National Stadium Tokyo Wood Building, Tropical Forest Timber at Japanese 2020 Arena, News
New National Stadium Tokyo Timber
Tropical Forest Plywood at Sports Arena Building in Japan by Kengo Kuma Architect
20 May 2017
Tropical Forest Timber at New National Stadium Tokyo
Plywood at site of new Tokyo Olympic Stadium
Design: Kengo Kuma & Associates
Forest logging company: Shin Yang, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia
Urgent investigation required as use of plywood likely linked to tropical forest destruction and human rights abuses found at construction site of new Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
Ironically the building uses a lot of wood so it can fit into the wooden context, but thereby destroying woods in Borneo, in what appears to be an unssustainable way.
Citing a significant breach of the commitment to a sustainable 2020 Olympics, Japanese and international environmental groups recently called for an urgent independent investigation of the use of tropical formwork plywood that appears to originate from the notorious Malaysian logging company, Shin Yang, in the construction of the new National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Olympic organizers have been repeatedly informed about the high risk of using illegal and unsustainable timber for Olympic construction.
In December 2016, just days before construction started on the new Olympic Stadium, over 40 environment groups delivered a letter to the IOC warning that efforts by the Tokyo Olympic organizers and the Japanese government were inadequate to ensure the timber used for the Olympic construction would be legal and sustainable.
NGOs maintained that failure to promptly mitigate the risks by requiring robust due diligence measures on the timber used for the Olympics could result in harm to biodiversity, the climate and local communities.
On April 3rd, investigators found tropical plywood being used to mould concrete for the Stadium construction with markings that appear to belong to Shin Yang. The markings resemble other Shin Yang produced plywood sold in Japan. Use of tropical plywood at the Stadium site was again confirmed on April 18th.
Shin Yang is notorious as one of the ‘Big Six’ logging companies of Sarawak, Malaysia, where illegal logging is widespread and the destruction of forests is one of the most extreme cases in the world. Shin Yang has been systematically logging and clearing pristine rainforest, including a large area in the transboundary conservation area known as the Heart of Borneo. In 2016, it was found to be clear cutting over 40 football pitches of intact rainforests a day.
Local communities and former employees of the company have independently alleged that Shin Yang hires armed gangsters to intimidate and assault those who voice concerns or act against the company’s interests. Shin Yang is implicated in human rights abuses affecting Indigenous People who claim customary rights to forest. . The “E-panel” marking on the plywood found at the construction site does not guarantee environmental sustainability or freedom from human rights abuses.
“Shin Yang is one of the most notorious exploiters of Sarawak’s tropical forests, and plywood from this company would fail to meet any sustainability criteria. Use of Shin Yang plywood would be a clear breach of Japan’s commitment to host a sustainable Olympics. ” said Peg Putt of Markets for Change.
“To use Shing Yang timber products is to deprive the vulnerable Indigenous Penan and Iban peoples of their customary rights, livelihoods, and cultural practices,” said Nicholas Mujah of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association.
An additional concern is that the Tokyo Olympics Organising Committee has allowed a loophole in its wood products procurement policy that exempts formwork plywood used to mould concrete from environmental sustainability and human rights standards.
The only policy that is applied is the extremely weak legality provisions of the Green Purchasing Law which has been repeatedly criticized for allowing wood at high risk of illegality to be imported into Japan as “legal wood”.
“The National Stadium is a building constructed by the National Government and should be a place of national pride, but given the weak social and environmental standards being applied to the Olympic construction and the preliminary evidence that wood from a rogue company is being used, we fear this could be a scandal for the Olympics and Japan.” said Junichi Mishiba of Friends of the Earth Japan. “This evidence demands an urgent investigation into how the Olympic organizers are procuring timber for the Olympics and immediate adoption of stronger measures to ensure the timber is legal, sustainable, and not associated with human rights abuses.”
The environment groups are seeking an explanation from Japanese Olympics authorities and an open investigation to be conducted by a credible third party environmental auditor. The groups urged that until the issue is resolved, no more tropical plywood should be utilised on site.
