HAT Kobe -- Happy Active Town Kobe, constructed to house people left homeless by the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake / Jamie Barras - Flickr Creative Commons

Seismic resistance enhancement programs for buildings

In 2001, the Hyogo Prefectural Government (Hyogo) devised a building seismic enhancement project and at the same time Hyogo carried out seismic renovation works on school buildings and other public buildings previously examined and found to require higher seismic resistance. Under the “Hyogo Prefecture Earthquake Resistant Building Renovation Enhancement Project” formulated in March 2007, Hyogo has been promoting its seismic enhancement efforts with the further aim of raising the seismic resistant building ratio to 92% by 2015 for public buildings such as schools, hospitals and social welfare facilities, as well as private sector buildings.

Case study

Seismic resistance enhancement programs for Buildings (HFA Priority 4)

As for seismic reinforcement for private houses, Hyogo has been providing citizens with subsidies for their seismic renovation and actual work costs under its “Seismic Retrofitting to My House Program.” Interest subsidies have also been continuously given to any citizen carrying out seismic renovation work through a bank loan.

Moreover, the “Hyogo Small and Medium Sized Corporation Loan System” has been providing low-interest loans to businesses conducting disaster prevention-related programmes such as more earthquake resistant building renovations.


In the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (GHAE), disaster victims evacuated to nearby primary, junior high and senior high schools as well as government buildings, in search of safe places. However, some of the evacuation shelters suffered damage, forcing the evacuees to relocate to other facilities in response to the risk of secondary disaster damage occurring due to aftershocks. Even some of the evacuation shelters were used without safety level verification.

Many of the public buildings such as government offices and hospitals were damaged by the earthquake, and due to the collapse of Kobe City Hall Building 2, Kobe City West Hospital and the Hyogo Police Station, they could not serve as emergency and restoration activity facilities.

While the human damage caused by the collapse of buildings was significant, most of the severely damaged buildings were identified as wood frame houses built before May 1981 under former earthquake resistance building standards. This made earthquake resistance enhancement for old houses a highly important challenge for Hyogo.

Coping Strategy

As a means of dealing with a large-scale earthquake, the Japanese Government established the “Act on Special Measures for Earthquake Disaster Countermeasures” in June 1995. Under this act, each of the prefectural governments formulated a “5-Year Earthquake Disaster Emergency Project,” dealing with facilities requiring urgent development for earthquake disaster prevention purposes. For their projects aimed at earthquake resistant renovation work for public buildings including fire-fighting facilities and public primary schools, the Japanese Government took the move to increase the national subsidy.

Moreover, as part of its prefectural initiatives, Hyogo implemented the “Seismic Retrofitting My House Program” to give subsidies to local citizens for the cost of formulating planning and for the actual work costs related to their seismic renovations. 

Hyogo has been using the “Hyogo Small and Medium Sized Corporation Loan System” (“System Loan”) to provide loans at low preferential interest rates to those businesses conducting disaster prevention-related programs such as seismic renovations.


The aims of this financial assistance are to:

  • Achieve the targeted earthquake resistant level for government buildings in Hyogo Prefecture (90% as of 2015).
  • Provide subsidies for the costs of 2,977 building renovation projects for earthquake resistance (from 2003 to 2013).
  • Extend loans to small- to medium-sized companies during 2013, amounting to 800 million yen to 39 companies.

Measuring Success

As a result of this programme the ratio of earthquake resistant private houses, which stood at 78% in 2003, reached 82.4% in 2008 in Hyogo, according to an interim review conducted in the same year. 

Potential for Replication

Since the earthquake resistant level of buildings varies according to national and regional cultures and environment profiles, such factors need to be considered as a first step when determining the seismic building standards for a given local government. Given that performing seismic renovation work on an existing building needs significant cost, such programmes can be done on the condition that citizens and the government can afford to bear the cost.

Information of Contact Person

Mr.Masahiko Murata – Director, Research Department

Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution (DRI)

1-5-2 Wakinohama-kaigandori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, 651-0073, Japan

Tel: +81-78-262-5065 / Fax: +81-78-262-5082

Mail: murata1@dri.ne.jp


Mr.Naoki Nakatsu

Chief, Disaster Management Project Planning Division,

Disaster Management & Planning Bureau,

Civil Policy Planning & Administration Department

5-10-1 Shimoyamate-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, 650-8567, Japan

Tel: +81-78-362-9870 / Fax: +81-78-362-9914

Mail: naoki_nakatsu@pref.hyogo.lg.jp