Eco-House, Machiya

Author: Wako Toyama

In this article, author says Machiya is very eco-friendly house.
Machiya  are traditional wooden townhouses found throughout Japan and typified in the historical capital of Kyoto.

Machiya is a long wooden home with narrow street frontage, and often containing one or more small courtyard gardens or tsuboniwa.The front of the building traditionally served as shop space.Behind this mise no ma (店の間, “shop space”), the remainder of the main building is divided into “living space”.

Why are they called Eco-House? It’s because Machiya are designed to live deliciously cool in summer without using electric power, or air conditioning fan.

But nowadays, Machiya are rapidly disappearing.

Between 1993 and 2003, over 20% of the machiya in Kyoto were demolished. Roughly forty percent of those demolished were replaced with new modern houses, and another 40% were replaced with high-rise apartment buildings, parking lots over 80% have suffered significant losses to the traditional appearance of their facades.

There are groups, however, which are taking action to protect and restore machiya in Kyoto. One such institution, the “Machiya Machizukuri Fund,” was established in 2005(two thousand and five)

The group works individual machiya owners to restore their buildings and to have them designated as “Structures of Landscape Importance” (景観重要建造物, keikan jūyō kenzōbutsu), under this designation, the structures are protected from demolition without the permission of the mayor of Kyoto.

I think we can learn eco-frindly systems from Machiya and apply it for constructing new house. And we have to restore Machiya because they are traditional houses and have very ‘green’ system.








One thought on “Eco-House, Machiya

  1. Certainly machiya have many ‘green’ elements to them, including their internal gardens and natural airflow that reduce the need for air conditioning in the winter. Windows and access to southern exposure in the winter also reduce the need for heating in the winter, due to passive solar gain.

    Of course, the other thing that is automatically ‘green’ about machiya is that they are pre-existing structures that require little or no new materials (reducing pressure on natural resources). Thought about this way, most old homes in Japan can be classified as ‘green’ to some extent. Any new construction will naturally require new materials (and demolition and dealing with the waste of the old), making it less ‘green.’

    The real challenge with machiya, though, is that although they comprise a very dense form of accommodations, they are not as dense as a high-rise apartment. If such a large building is constructed well and can last for many decades, and be relatively green with good insulation, airflow, etc, then the apartment building will eventually be ‘greener.’ The other aspect of this is that if more people wish to move in or near Kyoto, maintaining machiya necessarily means new residents will be forced to move to the suburbs, building new homes on former agricultural land. This is not at all ‘green’, and part of the blame can be placed on the machiya for maintaining a low population density amid a growing city. This is part of the reason why so many were destroyed in the first place. Although we may think all machiya are ‘green’, this is only the case if their existence does not cause numerous ‘non-green’ actions.

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