FAQ

Questions and answers about our professional services & construction in Japan.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN

MASTER PLANNING

DUE DILIGENCE

WELL DEVELOPMENT

CONSULTING

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    General

    COSTS

    Projects’ construction & other expenses

    SCHEDULE

    Before and during construction

    APPROVALS

    … and regulation

    DESIGN

    Architecture & civil engineering

    CONSTRUCTION

    Building in Japan and related risks

    COMPLETION

    Furnishing, utilities & handover

    Costs

    Besides the construction, what are the other expenses?

    Land costs: acquisition, holding cost…
    Professional fees: project management, design, survey, thermal calculations, interior design, FF&E procurement, subdivisions… Count 5~15% of the construction cost.
    FF&E (furniture, fixture & equipment) Count 5~15% of the construction cost.
    Approval fees
    We propose integrated project management + design package services, that reduce your professional fees.

    What is the cost of building in Japan?

    The Japanese construction industry uses the Tsubo unit, which is approximately 3.3 m².
    Here are common construction costs for buildings in Niseko area, depending on the type of structure.
    Timber house: at least 1,000,000 JPY/tsubo
    Steel or reinforced concrete building: at least 1,100,000 JPY/tsubo
    These cost are including 10% consumption tax, but do not include special works like landscaping, septic tank, fences, heated driveways…
    Cost can easily go up 2 to 3 times these for resort properties.
    Construction costs have increased significantly in 2021 and continue to increase in 2022.
    For up-to-date estimations, don’t hesitate to
    contact us.

    What are items that can add to the construction cost?

    Additional costs are generally related to design features and land conditions.
    Design features
    Structure type (steel and reinforced structure more expensive than timber),
    Basement
    Landscaping works,
    Imported and custom made furniture, finishes & equipment,
    Land conditions
    Piling works (when the soil is not good),
    Septic tanks (when no access to sewage),
    Well (if no water supply),
    Retaining walls (sloped land),
    Storm pond (land developments),
    Underground infrastructure (power, onsen… for land developments).

    Schedule

    How long does it take to build in Japan?

    For houses (up to 3~4 floors) and civil works, most projects can be built between 2 winters in Hokkaido.
    Commercial buildings usually take 2 to 3 years.
    Earthworks and piling foundation works may also lengthen the construction time.

    What are the phases of a building construction project?

    1. Initiation: preparation of the design brief, initial budget and schedule, engagement of architect.
    2. Concept phase: Up to sign-off on the general design concept.
    3. Schematic design: Up to sign-off on floor plan layouts and general design.
    4. Design development: Preparation of the building approval and construction drawings.
    5. Building approval.
    6. Pricing: request for proposal or quotation, value engineering, negotiations, contract.
    7. Construction.
    8. Final inspections.
    9. Builder handover.
    10. Utility connections
    11. Building registration
    12. FF&E (furniture, fixture & equipment) installation.
    13. Business license applications.

    When is it possible to build in Hokkaido?

    It is technically possible to build year-round.
    But practically, most constructions start after snow melts (April or May) and try to finish before snow re-starts (October or November).
    When possible, we try to avoid winter works, as they increase costs (heating) and decrease quality (concrete…)

    Approvals & Regulation

    What does a developer need to sell a construction project in Japan?

    If a Development Approval (land development) or a Building Approval is required for a construction project, the developer must acquire such approval in order to have the right to advertise or sell the building(s) or lands.
    In addition, even if there is a local real estate broker, such developer must have valid Japanese real estate license to do so.

    Can a foreign architect apply for the Building Approval in Japan?

    Unless they hold a Japanese architect office license, foreign architects cannot apply for building approvals in Japan; the owner must separately appoint a local architectural firm.
    The local architect should be engaged as soon as possible, as the Japanese construction regulation is often grey and many regulations and zonings apply to Niseko area: Forest Law, Town Planning law, Natural Park law and local regulation.
    We have experience with all the different regulations and can efficiently assist your foreign concept architect, through Consulting, Due Diligence or Architectural Design services.

    How strict are the Japanese development and construction regulations?

