Theme 3
SDGs and Sumitomo: Community Development

 One-point explanation
According to the United Nations, a majority of the world’s population already lives in urban areas and the proportion will rise to about 70% by 2050. This expanding urban population stokes global warming that, in turn, causes sea levels to rise and poses risks in terms of environmental pollution, damage by natural disasters, and traffic congestion. Meanwhile, according to the statistics of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s population will plummet from 128.06 million in 2010 to 64.85 million in 2100, with rural areas being particularly hard hit by depopulation and a big question mark hanging over the long-term viability of the social security system. From these dramatic changes in the demographic profiles of the world and Japan, challenging social issues are bound to emerge. Addressing Goal 11 of the SDGs, “Sustainable Cities and Communities,” is central to the task of tackling these issues effectively. Safe and secure community development, support of regional industries, revitalization of communities, and other initiatives for regional revitalization are especially important in Japan.
It is in this context that Sumitomo Heavy Industries Environment joined forces with local companies and municipal government to resolve a social issue confronting local industry. For its part, Sumitomo Warehouse offers document storage services to ensure safekeeping even in the event of a natural disaster. Meanwhile, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance has developed an innovative insurance product that supports safe driving by utilizing a dashboard camera and also provides a dashboard-camera-based safety program designed for the elderly to a local government. Sumitomo Realty & Development is promoting redevelopment projects to transform communities, hitherto insufficiently prepared for disasters, into sustainable communities with enhanced disaster preparedness. These and other dynamic initiatives of Sumitomo Group companies geared to regional revitalization through enhancement of safety and security and multifaceted community development are attracting keen interest.

Koichi Kozuka
Director, SDGs Design Center
Nikkei BP Consulting

Sumitomo Heavy Industries Environment Co., Ltd.

Unique wastewater treatment technology deployed in cooperation with municipality reduces environmental impacts and lightens local industry’s burden

Biogas power plant that uses ume seasoning liquid effluent in Kamitonda Town, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture

For more than 400 years, since the beginning of the Edo period, the Minabe-Tanabe region of southern Wakayama Prefecture has been celebrated as the source of ume, Prunus mume, of superlative quality. In December 2015, the Minabe-Tanabe Ume System was designated a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Effluent consisting of seasoning liquid used during the umeboshi (pickled ume) production process is so highly concentrated, with biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)* exceeding 100,000 mg per liter, that conventional aerobic wastewater treatment has a tough time dealing with it. The effluent is handled by industrial waste treatment companies contracted for the task, which is costly and burdensome for local umeboshi producers.

Sumitomo Heavy Industries Environment, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Heavy Industries, is engaged in water sewage and industrial wastewater treatment businesses. For its client Nakata Foods, a leading umeboshi producer, the company constructed a biogas power plant that uses the ume seasoning liquid effluent. Sumitomo Heavy Industries Environment developed the scheme jointly with Miyaso Chemical, a local industrial waste treatment and transportation company. As well as collecting and transporting the ume seasoning liquid from Nakata Foods and other umeboshi producers, Miyaso Chemical manages and operates the facilities. For its part, Sumitomo Heavy Industries Environment designed and installed the facilities, capitalizing on its long-cultivated water treatment technology.

Whereas much of the ume seasoning liquid had previously been discharged, at the new plant it is neutralized and its concentration adjusted, and then anaerobic wastewater treatment is applied. Furthermore, biogas that is a by-product of the treatment process is used for power generation. Under the feed-in tariff (FIT) program for renewable energy, the electricity is sold to recoup the cost of constructing the plant.

Although conventional wisdom has it that ume seasoning liquid’s high sugar content makes it unsuitable for anaerobic treatment, Sumitomo Heavy Industries Environment’s unique technology overcame this issue. Compared with conventional aerobic wastewater treatment, the treatment cost is slashed because the process is far less energy intensive and no excess sludge is produced. Kamitonda Town, where the plant is located, cooperated in terms of provision of the site for the plant and the well water necessary for the treatment. In fact, the entire community got behind the project, enthusiastically supporting the establishment of the plant. The biogas power plant treats the ume seasoning liquid effluent efficiently, thus minimizing the environmental impact and reducing the local industry’s burden.

