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Japan Turns to Aztec for Green Rebuild

SDSU professor Kotaro Nakamura is helping sustainable reconstruction in Japanese communities savaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March.
US Navy Photo: A fishing boat is among debris in Ofunato, Japan, following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami
US Navy Photo: A fishing boat is among debris in Ofunato, Japan, following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in March that killed more than 22,000 people and destroyed 150 miles of Japanese coastline, architects seek to rebuild the city of Sendai as a paragon of sustainability.

And an SDSU design professor will help them do it.

SDSU’s Kotaro Nakamura, an award-winning architect for sustainable design, addressed architects and engineers at a symposium in Sendai, the center of Japan’s recovery efforts.  

Sustainability must inherently include preparedness for natural disasters, far beyond conventional environmental sensibilities.

Examples of sustainable reconstruction

Nakamura’s July 19 presentation reviewed sustainable disaster recovery after the wildfires in California, tornadoes in the Midwest and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

He explained how lessons from those examples apply to the Japanese cities, towns and communities devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.  

“What is common in these reconstruction efforts, whether they are in the U.S. or Japan, is that all have included the same vision of sustainable communities,” Nakamura said.

“In this case, sustainability must inherently include preparedness for natural disasters, far beyond conventional environmental sensibilities.”

Exchange of ideas

A healthy exchange of ideas is always mutually beneficial, and the severity of Japan’s crisis brings these discussions on sustainability into sharp focus.

A large scale tsunami may not be a viable threat in San Diego, Nakamura said, but California is just as earthquake-prone as Japan, and wild fires have certainly taught Californians about the devastating strength of nature.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to discuss these issues with other concerned professionals in this field,” he said. “The lessons we learn from these events give us a glimpse of the challenges we will face in developing truly sustainable solutions in the future.”

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