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Thread: Japan plagued by house fires in winter

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Exclamation Japan plagued by house fires in winter

    Watching the News on TV tonight, there were three separate cases of house fires : 4 people died in Saitama, 2 in Kagawa and another fire without casualities in Hokkaido (if I remember well).

    They explained that the risk of fire was much higher in January than any other period (the graph showed it was already the "low-season" for fires).

    63% of houses in Japan are built in wood, among which only 33% are fire-proof. I was very surprised when I first came across these official statistics, as I have never seen a wooden house in Europe, apart from Alpine chalets or Scandinavian log houses.

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    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    match that with the fact that many people use kersosene heaters instead of electricity and the chance of fire doubles! Many houses in the states are still built out of wood. I don't think that is very odd, seeing is how it is a cheap material, easily cut to size, easily painted/stained, and provides pretty good insulation.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1
    Many houses in the states are still built out of wood. I don't think that is very odd, seeing is how it is a cheap material, easily cut to size, easily painted/stained, and provides pretty good insulation.
    It's odd for me because it's fragile (could be destroyed by a typhoon, a car running into the house, someone sawing or hammering into it, etc.), burns easily, provides little insulation (from my Japanese experience), and needs to be rebuilt as it degrades with time. But I grew up in a 250-year old stone house with 1m-deep walls, so that may explain my perplexity.

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    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    It's odd for me because it's fragile (could be destroyed by a typhoon, a car running into the house, someone sawing or hammering into it, etc.), burns easily, provides little insulation (from my Japanese experience), and needs to be rebuilt as it degrades with time. But I grew up in a 250-year old stone house with 1m-deep walls, so that may explain my perplexity.

    Good points...Japanese houses do not use additional insulation (drives the cost up) while US homes use a layer of fiberglass insulation between the outer siding and the inside paneling. That is perhaps why the houses you have seen in Japan do not seem well insulated.

    Cars running into a house? I've seen it happen, but rare...and in Japan many homes have some form of fence around them, usually cement, stone or steel!

    Sawing, cutting or hammering into a home? TOO noisey and draws too much attention, not to mention requires pnumatic, or electrical power which is difficult to come by.

    Burns easily? No argument!

    Typhoons? Wood is actually quite sturdy! And if you are inland the force of the typhhon is not as great.

    As far as needing to be rebuilt as it degrades? You can replace individual boards/sheets/logs without too much trouble. The wood is usually treated to ward off termites, prevent weathering etc... Occasionally you see a home that does not withstand well, but there are many homes where I grew up that have been around for 150 years or more with very little work ever being done besides repainting!

    Houses made of stone are new to me...as are homes made of cement (here in Okinawa). To me building a home out of stone would be tremendously expensive here (island). Maybe in Europe it wouldn't be so bad?

    Another good point about wood...if you want to add onto your home, usually you can do it yourself without much knowledge and little help!

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1
    Sawing, cutting or hammering into a home? TOO noisey and draws too much attention, not to mention requires pnumatic, or electrical power which is difficult to come by.
    Not in isolated places. The purpose I imagined is not even entering the house (a window is easier to break), but to destroy it (if someone doesn't like you).

    Typhoons? Wood is actually quite sturdy! And if you are inland the force of the typhhon is not as great.
    I saw many houses destroyed by typhoons or landslides on TV in Japan. That would never happen with a stone construction (or then just the roof).

    As far as needing to be rebuilt as it degrades? You can replace individual boards/sheets/logs without too much trouble. The wood is usually treated to ward off termites, prevent weathering etc... Occasionally you see a home that does not withstand well, but there are many homes where I grew up that have been around for 150 years or more with very little work ever being done besides repainting!
    So why do Japanese need to destroy and rebuilt their houses every 30 years or so ?

    Houses made of stone are new to me...as are homes made of cement (here in Okinawa). To me building a home out of stone would be tremendously expensive here (island). Maybe in Europe it wouldn't be so bad?
    Depends on the region. If stone is readily available in that area, it's not so expensive (well, more expensive than brick, which is itself more expensive than concrete or wood - but the quality is not the same).

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    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I was very surprised when I first came across these official statistics, as I have never seen a wooden house in Europe, apart from Alpine chalets or Scandinavian log houses.
    Actually, in Europe there seems to be a revival of wooden houses recently. Wood is not as bad as you seem to see it, the quality & security of the building very much depends on the construction methods.

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    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Not in isolated places. The purpose I imagined is not even entering the house (a window is easier to break), but to destroy it (if someone doesn't like you).
    Hmmmm? I don't have that problem, so I guess that is why I never considered this scenario...If you have this type of problem, maybe you need a personality adjustment?