Flow of treatment of ume seasoning liquid effluent

The plant started operation in April 2019. Initially, the plan calls for treatment of 8,000 tons out of about 60,000 tons of ume seasoning liquid effluent generated in Wakayama Prefecture per year. With an eye to sustainable community development, Sumitomo Heavy Industries Environment intends to bring the advantages of this technology to the attention of other local governments and industries facing similar challenges.

  • Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD): An index for water quality. The environmental standard for rivers is BOD of 1-10 mg per liter.
  • Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD): An index for water quality. The environmental standard for rivers is BOD of 1-10 mg per liter.

The Sumitomo Warehouse Co., Ltd.

Disaster-resistant warehouses reduce document storage risk in the event of typhoons, earthquakes, etc.

In Japan, a country frequently struck by typhoons and where earthquakes are an ever-present possibility, companies are increasingly aware of the risks posed by disasters and so business continuity planning (BCP) is considered indispensable. In the event of a disaster, in addition to the risk of death or injury and destruction of buildings and facilities, the safety of documents, including customer information and records of business activities, is put in jeopardy. Despite the progress of digitization of company documentation, many documents still need to be retained on paper. Sumitomo Warehouse offers storage services for safekeeping of these documents.

Sumitomo Warehouse offers services for storage and management of companies’ information assets, such as important documents (contracts, accounting-related documents, technical documents, etc.), medical records, films, and magnetic tapes, in highly secure warehouses. The company’s security measures for document storage warehouses include IC-card locks and electronic locks with biometric authentication functions, surveillance cameras, and security-controlled elevators. As attested by ISO 27001 certification, an international standard for information security management systems, Sumitomo Warehouse has put in place systems ensuring safe and secure storage for customers.
Hanyu Archives Warehouse No. 2’s comprehensive disaster-resistant facilities include a nitrogen gas fire extinguishing system.

Sumitomo Warehouse first launched a document storage service in the 1980s. In 1996, a year after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake struck Kobe and the surrounding area, the company began operation in Tokyo of Japan’s first purpose-built document storage facility with a seismically isolated structure. In 1998, it opened Hanyu Archives Warehouse No. 1 in Hanyu City, Saitama Prefecture. In 2012, one year on from the Great East Japan Earthquake, the company took secure document storage to the next level, opening Hanyu Archives Warehouse No. 2 equipped not only with a seismically isolated structure and a non-utility power generation unit for emergencies but also with a fire extinguishing system using nitrogen gas. And because these warehouses are temperature- and humidity-controlled, as well as paper documents, storage media such as magnetic tapes can be stored for a long time in the optimum environment.

Target customers are companies based in Tokyo and the surrounding area. Many companies are short of space for document storage because of high costs, including office rents, facilities cost, and labor cost. In addition, in the event of a major earthquake, for example, one whose epicenter is directly below Tokyo, a chaotic situation could arise given the risks of tsunami and fire. Moreover, in view of possible damage wrought by a storm surge attributable to a typhoon, many companies have reservations about the advisability of storing documents at their offices or warehouses in Tokyo. Since Hanyu City is about 60 km from central Tokyo, the warehouse should continue to operate as intended even if facilities in Tokyo are put out of action. And Hanyu City’s inland location rules out tsunami and storm surges, giving customers peace of mind. Whenever customers need documents held in storage, they can use Sumitomo Warehouse’s document delivery service and also its document digitization service to refer to their contents.

Sumitomo Warehouse’s document storage services underpin customers’ business continuity in the event of a disaster, thus contributing to development of a robust community, leading to a robust nation. Utilizing the company’s accumulated knowhow, construction of phase 3 of Hanyu Archives Warehouse No. 2 is underway, with service scheduled to start in September 2020. In addition, Sumitomo Warehouse is now constructing a document storage warehouse in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture, which is scheduled to open in April 2020 to serve companies in the Chukyo area centering on Nagoya. By opening a new warehouse equipped with sophisticated disaster-resistant functions in the Chukyo area, in addition to the one in Hanyu City, Sumitomo Warehouse will be able to help greater numbers of risk-conscious companies secure their documents in disaster-prone Japan.

