If you happen to pass by the Akasaka Prince Hotel in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on a regular basis, you might notice something odd. If you pay close attention, it appears to be getting smaller. But that can’t be possible because buildings don’t shrink, right?
Photo by mookE
Buildings don’t usually quietly shrink floor by floor, but the Japanese company Taisei Corp may be changing that. It has developed a new demolition process called Tecorep–Taisei Ecological Reproduction System–that tears down buildings without people even noticing. It’s faster, safer, quieter and more environmentally friendly than the traditional wrecking ball or blow-stuff-up methods.
Collapsing on the inside
It’s exciting when a new building goes up, but you don’t see folks from all over Japan crowding into the Chiyoda Ward taking snapshots, pointing and going, ‘Look! You can almost notice how it’s gotten just slightly smaller from last week!’ But once you know that the hotel is shrinking floor by floor, it’s pretty amazing.
The Akasaka Prince Hotel is quietly collapsing on the inside. Demolition workers started at the top and they’re working their way down. They put in temporary columns and reinforced the top floor with steel beams to create a kind of adjustable lid. After an electric-powered crane removes all the material from each floor, the top floor and roof are lowered using massive jacks. From outside, it looks like there’s nothing funny going on, except for the hotel getting 6.4 meters smaller every ten days.
There is dust and noise but not much and it’s mostly inside the building. The Tecorep process reduces dust by as much as 90% and noise by 17 to 23 decibels. According to Taisei’s head of construction development Hideki Ichihara, carbon emissions are reduced by 85%. Whenever possible, the materials removed from inside the building are recycled.
The future of building demolition
This is an ideal solution for a city like Tokyo, where buildings are so closely crammed together that in some places you can stretch your arms and touch two buildings. In this kind of urban Tetris game, it’s hard to tear down buildings with all the dust, noise and mess traditional demolition methods produce. There’s also the fact that demolition jobs don’t always go as expected.
The Akasaka Prince Hotel is only the second building to quietly and unassumingly shrink and disappear. But the shrinking method is likely to be used a lot in the coming decade, when a number of 100-meter-plus buildings will reach ‘old age’ and need to be torn down.
The hotel was originally 40 stories. On January 8th when reporters were invited to witness the process firsthand, it was down to 31. By the end of spring 2013, the Akasaka Prince Hotel will have quietly disappeared.