Chairman Tokyo Institute of Technology, Professor, Satoshi Yamada
Can you tell us more about Tokyo Tech's involvement in SOFTech, particularly in relation to the university's strengths?
Yamada: The Urban Disaster Prevention Research Core at the IIR's FIRST, which is where I am, started from a group that conducted research on disaster prevention based on experience from the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Centers of Excellent (COE) Program and the Global COE (GCOE) Program, the former Tokyo Tech Center for Urban Earthquake Engineering (CUEE) works on the mitigation of large-scale disasters such as those we are seeing with increased frequency around the globe. As I mentioned before, because the impact is significant when urban areas are hit by natural disasters, we included "urban earthquake engineering" in the name. Japan, in particular, experiences frequent earthquakes, but continues to maintain functionality in metropolitan areas where the risk of damage is great. Therefore, Tokyo Tech researchers with extensive experience in urban earthquake engineering invited researchers at Tohoku University, University of Tokyo and Kobe University to take part in applying to OPERA and participate in SOFTech.
Kazuhiko Kasai, co-chairman of SOFTech and specially appointed professor at FIRST, has worked on the international standardization of large-scale experiment devices used in the area of safety verification for seismic devices, which I mentioned earlier. He is an authority on high-rise buildings, base isolation, and vibration control technologies and has a long history of involvement in COE, GCOE, and other projects. With cooperation from Kasai and many other outstanding researchers, SOFTech promotes interdisciplinary collaboration to solve priority issues beyond the boundaries of individual universities and companies.
What are SOFTech's short-, mid- and long-term goals?
Yamada: Our short-term goal is to improve existing technologies related to earthquake resistance, base isolation, and vibration control. Furthermore, since the Great East Japan Earthquake, there has been a strong push to design buildings that, in addition to ensuring the safety of the occupants, also safeguard functionality and continuity of operations. High-rises and other large-scale structures in urban areas are also required to function as shelters during times of disaster. Therefore, we are prioritizing development of technologies to produce non-structural building components that are resistant to damage from natural disasters, thereby shortening the time required for recovery of essential functions.