    The Japanese regulation is not as strict as in Western countries. However, it is also not as detailed, with many grey areas and several different regulations and zonings.

    Design

    How long does it take to design a building in Japan?

    The design process is broken into 3 phases; the duration of each phase depends on the complexity of the project:
    Concept design – 1 to 2 months
    Schematic design2 to 6 months
    Design development2 to 6 months
    Overall, design takes in general 5 to 12 months.
    In addition, Building Approval can take up to 2~3 months.

    How much design is required for the Building Approval?

    In most cases, the Building Approval requires the structural drawings and calculation, as well as firefighting equipment‘s drawings (smoke ventilation, fire alarm, smoke detection system…), which amounts to approximately 80% of the design development.
    Practically, this means that, at the time of the application for Building Approval, design development is completed in Japanese projects.
    In this case, the Building Approval examination period coincides with the building’s quotation time.

    What type of designers are required for construction projects in Japan?

    For buildings, at least an architectural firm qualified in Japan is required, which usually outsources the structural and MEP (Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing) engineering.
    For larger and more complicated projects, designers can be appointed for interior design (hotel, etc…), landscaping, signage, lighting, etc…
    Large scale retail projects can also separately require a specialist.
    For land developments, a qualified Japanese civil engineer must be engaged when a Development Approval is required. Electrical and mechanical engineering consultants must be engaged separately to design underground power and water or onsen supply facilities. A landscaping architect may be required for the landscaping design too.
    We provide design services for architectural design and master planning. We also provide project management service during which we assist you in selecting suitable designers.

    Construction

    How should I select the builder for my construction project in Japan?

    The simple answer is it depends on the complexity of the project.
    For simple buildings (houses), we recommend a preferred builder approach, although tender is possible.
    However, for larger projects, when cost estimation is difficult, putting builders in competition through a tender helps getting better prices.
    In this case, the process can take 1 to 2 more months.
    We have worked with many builders, local to international and can assist you in the selection.

    Can I import construction finishes and equipment for my project in Japan?

    Yes. Most builders in Niseko are now used to installing construction products procured by the client, however, in this case, they do not provide a warranty on those products.
    This can be particularly beneficial when it comes to tiles and stones, as they can be expensive and the lineup limited in Japan.
    However caution must be taken when it comes to sanitaryware (faucets, showers, sinks…), which may require to be compliant with the Japanese regulation, or built-in furniture, which can be expensive to install or have compatibility problems.
    You should have your project manager confirm with the builder in advance.

    What are the risks for construction projects in Japan?

    Most risks on construction projects in Japan come from the land conditions.
    For buildings:
    Quality or quantity of wells’ water (onsen and/or drinking water),
    Additional costs for foundation (expensive piling works).
    For land developments:
    – Inappropriate rejection point for waste water,
    – Inappropriate road connection,
    – Not enough water supply.
    Sometimes the building’s structural calculations assume that the roof be frequently cleared of snow.
    Earthquakes should not be considered risks for new constructions, as most buildings require seismic structural calculations.

    Does my Japanese builder need to have a business license?

    Japanese builders must have a valid business license to execute the following works:
    General contractor: total construction cost of 15 mJPY or more
    General contractor: timber house with total floor area of 150 m² or more
    Subcontractor: construction cost of 5 mJPY or more
    In addition, a Special Builder Business License (特定建設業許可) is required for general contractors who contract to subcontractors 40 mJPY or more (60 mJPY for the totality of the works).
    (Construction costs inclusive of consumption tax)
    If you happen to engage a builder that doesn’t have the proper business license, the risk varies from is the builder not being able to complete your building to the builder going bankrupt (no recourse for your in case of litigation).
    You can check your builder’s license here for Hokkaido.

    Completion

    What are FF&E and OS&E?

    FF&E stands for Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment. For most building projects, it includes:
    Window coverings (rarely included in the construction works),
    Furniture,
    Electric appliances (refrigerator, TVs, microwave oven…),
    Lamps,
    Kitchenware,
    We provide FF&E procurement management as a separate service linked to project management. This service can include management of the shipping of these goods from abroad, purchase of Japanese items, management of the installation…
    OS&E stands for Operating Supplies and Equipment and is most often related to hotel developments (towels, linen, POS…). They are normally taken care by the operation staff that open the hotel.