Warehouse under construction in Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture (artist’s impression, leftabove). The location is within 20 km of central Nagoya (rightbelow). This new warehouse will be equipped with the same disaster-resistant functions and security facilities as Hanyu Archives Warehouse No. 2.
Seismic isolation pit under the floor of Hanyu Archives Warehouse No. 2 (left). As well as supporting the building, seismic isolation devices installed beneath pillars deform horizontally in the event of an earthquake to reduce vibration, thereby contributing to protection of valuable documents stored in the building (right). The same seismic isolation system is installed at the new warehouse in Inuyama City.

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd.

Novel automobile insurance using dedicated dashboard camera reduces traffic accidents to keep communities safe and secure

Reducing the number of traffic accidents is an important theme from the perspective of safe and secure community development. The spread of dashboard cameras to record various data during driving also reflects growing concern about road rage, which has become a focus of attention in recent years. Spotting the potential benefits of dashcams for traffic safety and security, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance developed a novel insurance product utilizing the telematics*1 technology that it has been working on for many years. This driving-behavior-based telematics automobile insurance product “GK Automobile insurance Mimamoru (drive recorder type)” was launched in January 2019 jointly with Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance.

This insurance product uses a dedicated dashcam with communication capabilities. The most notable characteristic is the accident emergency automated notification service. In the event of an accident, the dashcam automatically contacts the dedicated customer support desk and an operator offers the driver advice via the dashcam on how best to initially respond to the situation. Naturally, drivers tend to be upset if involved in an accident, but reassuring communication with an operator immediately after the accident helps allay the driver’s anxieties.

“GK Automobile insurance Mimamoru (drive recorder type)” is a service using an original dedicated driving recorder.

For an insurance company accustomed to offering intangible products, a tangible product in the form of a dedicated dashcam presented a new challenge. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance identified the required dashcam functions for the insurance product through painstaking deliberations, conducted a consumer questionnaire survey, held trials within the company, and interviewed a range of potential users. As a result, the company accorded the greatest emphasis to picture quality. With previous dashcams, a recurring problem has been picture quality so poor as to render the license plate of the other party in an accident illegible. Mindful of such cases, superior picture quality was pursued. The company also prioritized measures to prevent accidents by supporting drivers in ways that help them drive safely. The dashcam issues various alerts during driving, such as front collision warning, lane departure warning, and wrong-way driving warning. Although certain other insurance companies offer automobile insurance products utilizing dedicated dashcams, the superior picture quality and rich alert functions differentiate Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance from competitors.

If an impact*2 exceeding a certain threshold is detected because of an accident etc., the dedicated dashcam automatically sends information on the incident, including the video captured by the dashcam, to the dedicated customer support desk.

“GK Automobile insurance Mimamoru (drive recorder type)” has met with an enthusiastic response in the market. In just 12 months since its launch, 130,000 contracts have been concluded. Applications for this product are currently running at a rate of about 10,000 per month. A dedicated rear camera has also been developed as a road rage countermeasure and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance has established a referral system for policyholders who desire a rear camera.

In October 2019, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance entered into an agreement with Sabae City, Fukui Prefecture, to provide a safe driving program utilizing the dedicated dashcam with the objective of reducing accidents involving elderly drivers. Through such initiatives, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance aims to raise awareness about the vital role insurance products can play in promoting accident-free comfortable community development. Inspired by this business model, the company is continuing its efforts to make society a safer place based on such business model.

  • Telematics refers to the provision of various information and services via a communication system incorporated in mobility systems such as automobiles.
  • An impact exceeding a certain threshold is assumed to be an impact that makes it difficult to drive (e.g., collision with a wall at a speed of 30km/h or over).
  • Telematics refers to the provision of various information and services via a communication system incorporated in mobility systems such as automobiles.
  • An impact exceeding a certain threshold is assumed to be an impact that makes it difficult to drive (e.g., collision with a wall at a speed of 30km/h or over).

Sumitomo Realty & Development Co., Ltd.

Redevelopment to create vibrant disaster-resistant communities

Right: Sumitomo Fudosan Iidabashi First Building completed in the Koraku 2-chome East District redevelopment project (Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo). Upper left: Area before redevelopment (The district subject to redevelopment is in the red frame.) Lower left: Sumitomo Fudosan Iidabashi First Building viewed from the pre-redevelopment west district. The densely built-up district of wooden houses was crisscrossed by alleys.