 See, for example, Global Witness, Two Worlds Collide, Dec. 2014, https://www.globalwitness.org/olympics/, and Global Witness, Japan’s links to rainforest destruction in Malaysia: Risks to a Sustainable 2020 Olympics, Dec. 2015, https://www.globalwitness.org/ru/reports/shinyang/
 Global Witness, Japan’s links to Rainforest Destruction in Malaysia
 SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia), Report On Penan In Ulu Belaga: Right To Land And Socio- Economic Development, http://www.suhakam.org.my/wp- content/uploads/2014/01/PS08_Pem.Tanah_ecosoc090108.pdf
 Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber, https://tokyo2020.jp/en/games/sustainability/data/sus-wcode-timber-EN.pdf
 Mari Momii, Chatham House, Trade in Illegal Timber: The Response in Japan, Nov. 2014, https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/trade-illegal-timber-response-japan
source: Tokyo’s wooden Olympic stadium using timber linked to rights abuses Reuters article in full
Ed – having worked in architects offices for 30 years I have found certification for hardwood tends to be fairly easy to check (typically the FSC certification is stated in the specification clauses and the contractor will provide documentation accordingly). However plywood is a difficult area with a real lack of accountability. Architects and Project Managers need to be more aware of this and exercise firm control, but they also need strong back-up from relevant authorities across the globe. It shouldn’t be the case that we rely on sustainability organisations and campaign groups to tidy up after our industry!
Adrian Welch, architect & Editor.
previously on e-architect:
21 Apr 2017
Unethical Tropical Forest Plywood at New National Stadium Tokyo by Kengo Kuma
Tokyo’s wooden Olympic stadium using timber linked to rights abuses
Timber from a Malaysian logging giant accused of deforestation and human rights violations is being used to construct the wooden stadium that will be the centerpiece of Tokyo’s Olympic Games, said a group of charities.
An investigation by the charities this month twice found plywood from Sarawak-based Shin Yang at the National Stadium construction site – a breach of Japan’s pledge to host a sustainable Olympics in 2020, according to seven environmental and rights organizations.
Shin Yang, one of the “big six” logging companies on the Malaysian part of Borneo, has systematically cleared pristine rainforest from the Southeast Asian island, said a statement by charities, including Global Witness and Rainforest Action Network, released on Thursday.
Tokyo’s Olympic stadium will be constructed around an unusual set of wooden lattices – a design conceived by architect Kengo Kuma to harmonize with a forest of oak and camphor trees surrounding the nearby Meiji shrine in the Japanese capital.
According to a 2015 report by Global Witness, Shin Yang has cut down over 40 hectares of forest a day on Borneo, where half the plywood used in Japan’s building and furniture industries is produced.
Shin Yang is involved in a decade-long conflict in the central part of Malaysian Borneo, with the Penan indigenous minority. Community leaders told investigators for a 2014 report by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia that forest clearance to create palm oil plantations violated their rights to traditional lands on which they depend for their livelihoods.
“Shin Yang is one of the most notorious exploiters of Sarawak’s tropical forests, and plywood from this company would fail to meet any sustainability criteria,” said Peg Putt, head of Markets for Change, one of charities.
The International Olympic Committee had agreed on a Sustainable Sourcing Code for Timber with Tokyo Metropolitan Government and National Government to assure venues for the games met ethical standards.
Japan Sport Council (JSC), the government body in charge of building Olympic competition venues, said Shin Yang timber was being used.
But both JSC and Taisei, the building company leading the stadium’s construction, told Thomson Reuters Foundation all timber on site meets requirements laid out in the code.
Hana Heineken of Rainforest Action Network said a provision in the code exempted cheap plywood used to shape concrete from the sustainable sourcing regulations.