    Can I import furniture and other FF&E items for my building project in Japan?

    Furniture can be freely imported in most cases.
    Rugs and window coverings (blinds, curtains, roll screens…) may however be subject to firefighting regulation. Similarly, because of the electrical norms, electric appliances usually.
    When importing, you must keep in mind that shipping and custom clearance can take up to 3 months.

    Are all construction works completed at the time of handover?

    Design & construct projects are relatively simple and have few defects around the completion of the buildings. However, for higher grade properties, because of their complexity and the oftentimes tight schedule, some defects may remain. This can be avoided by lengthening the defect repair period prior to the handover.
    In particular, air conditioning rarely can properly be checked at the handover of buildings, as this often happens before or during winter. For the same reason, exterior works, like landscaping, driveways… can be pushed to the following spring.


    Services

    PROJECT
    MANAGEMENT

    Land or building developments, homes…

    ARCHITECTURAL
    DESIGN

    Concept , design development, supervision

    MASTER
    PLANNING

    For land developments

    DUE
    DILIGENCE

    Regulation check & volume studies

    WELL
    DEVELOPMENT

    Onsen, drinking water & infrastructure

    CONSULTING

    Regulation, technical check, preliminary studies


    Project Management

    Does a project manager need to be qualified to work in Japan?

    Project management in Japan is still a new and growing professional field; there is currently no qualification required to manage projects in Japan.
    ABD Architecture LLC is the only project management company in Niseko and Furano that has in-house PMP (Project Management Professional), which is one of the most internationally recognized qualifications.

    Can we engage your for project management service without design services?

    Although we propose a combined project management and architectural design service, we have no issue working with your preferred architect.

    What is included in the standard management services?

    Our services include:
    Project initiation (Project Scope Statement, Work Breakdown Structure, original budget and schedule),
    Communications management (meetings, emails, meeting minutes, project documents, translations, project management reports…),
    Schedule management,
    Cost management,
    Procurement management (request for proposals, quotations, analysis & comparisons, invoices, check work completion)…,
    Design management (surveys, design check…),
    Construction management (site visits, & checks, defects…),
    Change management,
    Risk management,
    Handover.

    What items are not included in your standard project management services?

    Cost estimations
    FF&E management – We propose it separately; the reason being the amount of FF&E management varies from one project to another.
    Consulting – This is a separate service.

    Can you manage projects anywhere in Japan?

    Yes.
    We provide project management services outside of Hokkaido.

    Can a project manager take on construction works or architectural design in Japan?

    Without a builder license or architect office license, a project management company cannot take on construction works or architectural design services.
    As a registered architect office, we can take on architectural design in Japan.

    How do you check the construction site and report on it?

    We check the construction site at least bi-weekly to weekly and send you a site visit’s photo report.

    What are a PMP (Project Management Professionals)'s values?

    Values from PMI (Project Management Institute)’s Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct for PMP are: honesty, responsibility, respect and fairness.


    Architectural Design

    What is your standard scope of architectural design services?

    Concept design
    Schematic design
    Design development
    Structural engineering
    Mechanical and Electrical engineering
    Finishes & equipment list
    Construction supervision
    – Construction supervision’s final report
    The following items are not part of the standard architectural design services:
    Landscaping design
    Interior design
    Energy saving calculation
    Civil engineering
    Signage design
    Lighting fixture design
    Don’t hesitate to contact us for more detailed scope of services.

    What is construction supervision and do I need it?

    In Japan, when building works require a Building Approval, the owner must also appoint a licensed architect to supervise the construction. In this case, the architect checks that the building is done as per the design documents and, at the end of the construction, must submit a final report. For your convenience, construction supervision is included in our standard architectural design service (unless otherwise specified).
    Note also that in this case, the architect is a signing party of the construction contract.

    Where is the copyright of the architectural design vested?

    The copyright of the design is vested with the architect.
    Unless otherwise prescribed, the design by an architect only allows the client to build one property.

    Can you design anywhere in Japan?

