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Firm Apologizes for Tilting Condos

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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A Japanese construction supply company has apologized for supplying faulty pilings for a major condominium complex that is tilting just 10 years after it was built.

Executives at Asahi Kasei Corp., the parent of company responsible for supplying those pilings for the Park City Lala Yokohama complex in Tsuzuki Ward, also promised Tuesday (Oct. 20) an independent investigation into how it happened to supply bad pilings, according to an article in The Japan Times.

“We sincerely apologize for the great damage caused to residents of the building,” said Toshio Asano, president of Asahi Kasei, during a press conference in Tokyo. “We are deeply, deeply sorry. Our priority is on ensuring the safety and security of the residents.”

According to its corporate website, Asahi Kasei specializes in chemicals and fibers; homes and construction materials; electronics; and health care. Multiple news reports indicate that confidence in the company, which reportedly had a strong business foundation, has been shaken as a result of the faulty pilings.

Fabricated Data

Officials from the company previously said that one of its employees at subsidiary Asahi Kasei Construction Materials Corp. admitted to fabricating data on 38 piles providing underground support for three of the four buildings in the complex, according to news reports.

That same employee also said he falsified data on the amount of concrete used in conjunction with 45 of the installed piles. Of all the piles in question, 10 have been found to be tilting under the building.

Asahi Kasei has said that the employee responsible for fabricating the data told them he had done so because he had lost the original information. In addition to an internal panel headed by company vice president Masahito Hirai, the company plans to set up an outside panel made up of about three lawyers at the request of the residents.

The data the employee used came from measuring equipment that sends electric currents into the ground and provides readouts showing whether the piles have reached solid ground, according to the news report. But because eight piles are known to be bad, the employee’s testimony contradicts what actually is going on, Hirai said.

“But we are dealing with his memory from 10 years ago, and data from 10 years ago,” Hirai said during the news conference. “We will fully investigate whether (his sloppy work) was intentional or based on (genuine) misjudgment on his part.”

Although Asahi Kasei did the actual pile driving, primary contractor Sumitomo Mitsui Construction conducted the bore testing, according to an article in Nikkei Asian Review. The primary contractor also drove test piles to determine the depth of the load-bearing underground layer and arranged for the foundation plies.

Consensus Needed

The condos in the complex went on the market begimnning in 2006 and condos were sold to residents through Mitsui Fudosan Residential, according to an article in The Asahi Shimbun. Last year, one of the residents noticed that a handrail in a corridor connecting one of the buildings with the other three was misaligned, which is when the investigation began and the problems with the pilings was first noticed.

Although the seller has offered to demolish and rebuild all four buildings, the buildings need a consensus from the individual property owners to do so, according to a separate article in The Japan Times.

That might be difficult, according to the news report. Under Japanese law, 80 percent of the residents in all four buildings must agree to have the complex rebuilt. Additionally, 66 percent of the residents in each building also would have to concur.

Not all residents said they want to move.

“I want to stay where I am because I’m old,” a 70-year-old unnamed resident of one the buildings that are not tilting told The Japan Times. “I don’t want to go through all the trouble of finding new housing and moving."

But the options are slim, according to the news report. Repairing the foundations might still require residents to move out temporarily and take about a year. Replacing the entire complex would take between 3 to 3 ½ years, a Mitsui Fudosan Residential spokesperson told the news agency.

Who Will Pay?

Although Asahi Kasei has said it will pay for all of the investigative work and pay for the repairs, and Mitsui Fudosan Residential has said it would be willing to rebuild all four buildings, it remains unclear if any of the other businesses involved in the construction of the condo would shoulder the costs of rennovation, replacement or residents' moving expenses.

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism already has ordered Asahi Kasei to deal fairly with residents, and the government has launched an investigation into whether or not the company violated Japanese law involving real estate sales, the news agency said.

According to the land ministry, there were only 211 cases nationwide prior to April 1 of residential buildings having been rebuilt because of the difficulty in obtaining a consensus from owners.



Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building Envelope; Business matters; Concrete; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Construction; Residential; Residential Construction; Residential contractors; Steel pilings

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