This large bathroom is fully equipped with exercise equipment and TV set. The entertainment center is
operable from the tub.
The Crumes: Can you give an example of how
changing conditions might affect how we live in
Mr. Shiba: In Japan, the population as a whole
is getting older as many residents approach
retirement age, and at the same time the birth
rate is declining. As a society like ours ages, its
housing needs also change. Older adults tend
to spend more time indoors and need less space
than when they were younger, raising a family.
Also, many older adults have mobility problems that require wide hallways and open floor
plans. The living configuration for an older adult
is much different from that of a young family,
where everyone wants their own space. The open
building approach runs contrary to the anonymity and uniformity found in many of today’s contemporary living environments.
The Crumes: As a striking example of modern architecture in the midst of Japan’s second-largest city, was it difficult for NEXT21 to
achieve harmony with the surrounding urban
Mr. Shiba: The diverse architectures and
lifestyles of a large urban area make city life
more interesting and meaningful. To create a
structure that blends into these surroundings,
NEXT21 includes public spaces, elevated walkways, stairs, corridors, an elevator and even private gardens outside of the apartment units. We
refer to this configuration as a three-dimensional
street. Large ecological gardens are located on
the ground level and rooftop. Also, apartments
are individualized, each with a unique floor plan
and exterior design that is visible from the street.
Thirteen architects individually designed our 18
living units, and some residents participated in
the design of their units before moving in. The
result is a variety of unique interior floor plans
and exterior motifs reflecting different lifestyles
and tastes, just like the surrounding city.
The Crumes: How is your facility powered?
Mr. Shiba: NEXT21 is powered by natural gas, and it was the first residential housing
complex in Japan to use fuel cells as the primary
source of energy. Heat generated by the fuel
Above, individual apartments “hang” separately
within a framework carrying all utility lines. Apartments can therefore be modified individually.
Below, the ecological garden as seen from an
Over time, changing social, cultural, and political conditions
affect housing needs — buildings must be able to
adapt to these changing conditions
cells is fed to an absorption chiller-heater that
provides both chilled and heated water for apartment cooling and space heating, plus domestic
hot water needs. Direct current electricity from
the 100-kilowatt fuel cells operates the facility’s elevator and fluorescent lighting in common spaces like corridors. An inverter located
at each apartment unit converts direct current
to alternating current for household appliance
use. Additional electric power is provided by
7.5-kilowatts of photovoltaic cells located on the
roof. The electricity generated on-site is stored in
The Crumes: What about the handling of
waste from the kitchen and bathroom?
Mr. Shiba: Perishable kitchen refuse is
ground in a sink-mounted disposer and sent
to a miniature waste disposal plant located in