Cool techniques beat heat during games


TOKYO >> Coronavirus isn’t the only problem Japan is tackling to protect the Tokyo Olympics. Summer heat is another threat and various efforts have been made to protect athletes, staff and visitors from heat stroke.

Here are a few big and small ways the Japanese are doing just that.

Architectural design

The National Stadium in Shinjuku District, the main venue for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, was designed with an emphasis on heat relief.

“We designed the stadium with the wind in mind,” said Hisao Kawano of Taisei Corp., one of the companies involved in the construction of the stadium.

Since air conditioning is not an option in a stadium, the design team focused on the southeast wind, which intensifies in the area in the summer.

Large wooden eaves, “kaze no obisashi”, built into the upper stands, guide the wind into the stadium and allow the airflow to dissipate heat and moisture from the playing field and the seating areas. In winter, the design blocks cold winds blowing from the northwest.

Kawano’s team divided the eaves into 17 sections and used simulations to determine the appropriate spacing between the pieces of wood for each section. The maximum ventilation also helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“A stadium reflects the time and society when it was built,” said Kawano.

Tradition and technology

“Uchimizu” – spraying a street with water to reduce the summer heat – is a centuries-old cooling technique that is still widely used in Japan. Temperatures drop as the water evaporates.

Uchimizu became a popular subject in haiku poems and was depicted in ukiyo-e woodblock prints during the Edo period (1603-1867). Today it is a tradition to receive guests.

A modern, high-tech version of Uchimizu uses artificially created fog, in which tiny particles of water are sprayed at lower temperatures.

There is science in the size of the particles; if they are too big people get wet. Panasonic Corp.’s new fogging system installed in a square in a Tokyo train station avoids the problem entirely. Special nozzles create tiny water particles that make people feel cool but not wet. According to the company, misted air feels about 12.6 degrees cooler.

The system was also installed in Odaiba along Tokyo Bay, where the triathlon will be held.

“Spray has a strong cooling effect that uses little power,” said a Panasonic representative. “We have high hopes that it will be suitable for the infrastructure of future cities.”

Made in the shade

In the summer heat of Tokyo, shade is an oasis.

Green Tokyo Kenkyukai developed an online system called Tokyo Oasis that enables smartphone users to search for routes with lots of shade and shade so they can stay cool while walking.

The system’s database contains the heights of buildings and trees covering nearly 300 acres in Tokyo’s Otemachi, Marunouchi, and Yurakucho districts to calculate shaded and shaded areas hourly based on the movement of the sun.

When a user is looking for a route to an “oasis” with lots of greenery and other recreational features, a map shows a route that passes through shaded areas.

In the meantime, Toray Industries offers another way to stay in the shade. The company has developed Summer Shield, a three-layer fabric for parasols that offers 100% light and 99% UV protection. Parasols made from the material have a cooling effect 7 degrees higher than ordinary parasols, according to the company.

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