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Constructing the Eco-Homes of the Future

By Jasper Tolsma

SNA (Tokyo) — Energy conservation has become a major topic in Japan over the past few years, not only because of the suspension of nuclear reactors after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, but also because of the higher energy bills that came with it. New technology might help in that struggle.

The Eco-House and Eco-Building Expo that is held at the end of February at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba hosted a range of Japanese and foreign companies demonstrating the latest in energy saving technologies.

One major theme was “smart appliances.” From air conditioning systems that save energy by regulating energy consumption during peak hours to sci-fi inspired houses full of interconnected gizmos that regulate just about everything in the house, it could be an impressive display.

“Smart Houses” are meant not only to connect most appliances in a house into a single system, but even entail devices that monitor your heart rate and your body temperature.

Mr. Tetsushi Aoki of Smart Tech told SNA that by 2020 approximately 10 to 20 percent of all houses will be “smart.” He even reckons that in the future it would be possible for houses to be completely self-maintaining.

Strolling between all these high-tech booths, dressed up girls and flashing lights, there was a small booth overseen by Mr. Kohei Sugawara of the Nichias Corporation that stood out for an entirely different reason. The company that he works for doesn’t produce flashy gadgets or smart phone apps, but rather something that seems rather mundane: insulation.

Mr. Sugawara enthusiastically demonstrates how his company’s insulation works by putting a small, loud alarm into an insulated model house and then closing the lid. He is very pleased to see the surprised reaction when there is virtually no sound coming from the closed house. By doubling the thickness of the insulation material, Sugawara notes that a lot of energy can be saved and houses can be made more environmentally friendly.

In short, the exhibition demonstrated that the future of environmental technology is likely to be a combination of products we have never seen as well as improved versions of what we have always known.

Jasper Tolsma is a contributing writer to the Shingetsu News Agency.