FUKUOKA His grandmother lost her vision and he had the idea. A sidewalk made from asphalt could be replaced by something that is safer for visually impaired people. It was also eco-friendly, as it was made with wood.
Kyushu UniversityAssociate Prof. Akihiko higuchi is currently leading a team that refines a sidewalk it made using wood from cedar tree trees. This is done to prevent the visually impaired from entering roads by having the sidewalk produce a different sound than asphalt when struck with a cane.
The project also incorporates United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It uses wood and makes the underlying beams out of recycled plastic bottle caps. The cedar planks are placed on top of the beams to create a cavern underneath the walkway. This enhances the sound of the walkway such as the tap of a cane.
Cedar is soft and provides a different experience than asphalt.
Higuchi, a landscape designer, began his research in 2007 after his grandmother lost their sight due to an eye disease. The team initially created a sidewalk with a rough surface but it was no different from a regular sidewalk. The team decided to try a wooden deck-style sidewalk and it worked. Cedar was chosen because it is relatively easy and affordable.
The experiment involved 101 visually impaired people tapping on three sidewalk-like structures using their canes. One was made out of concrete, one from asphalt, and one was made out of cedar. Ninety-eight could discern the difference in sound.
Another test of prototype sidewalks showed that none of them went beyond the cedar sidewalk into the road.
Chizuko, a Fukuoka participant, claimed that she had an incident on the sidewalk last year. She lost her senses of direction when she tried to navigate around a car parked on a sidewalk and didn’t notice when she walked into the street. A passerby called “Watch out!” The passerby called Watch out! and pulled her back.
It is easy to recognize because I tap it, Hashiguchi said. It is also quite different while walking. I would notice the difference if I stepped on it.
She said that she hoped it would be built in streets that are close to public transportation routes.
The wood’s durability was a problem as cedar is susceptible to insects and rot. Kyushu University’s technology was used to inject resin into cells to strengthen cell walls. This can prevent decay for up to 20 years, according to studies.
The Fukuoka Prefectural government and Kyushu Mokuzai Kougyou Co. partnered to make the technology practical. They are a company located in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture that specializes both in timber preservation and in insect-proofing. Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture, which is a World Heritage site, was renovated using the technology.
Officials from Kyushu Mokuzai proudly claim that wood processed using the technology is no different to concrete or stone.
Higuchi points to the fact that asphalt production costs are twice as high, but that it has the advantage of being able to replace damaged sections.
The prefectural government began studies to implement wooden sidewalks and inspected the prototype at Kyushu University at end of last year. A government official said that they will investigate durability in areas where cars are likely to cross over it as well as maintenance issues. If we can find the right places, we will use it.
Storing carbon dioxide
The sidewalks are a benefit from the standpoint of SDGs because they capture carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and store it as wood.
According to calculations by Higuchi’s team, a sidewalk made of cedar wood that is four meters wide and 100 metres long would weigh in at 5.6 tons. From the atmospheric carbon dioxide that was captured during tree growth, 2.8 tonnes is carbon.
It can be said that wood sidewalks store carbon dioxide taken from the air. Higuchi stated that unlike concrete and asphalt, which require large amounts of energy and emit carbon dioxide during manufacturing, wood sidewalks can be placed more often to combat global warming.
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