Even in the central districts of Tokyo there is unused or underused land*, densely built-up quarters crisscrossed by alleys exposed to high disaster risks, and communities lacking vitality and frequented by few people. Individuals or residents’ associations acting alone cannot transform these areas. Sumitomo Realty & Development has vigorously engaged in urban redevelopment since the mid-1970s as a comprehensive developer coordinating the rights and interests of landowners, always with the aim of resolving the issues confronting communities and enriching their functions.

In pursuing redevelopment, Sumitomo Realty & Development emphasizes community co-creation hand in hand with the residents of communities. Through in-depth discussion with landowners to identify residents’ lifestyles and the issues confronting the community, the company endeavors to reach a consensus so as to promote community development aligned with the residents’ desires and aspirations while considering profitability.

Forming a consensus is the most time-consuming and challenging task because of the differing interests of the various parties involved. Starting with discussion with landowners, the company cultivates their understanding of the contemplated redevelopment, formulates a redevelopment plan, and executes the project. Always working with communities to resolve the issues they face, Sumitomo Realty & Development’s pursues urban redevelopment conducive to vibrant sustainable communities that offer residents’ safety and security and are frequented by many non-residents.

Two excellent examples of Sumitomo Realty & Development’s people-centric approach to urban redevelopment in central Tokyo are Koraku 2-chome East District and Koraku 2-chome West District in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, adjacent to JR Iidabashi Station. Fire could have spread easily in such a tightly packed area crisscrossed by alleys and the nearby river posed a risk of flooding. First proposing redevelopment of the east district under the Urban Renewal Act, the company held the first workshop with landowners in 1987, proposed the plan, listened to their opinions, and refined the plan in light of those opinions so as to resolve the issues etc. Although some landowners initially raised objection, the consent of all the landowners was eventually secured and the Sumitomo Fudosan Iidabashi First Building was completed in 2000, a complex of offices, residences, and commercial facilities. A densely built-up area of low-rise wooden houses exposed to high disaster risks was transformed into Japan’s first building equipped with seismic isolation devices installed between the upper and lower floors. Apartments on the upper floors were allocated to people who had been living in the area prior to redevelopment and those who had owned business in the area opened offices and shops on the lower floors. The residents resumed their lifestyles.

Sumitomo Fudosan Iidabashi First Tower completed in 2010 in the Koraku 2-chome West District redevelopment project. Shown on the left is Sumitomo Fudosan Iidabashi First Building completed in 2000.

This transformation of the adjacent east district led to greater momentum for redevelopment of the west district, spurring the project’s progress. Through redevelopment of the east and west districts, the area became not only safe and secure with low disaster risks but also vibrant both during the day and in the evening, as it attracted new residents and workers, thanks to the prime location in central Tokyo. Even after the completion of redevelopment projects, Sumitomo Realty & Development pursues initiatives for sustainable community development, including the holding of disaster drills in cooperation with residents and those working in the area, that emphasize maintenance, community enhancement, and regional vitalization.

Unlike development projects in which big old buildings are replaced by new ones, the urban redevelopment projects executed by Sumitomo Realty & Development under the Urban Renewal Act emphasize the transformation of communities vulnerable to disasters into disaster-resistant ones, optimal utilization of land, and sustainable community development to attract new people. Mindful that the districts of central Tokyo still include disaster-prone areas, Sumitomo Realty & Development will continue to pursue sustainable urban redevelopment.

  • Unused or underused land refers to “unused land” that has not been used for a long time although it should be used appropriately and “underused land” that is less used compared with other land in the surrounding area (frequency of use, level of improvement, management status, etc.). (Source: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism website)
  • Unused or underused land refers to “unused land” that has not been used for a long time although it should be used appropriately and “underused land” that is less used compared with other land in the surrounding area (frequency of use, level of improvement, management status, etc.). (Source: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism website)

Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co., Ltd.

Building Resilient Infrastructure with Precast Concrete Technology

Dinh Vu-Cat Hai Bridge on the Tan Vu-Lach Huyen Highway in Vietnam completed in 2017 was constructed with the precast concrete method. This sea-crossing bridge, connecting the airport and the city, has a strong potential to bring high economic value. The project was completed in less than half the construction period required had it been constructed with the cast-in-place concrete method.