    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I saw many houses destroyed by typhoons or landslides on TV in Japan. That would never happen with a stone construction (or then just the roof).
    Yes...landslides will destroy whatever is in the path, even if it is made of stone! Even if the main structure remained standing, the damage would still be seen on the inside and probably require a total rebuild, so really not worth the trouble. We have hurricanes in the states, and wood houses stand up pretty well. Of course people who build in close proximity to the beaches usually see quite a bit of damage, but sometimes the construction of beach homes is a little suspect anyway!



    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    So why do Japanese need to destroy and rebuilt their houses every 30 years or so ?
    I'm not sure...maybe the quality of the wood...quality of construction? I'm not knocking Japanese wood though as much of it is actually imported into the US! I don't believe that the Japanese treat their wood. I have done several small projects here, and the wood only lasted a few seasons. It could be due to the harshness of the climate also! Extremely hot in summer and snow and cold in winter...maybe that has something to do with it? If the wood is not waterproofed and treated then it will not last very long at all!

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bossel
    Actually, in Europe there seems to be a revival of wooden houses recently. Wood is not as bad as you seem to see it, the quality & security of the building very much depends on the construction methods.
    Well maybe in Germany (not in cities I have been to though), but personally I have never seen a single wooden house in the 5 countries where I have lived.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1
    Hmmmm? I don't have that problem, so I guess that is why I never considered this scenario...If you have this type of problem, maybe you need a personality adjustment?
    Hey, there are psycho everywhere. A house should also act as a place you fell safe inside (like a medieval castle )

    Yes...landslides will destroy whatever is in the path, even if it is made of stone!
    I think you have never seen the kind of house I am talking about.

    It could be due to the harshness of the climate also! Extremely hot in summer and snow and cold in winter...maybe that has something to do with it?
    Don't you have harsher climate than that in the States (not in Califonia, of course) ? As far cold winters, I find winters in Tokyo very mild (it never freezes, so that there can be flowers all around even in January). And temeprature rarely exceed 35'C in summer, compared to over 40'C in Southern Europe, where it's normal to have a 500-year-old house.

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    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Well maybe in Germany (not in cities I have been to though), but personally I have never seen a single wooden house in the 5 countries where I have lived.
    In the Netherlands & Belgium as well, I think.
    But of course there are not too many, for highy quality wooden houses are rather expensive (well, houses here are generally expensive). In Germany they are mostly in the suburbs, because apartment buildings are only rarely built from wood (although I have seen examples of that, too).

    Wooden houses, built properly, are considered environmentally friendly, insulation is said to be better than in a stone house (see link above).

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    "It's odd for me because it's fragile (could be destroyed by a typhoon, a car running into the house, someone sawing or hammering into it, etc.), burns easily, provides little insulation (from my Japanese experience), and needs to be rebuilt as it degrades with time."

    "So why do Japanese need to destroy and rebuilt their houses every 30 years or so ?"

    The thing that first comes to my mind is the cyclic intervals in time. Isn't it so that the Japanese tear down the Shinto temples every 60 (or was it 30? can't quite remember) years, then build and exact replica of it on the same spot. So if you think about the houses from that point if view, it sort of makes sense.

    Also, wood is easier to transport than stone and easier to build with so if your house is destroyed by a typhoon or an earthquake, it wouldn't be quite as much trouble building a new house. And if you need to expand your house, it's also easier if you build with wood. Besides, Isn't Japan famous for being covered with trees? ^^;

    Then there's also the visual aspect. I get the impression that atleast in the traditional houses, the light and shadow in a room is an important esthetic factor so it would hardly be quite the same if the rice paper was replaced with stone...?

    I also think that wooden houses are said to have better insulation... But I'm not an engineer so I couldn't say but I've slept in a stone castle once and it wasn't exactly perfect there... ^^;

    Maybe if they had a proper heating system, they wouldn't have quite so many fires. In Finland most of the year it's cold and we still don't have many fires because of the heating systems ^^; (atleast I think we don't! ;)
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  12. #12
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bossel
    In the Netherlands & Belgium as well, I think.
    But of course there are not too many, for highy quality wooden houses are rather expensive (well, houses here are generally expensive).
    I have inquired about wooden houses in Belgium, and apparently "l'Urbanisme" (urban planning agency which approves the construction of new buildings) has only recently started to "tolerate" wooden residences. I was indeed quite surprised to see a wooden house being built in the countryside last June when I went back to Belgium.

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