Wood In Architecture Issue 2, 2019

S aito Wood Industry, a wood product m a n u f a c t u r i n g company with 157 years of history, is certainly one of the early pioneers in glulam manufacturing in Japan. For the first 120 years, the company was a manufacturer of wooden tubs – for soaking and making sake, shoyu or miso. It was only in 1982 that its fourth-generation owner, Takeshi Saito, shifted into glulammanufacturing. The company has three factories; two in Nagato and one in Furumachi, all located in the Nagano prefecture. One of the two factories at Nagato manufactures structural glulam with non-standard dimensions that ranges from small to large dimension, straight or curved glulam using a variety of wood such as Japanese larch, Sugi, Hinoki and Saito Wood Industry An early pioneer in Japan’s glulam manufacturing industry By Szeto Hiu Yan The first glued laminated timber (glulam or GLT) structure built in Japan was more than 60 years ago 1 in Yotsuya, downtown Tokyo. While the idea of wood as a structural material entered mainstream in the 1990s, it wasn’t until the last 10 years that structural glulam took off on a greater scale. Douglas fir. The largest glulam dimension can go up to 250 mm in thickness, 24 metres in length and 1.2 metres in width. Onecanalsofindoneofthelargestpressing machines in Japan here, which has only been added to the factory three years ago. The second factory produces structural glulam with standard dimensions, producing small to medium straight glulam only using Japanese larch; the third factory in Furumachi manufactures pre-cut products, specifically the two types of joint systems used in framework construction for smaller scale building such as residences. The two joint systems refer to the traditional Japanese framework construction and the joint system using metal connectors. STEADY EXPANSION The capacity of Saito Wood Industry’s glulam manufacturing facilities has remained at approximately 3000 cubic metres per year for the past five years, supplying mainly for domestic projects. However, Takeshi is seeing more interest of late from neighbouring countries such as Taiwan and Korea, and it has been involved in one overseas project per year for the past five years. This will grow in the coming years, where he is looking at expanding exports steadily. “ I am looking at three buildings per year in Taiwan in the next few years. We have formed good relationships with some Taiwanese designers. Annual production capacity will reach its maximum of 5000 m 3 by then,” Takeshi said in Japanese. “We are not looking to expand drastically for now, as it will be difficult to focus while trying to increase volume. Also, we are still not sure if the market condition truly allows for expansion. However, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change has been helpful in boosting demand for wood materials,” Takeshi explained. Morever, the Japanese government has been actively promoting wood usage, Takeshi Saito, managing director of Saito Wood Industry Saito Wood Industry's glulam factory at Nagato 40 ISSUE 2 • 2019 • WOOD IN ARCHITECTURE