    Yes, we’re qualified to work anywhere in Japan and take on projects in areas outside Hokkaido.

    Are there architectural design's standard fees?

    Yes. The Japanese Architect Law requires architects to makes their best efforts to apply the standard design fees for architectural design and construction supervision.
    Contact us for an estimation of standard design fees.

    What is the statement of important matters?

    Much like realtors, architects in Japan must provide to their client prior to any contract a written statement of important matters that describes the remuneration, payment terms, but also details of outsourced services, methods for supervision services…, for design and/or supervision services.
    The architect must also explain the content of this statement to the client.

    Do Japanese architects have a professional liability assurance?

    The Japanese Architect Law only recommends architects to subscribe to a liability assurance.
    We recommend that you check if your architect is covered for the design services.


    Master Planning

    What items are not included in the standard master planning design services?

    We offer the following services as options:
    Civil engineering
    Landscaping design
    Mechanical engineering
    Electrical engineering
    Project Management of the construction works
    Architectural design

    What types of approval are required for land developments?

    TOWN PLANNING LAW
    Outside of (Quasi-)Town Planning Zoning: development land of 10,000 m² or more
    Quasi-Town Planning Zoning: development land of 3,000 m² or more
    Town Planning Zoning – outside of Building Use District: development land of 3,000 m² or more
    Town Planning Zoning – Building Use District: development land of 1,000 m² or more (or smaller in some areas)
    Town Planning Zoning – Restricted district: any land development
    Subdivisions with infrastructure works and land use change may qualify as land development.
    FOREST LAW
    Any land development that touches more than 10,000 m² of forest.
    NATURAL PARK LAW
    Depending on the size and type of development, an approval may be required.
    FARM LAW
    Needs approval for purchases.
    Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

    What are the different phases of civil works?

    1. Master plan
    2. Civil engineering (including consultations with the authorities and utility providers)
    3. Building design (if required for the Development Approval)
    4. Development Approval
    5. Civil works
    6. Building works (including Building Approvals)
    Wells may be required, check our well development service.

    How useful drone surveys are?

    We have helped several clients identifying issues on their land early thanks to our preliminary drone surveys, and have produced temporary topographical surveys for concept design purpose, for lands of up to several hectares.
    Note however that the quality of drone surveys varies and can be greatly reduced by trees and snow.
    Don’t hesitate to contact us to know if we our drone survey service applies to your site.

    Does your architect's license allow you to design master plans?

    Yes. It allows us to design master plans and concept design of any building size.

    Do you have an approval to fly your drone?

    Yes, we have an approval that allows us to fly drones in the following conditions:
    DID (Densely Inhabited District)
    – Within 30 m of buildings, people, vehicles, etc…
    Night
    Outside of sight


    Due Diligence

    What is included in the standard scopes of services for due diligence?

    Standard scope services
    – Land title search
    – Land visit & check
    – Existing site conditions
    – Zoning confirmation
    – Applicable regulations
    – Applicable approvals
    – Risks & issues
    – List of development restrictions
    – All relevant documents
    Optional scope of service (tailored to your needs):
    – Drone survey mapping
    – Drone photo or video shooting
    – Volume study
    – Master schedule draft
    – Budgeting
    The scope of services is based on the project’s needs.

    How important is the master schedule?

    A carefully written master schedule will allow to avoid rework of the design, identify critical tasks, and assess a tight, yet realistic path to complete your project. It works as a road map for your project, reduces its risks and increases its chances of success.
    It also helps you establish your budget’s funding requirements.

    Why do you propose volume studies with the due diligence service?

    Although not in the standard scope of works, we usually recommend one or several volume studies.
    Volume studies increase visual and numerical understandings of a site’s possibilities and allows for feasibility studies based on master schedule and draft budget .

    What are frequent issues for development projects in Japan?

    To name a few, we have the experience of cases with creeks crossing a site and requiring a bridge, boundaries off by a meter, encroachments, and boundaries that cannot be confirmed because of unknown neighbors, buried archaeological properties
    For land developments, many issues may arise because of the Development Approval, starting with road connection and rejection of used water. it is critical to identify and resolve them early in the project.
    In Niseko area, the local regulation is different from the rest of Japan, and Natural Park Law, Town Planning Law, Forest Law… may apply, each requiring a different type of approval.


