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Campus Now

Spring Verdure Issue (May. 2014)

Frontline of Research

Introducing advanced research which contributes to society.

For a comfortable lifestyle
Construction environmental studies balances comfort with energy conservation

Professor Shinichi Tanabe
Faculty of Science and Engineering

What is a comfortable environment?
Interest in the relationship between human beings and the surrounding environment

Did you know that about seventeen thousand people die in bathrooms and changing rooms every year in Japan? These deaths are mainly attributed to sudden temperature changes and cold temperatures. seventeen thousand is approximately 3 times the annual number of traffic deaths. Even though keeping an entire house warm during the winter would reduce the number of deaths due to temperature fluctuations, Japan has not taken sufficient measures to improve insulation. In direct contrast to Japan is Denmark, a country where I studied abroad while in the Doctoral Program. In Denmark, even old houses are thoroughly insulated and possess extremely high air-tightness. As a result, even when the outside temperature drops below freezing, it is warm and comfortable indoors. At the very least, in terms of living environments for humans, the heating environment in Japanese homes is not at the level of an advanced nation. Of course, the climate in Japan isn't as severe as northern Europe. However, Japanese people endure the cold too much. Moreover, many Japanese people have never experienced real warmth and fail to recognize their stoicism against the cold. Technological advancements and contributions to the environment are meaningless unless people can live a healthy and comfortable lifestyle. Recently, it was newly announced that approximately 80% of lower back pain is caused by lifestyle stress. Still, researchers have not yet logically clarified many aspects of life science, architecture and other fields closely related to daily life. Our laboratory has continued to research themes related to lifestyle environments of people, such as homes, offices and motor vehicles.

For example, consider the strict regulation of room temperatures at offices in the summer. In 2006, I conducted a detailed measurement survey of the thermal environment in Tokyo office buildings while cool business was being conducted. While cool business is a wonderful initiative, it does not mean that people can endure any temperature. My survey revealed that 70% of office workers find temperatures above 28 degrees Celsius to be uncomfortable. Also, in 2004, I performed a 1-year survey of a call center. Analysis of survey results showed that work efficiency decreased by 6% when room temperature increases from 25 to 28 degrees Celsius. In order to compensate for the drop in efficiency, a worker must put in 30 minutes of overtime. Instead of energy-saving measures based on endurance, we need true energy-saving measures which do not harm intellectual productivity. I have continued to take measurements since the March 11th Great East Japan Earthquake, and my findings show that countermeasures for indoor heat sources (lighting, computer, etc.) are a more effective form of conservation than raising the temperature of air conditioning. I am undertaking a serious scientific study of such essential elements of homes and architectural environments.

At ENEX 2014 & Smart Energy Japan 2014, the Waseda University team proposed "Nobi-Nobi House: A Residence Wearing Many Layers." The house realizes a comfortable environment by skillfully incorporating natural energy such as solar heat, sunlight and wind. By using a solar power and solar heat system to generate energy, the annual amount of energy consumed is zero.

Next-generation energy saving house "Nobi-Nobi House: A Residence Wearing Many Layers"

The winter Nobi-Nobi zone
Uses polycarbonate and glass which is transparent to light while blocking wind. Gentle space manipulation is created between the residence zone and the outer air.

Since its founding, Waseda architecture has a tradition of emphasizing practical application together with theory. In January 2014, ENEX 2014 & Smart Energy Japan 2014 was held at Tokyo Big Sight. From among written proposals submitted by more than 10 universities, 5 universities, including Waseda, were selected to construct a 2030 future house. The Waseda University team proposed "Nobi-Nobi House: A Residence Wearing Many Layers," a next-generation zero-energy house offering a comfortable lifestyle for residents. The house uses a concept in which a comfortable energy-saving lifestyle can be enjoyed through a 3-layer structure consisting of a central facilities core, a residence zone, and a Nobi-Nobi zone. By implementing building envelope technology measures such as external insulation, energy conservation measures using natural energy such as sunlight and ventilation, and energy-generation technology such as solar power and solar heat systems, the Waseda team realized a residence which generates more energy than it consumes on an annual basis. The house was jointly developed with laboratories researching electrical systems and mechanical systems. Through the project, graduate students gained rare experience by conducting the majority of work by themselves.

ENEX 2014 was only a short-tem winter event, so Nobi-Nobi House will be moved to a different location in order to conduct demonstration testing throughout the year.

*As part of a project by the METI's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, 5 model homes are constructed and displayed under the theme of "2030 future house." Through cooperation with universities and corporations, the model homes propose advanced technology and new lifestyles based on the 3 concepts of "energy," "life," and "Asia."

Joint research with Juntendo University Hospital
Realizing a hospital which reduces the risk of infection

Experiment using the cough machine

From 2009, Waseda University has conducted joint research with Juntendo University. Our team's research focuses on suppressing infection. Specifically, we research appropriate measures for preventing infection from an architectural perspective. We even went as far as to create a "cough machine" which actually emits coughs. We use the machine to measure spraying/droplet nuclei and then to evaluate the effectiveness of measures. For example, the cough machine is used in new buildings at Juntendo University, leading to the development of a sink which reduces droplet infection to 1% of original levels when used to wash hands. Furthermore, in order to investigate the thermal comfort of patients and medical staff in dialysis rooms, we spent 2 years measuring the relationship between the indoor environment and symptoms of dialysis patients. We realized that even the slightest heating or air conditioning can sometimes cause dialysis patients to feel a stabbing pain. Our findings have been incorporated into new buildings which use a ceiling emission cooling-heating panel which emits almost no air flow from the air conditioning unit. Additionally, beginning from last year, we are collaborating with instructors at Juntendo University to thoroughly investigate cleaning inside the hospital.

Returning to the origin
Considering an architectural environment which brings comfort to people

Energy has been a major issue ever since the Great East Japan Earthquake. One solution is ZEB (zero-energy buildings) and ZEH (zero-energy houses). This technology can already be used in the field of home construction. However, simply developing and installing infrastructure will not make society and the world a better place. We must examine how daily life has changed by taking the time to return to the origin of architecture; namely, "residence" and "lifestyle." It is necessary to embrace new challenges from the perspective of scientific study within daily life.

Professor Shinichi Tanabe
Faculty of Science and Engineering

In 1980, Shinichi Tanabe graduated from Department of Architecture at the Waseda University School of Science and Engineering. In 1987, he completed the Doctoral Program at Waseda University Graduate School without any degree. From 1984 to 1986, he studied abroad at Technical University of Denmark. From 1992 to 1993, he served as Visiting Researcher at University of California, Berkeley. After serving as Full-Time Instructor and Assistant Professor at Ochanomizu University, he became Assistant Professor at Waseda University in 1999 and Professor in 2001.He won various awards including the 1996 Society of Heating, Air-Conditioning and Sanitary Engineers of Japan Prize and the 2020 Architectural Institute of Japan Prize. He serves on various committees including the METI Energy-Saving Sub-Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Environmental Commission. His major writings include Indoor Chemical Pollution--Understanding and Preventing Sick House Syndrome (Kodansha Publishing).

Shinichi Tanabe Laboratory : http://www.tanabe.arch.waseda.ac.jp/
Nobi-Nobi House: A Residence Wearing Many Layers : http://waseda-nobinobi.jp/