is being coined the most advanced eco town in the world, with a target of a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions (from the 1990 baseline!). Electrical transportation will be integrated as well as green spaces and other shared community resources—all radiating from a central square which will display the town’s real time energy status. I note the town has a backup to the main grid should a disaster occur. The development is aimed to be replicable throughout the world, using integrated energy technologies at large scales.

There is a pile of information out there on the town: Development cost of 60 billion Yen - approximately $655 million AUD, an estimated completion of March 2014 with all homes to be occupied by 2018 and even a complementary town management system that provides mobility, security and healthcare services.

But I know the big issue you’re all concerned about is … will you still be able to watch your Toshiba television and listen to your Sony Walkman, if you choose to buy one of these houses – (which there doesn’t seem to be a price tag for as yet)?

Well Panasonic’s Business Director responds:

Panasonic’s solar panels and storage batteries will be standard equipment in each home. Of course, homeowners are able to choose other brands for their other electronics. But Panasonic will do its best to make it attractive for consumers to buy and use Panasonic electronics for to enrich their lifestyles.

The focus is really on the development of the energy systems and perhaps less about urban design, see the you tube clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss0jhOZPARY . A missed Masterplanning opportunity for DLA?!
The design ethos is centred around sustainable green living and some of the design features include:
Organic city block plans that incorporate nature and energy systems, and designs that match the landscape.
- Create a "green axis" by establishing parks and planting vegetation along the main roads and form "wind paths" that take into consideration the wind direction in Fujisawa.
- Achieve a solar panel design that blends with the town's lush green landscape.
- Develop basic specifications for homes with ample space for installing storage battery equipment and other energy systems.
Creation of new space and synergies for electric vehicles, garages and homes to promote electric vehicle sharing.
- Design parking spaces that enable easy car sharing for the reduction of carbon footprint in the transportation sector.
- Plans may include some homes with spacious yards without a garage and parking areas for every ten to twenty homes for car sharing use.

With a completion date of March 2014, its surprising not to find more details on its progress and even some construction images, in particular sales figures and house price data. I imagine these technologies don’t come cheap, but the house prices will need to be competitive to encourage buyers or do you think the novelty of the project alone will attract people? And then there is the benefit of virtually no power or fuel costs – surely this would be an attractive selling point in itself and justify a higher house price. And what about the location, is it a desirable place to live – it’s an old Panasonic site so it wasn’t necessarily chosen for its locational attributes, more out of convenience.

Thinking ahead if this concept takes off there will need to be a method for assessing the value of environmental real estate in smart towns, if there isn’t already? Somehow market acceptance of environmentally-conscious urban development will need to be created. Hopefully we’ll get some answers as this example comes to life!
If you are interested in this project, check out Panasonic leading the way in green technologies – they also involved with a number of other projects like the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project in China and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor in India.


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