    Well development

    Why is it recommended to drill a well early on?

    Flow rate and water quality of a well are not guaranteed and can restrict the size of a project or require additional mechanical equipment (filters, tanks…). The sooner they are known, the sooner the project can be adjusted and unnecessary re-design costs avoided.
    Onsen drilling works and their approval can easily take one year, and, if not started early, can delay an entire project.

    What approvals are required for well developments?

    DRINKING WATER
    Depending on their location and size, wells can require a drilling approval. In addition, for large facilities or land developments, a lengthy water supply approval may be required.
    ONSEN
    Onsen wells require separate approvals for drilling, installation of the pump inside the well and business license(s). Onsen drilling approval can take 4 months and the drilling works 5 months (for 800~1000 m) but can be delayed depending on the drilling company’s availability.
    Note that some areas in Niseko now that restricts on onsen wells’ drillings.
    Don’t hesitate to contact us to enquire about your site’s conditions.

    What type of temporary works can be required for well drillings works?

    Drilling works require a construction platform flat enough for storing material. A temporary road may also be required for the transportation of drilling material and the drilling rig.
    Onsen wells require bigger construction platforms and stronger roads than drinking water wells.
    We organize these works for your convenience.

    How are flow rate or water quality checked?

    They are checked with pumping tests and laboratory water quality tests respectively. This happens after the drilling works but before the installation of the well’s pipe. The composition of the well’s pipe is also determined by the pumping tests.
    We make sure that these tests are performed and the results explained to you.

    What defines an onsen?

    The Japanese word “onsen'” literally means hot spring and also refers to the related traditional bathing facility found throughout Japan, often inside hotels. These facilities have gained popularity with foreigners and the word is now commonly used by foreigners.
    Most of the new onsens are created by drilling a well, which depth depends on the soil’s layers and temperature and their location.
    The Japanese Onsen Law defines an onsen as springs with a temperature of 25°C or more or has at least one mineral element above a minimum value.


    Consulting

    What are your areas of expertise for consulting services?

    We specialize in consulting services for any regulatory and technical matter related to construction, development or real estate for projects or properties in Japan. We have an intimate understanding of the relevant regulations (Town Planning Law, Building Standard Law, Real Estate Law, Forest Law, Hotel Business Law, Onsen Law, Natural Park Law…
    We base our expertise on our broad knowledge of the regulations and 15 years of project management experience in Japan and our in-house bilingual qualified architect and real estate licensee, and bilingual civil engineering & structural engineer.
    For more comprehensive assessments, don’t hesitate to check our Due Diligence services.

    How much of you consulting services do you subcontract?

    In most cases, because of our in-house knowledge and experience, direct consultations with the authorities and bilingual abilities, we do not subcontract our work to third parties.
    Only for complicated matters outside of our direct expertise, do we partner with Japanese experts.

    What type of issues have you resolved?

    STRATA BUILDING
    We have resolved issues of strata buildings in a phased development, where Building Standard Code and Real Estate Registration Law apply. This allowed the developer to develop the project as originally intended.
    PUBLIC ROAD WORKS FOR LAND DEVELOPMENT
    In this case, we negotiated with the authorities at different levels and jurisdictions where the Town Planning Law and Building Standard Law applies and the Japanese civil engineer and architect had issues understanding the relationship between those regulations. The developer was able to avoid building unnecessary public road works.
    STRUCTURAL DESIGN
    We negotiated directly with the architect’s structural engineer to get the aesthetical outcome the client desired.
    ONSEN SUPPLY
    We worked with the mechanical engineering consultant to provide a solution to the onsen water supply for a land development.

    What type of preliminary land studies can you organize?

    We can organize all preliminary studies and advise you on the scope of works:
    Topographical survey
    Boundary survey
    Geotechnical survey
    Amalgamation registration
    Subdivision registration
    – …
    For onsen or water well developments (drilling and subsequent engineering and works), check our Well Development service.