According to the report from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Shin Yang deforestation threatened local communities’ ability to continue traditional ways of life in the forest, and recommended the government step in to protect the Penans, one of the country’s most marginalized groups.
source: Tokyo’s wooden Olympic stadium using timber linked to rights abuses Reuters article in full
17 + 16 Jan 2016
Tokyo Olympic Stadium Architect Denies Plagiarising Zaha Hadid
Kengo Kuma defends his design:
Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium architect Kengo Kuma rejects accusations that he stole the design from Zaha Hadid, reports The Guardian today.
This picks up on some details mentioned in The Telegraph, 13 Jan 2016, “geometry of the stadium bowl, the ground level spectators’ entrance, the internal planning, structural layout, landscape design, access strategies, service access and other components are considered to be virtually identical to the original design.”
At a press conference in Tokyo on Friday. Kengo Kuma also denies that discrimination against foreigners had played a part in the decision to scrap the Zaha Hadid design.
The accusation is not new, but has been fleshed out and made official by ZHA’s issued report. Back on 22nd December 2015 we reported that Zaha was claiming the Kengo Kuma design has a similar shape and layout to ZHA’s proposal:
The architect said there were “remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration with those of the design announced today.”
The background to this is that Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (and other celebrated designers such as Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki and Sou Fujimoto) criticised Zaha’s original design.
Also consider the logistics: ZHA worked on the project for two years, while Kengo Kuma had just 14 weeks to devise a design. As an architect (working in studios since 1987) 14 weeks would be tight to properly design a house or small office. To design a major stadium building in that time is frankly preposterous.
For reference: New National Stadium Tokyo Design by Zaha Hadid Architects, published September 18, 2015 ; updated on November 4, 2015:
Reference: Fumihiko Maki: Architect, “Why Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium Should be Scrapped”, published on 4 Feb 2014:
In an article dated 17 Jan 2016 The Guardian says, “The most withering criticism has come from the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki….In a long open letter sent to the Japan Sports Council (JSC) in November, the 83-year-old said Hadid’s design looked like “a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away….The sight left me in despair….If the stadium gets built the way it is, Tokyo will surely be burdened with a gigantic white elephant.”
15 Jan 2016
Controversy Over New Olympic Stadium in Tokyo Design by Zaha Hadid Architects
The organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are refusing to pay a British architect for her designs for its main stadium unless she gives up the copyright and signs what amounts to a gagging order, it has been claimed.
15 + 22 Dec 2015
New National Stadium Tokyo Winning Design
Winning Design Proposals for New Olympic Stadium in Tokyo
Architect Kengo Kuma has been selected for Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium
After scrapping the first design in July, the government picked a less-costly and greenery-rich plan by architect Kengo Kuma for the new National Stadium that will serve as the centerpiece of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The winning proposal, formerly known as design A, was submitted by a joint venture comprised of an architect, construction firm Taisei Corp. and construction support firm Azusa Sekkei Co.
Statement by Zaha Hadid on New Olympic Stadium in Tokyo Design
22 Dec – “We were honoured to be selected to design a stadium that would enable Japan to welcome the world for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and bring the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo, before becoming a new home for Japanese sport for many future generations.”
“Sadly the Japanese authorities, with the support of some of those from our own profession in Japan, have colluded to close the doors on the project to the world.”
“This shocking treatment of an international design and engineering team, as well as the respected Japanese design companies with whom we worked, was not about design or budget. In fact much of our two years of detailed design work and the cost savings we recommended have been validated by the remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration with those of the design announced today.”
“Work would already be underway building the stadium if the original design team had simply been able to develop this original design, avoiding the increased costs of an 18 month delay and risk that it may not be ready in time for the 2020 Games.”
Zaha Hadid Architects have not been able to secure a construction company in its consortium and therefore announce that they are unable to enter the competition.”
Zaha Hadid Architects: “It is disappointing that the two years of work and investment in the existing design for a new National Stadium for Japan cannot be further developed to meet the new brief through the new design competition.
Kasumigaoka National Stadium Tokyo information received from ZHA
Kasumigaoka National Stadium Tokyo by ZHA – 27 May 2014
Location: Kasumigaoka National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
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