In the 1980s, aging infrastructure such as deteriorating roads and bridges had a serious impact on the economy and people’s lives in the U.S. ‘America in Ruins: The Decaying Infrastructure’ written by Pat Choate and Susan Walter was among the bestselling book in Japan at the time. Five decades since the end of high economic growth, concerns about aging infrastructure pointed out in the book have been raised in Japan as well, and building a sustainable community has become a pressing issue.

Amid such circumstances, Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co., Ltd. (SMCC) has been focusing on the precast concrete method, which involves fabrication of concrete elements offsite that are then combined at construction sites. Compared to the cast-in-place concrete method applied at the construction site, merits such as quality stability, labor-saving, shorter construction period, energy-saving at the construction site, and minimizing dust, debris, and noise for the neighboring communities can be achieved.

SMCC embraced the precast concrete method at full scale in the early 1990s. As concrete fabrication technology progressed, high-strength concrete became suitable for high-rise buildings higher than 60 meters, which was considered difficult in the past. In particular, for buildings emphasizing better living conditions, such as super high-rise buildings, a Reinforced Concrete (RC) structure is more suitable than a Steel (S) structure owing to less vibration and superior fire resistance, and thus as demand for higher concrete strength increased, so did demand for the precast concrete method. Moreover, after the bursting of the economic bubble in Japan, and facing the decline in the number of skilled engineers specialized in the onsite casting of concrete, use of the precast concrete method increased in order to maintain quality while achieving labor-saving.

The precast concrete method called SQRIM (Sumitomo-Mitsui Quick RC Integration Method) is the current expertise of SMCC, a method in which the main structural elements such as joints of structural parts including columns and beams are fabricated as a single precast unit. Unlike wall parts that only block wind and rain, the structural elements such as columns and beams require sophisticated architectural designs including weight and dimensional designs. For example, in order to join a column and beams configured in a complicated manner, 20 steel rods, each 40 mm in diameter, must be precisely slotted into position without any deviation. Thus, SQRIM requires advanced technology throughput the process from the design stage to installation. Having its own in-house precast plant, SMCC has a great advantage. Handling the entire process all the way from the design stage to installation continually accumulates knowhow and thus enables accomplishment of the most complicated orders (construction).

Aramid FRP rod using Technora® (aramid fiber manufactured by Teijin Aramid) as tendons. Although the diameter of a fiber is less than that of a human hair, the strength of the aramid FRP rod is six times more than that of a steel rod of the same diameter.

Furthermore, through more than 10 years of joint research with expressway operator NEXCO-West, SMCC introduced a new precast method using a new material that can be applied to bridge construction. Use of the non-ferrous material called aramid fiber reinforced plastic (FRP), instead of steel rods, prevents the deterioration of concrete caused by antifreeze agents and airborne sea salt. This technology was developed with a view to minimizing the burden of the next generation since we face a decline in the number of workers and engineers due to the aging population and low birthrate. Aramid FRP is currently being applied in a bridge project on the Tokushima Expressway to construct a highly durable bridge. Once completed, this bridge will be a maintenance-free infrastructure and its technology is expected to attract great interest in Japan and overseas.

To improve productivity, SMCC is promoting development of PATRAC (Precast Automatic TRACing system), a next-generation production management system for integrated IoT-based management of precast elements at every phase from design and fabrication through distribution and installation. Capitalizing on a track record cultivated through successful construction projects, such as the 5.4-km Dinh Vu-Cat Hai Bridge of the Lach Huyen Port Infrastructure Construction Project in Vietnam and a petroleum refinery plant project in Malaysia, SMCC intends to further promote the precast concrete method so as to contribute to the construction of resilient infrastructure in Southeast Asia and in countries like Japan that are prone to earthquakes.

52-story super high-rise condominium building constructed using SQRIM. 17 patented technologies were applied in the construction of this building offering outstanding earthquake resistance and highly improved living conditions.
Plant construction project using SQRIM in Malaysia. The use of the precast concrete method made it possible to increase construction productivity threefold while reducing labor costs by two-thirds.