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International Conferences
Co-operation can happen remotely, but at some point we all need to meet and talk face to face. Since the Environmental Innovators Program began in 2011 we have held an annual conference aimed at bringing together as diverse a group as possible to talk and argue the issues related to climate change and resilience building in Asia, Africa, and the world.

Many of the conversations were especially interesting. While the presentations are always informative the casual format of discussion offers opportunity for insight that is not always available when we rely on presentations alone. We have taken that opportunity to heart and placed transcripts of the discussions here (Visitors Voice). Presentations and speaker lists are also available for each of the conferences in the links to the left.


AIAC (L’Atelier International de L’Architecture Construite )
Keio University’s Environmental Design students and professors were invited to join a group of international universities competing each year for the AIAC prize. We hosted 8 universities in Tokyo this spring (2013) and joined the final workshop in the fall, in Paris. This is an annual competition supported by UNESCO, and is a fantastic opportunity for students to see what architecture education is like in other parts of the world, and to test themselves with projects that literally are defined by their international scope. We will continue to update our efforts with this venture but in the meantime do take a look at our workshop website.




In the last decade the concept of resiliency has become a key topic in a remarkably broad field of study and activity. It’s influence is brought to bear on everything from economics and politics, to architecture and urban planning, policy, psychology, and population change. Its proliferation is perhaps best understood as a reflection of a shared concern about our capacity as governments and individuals to cope with and adapt to change, whatever its cause.

In Japan the context for resilience remains the ongoing recovery from the series of disasters that struck the northeast coast in March 2011, causing massive damage and loss of life as well as food and fuel shortages and nation-wide power outages. The disasasters also triggered an honest re-assesment of many of the policies and social standards the country has taken for granted for decades if not centuries. For some this is seen as an opportunity to create a more resilient society as part of the reconstruction process, but there is no clarity yet about which direction the reconstruction should go, and what resiliency might mean. Government practices and polices from before the disaster, as well as consumer behavior, architectural planning, disaster risk management, the use of technology, and even social and economic norms have all been challenged. But the question remains open as to whether we should be rebuilding defensively or if we might be better off aiming for a deeper transformation. As the recovery proceeds there is also growing uncertainty about where and how change can be implemented. At the same time, although these issues do not arise directly from global climate change, they share much with the problems expected from extreme weather events, as we are all too keenly reminded of by the recent storms, floods and related power outages experienced around the world. Coping with such extremes requires adaptation and a real transformantion of culture as well as resilience building.

Currenlty the largest gap is the one between assessment and action. While we understand the situation better and better, the way forward is still clouded. In the third annual Environmental Innovators symposium our aim is to clear some of the uncertainty about action and methods for building resilience by bringing together practitioners who are testing new methods and taking action in the field with significant projects. Our position is that while there can be no single answer it is innovation in practice that will allow us to accumulate the knowledge needed to realize transformative goals.

This symposium will focus on innovations in practice that advance transformation in relation to both climate change adaptation and resiliency. Issues we expect to address include short and long term plans, how to implement change, the need for small and large scale responses, the role of technology, policy innovation, and the advent of new methodologies.

The symposium will be treated as a series of intense workshops where knowledge is shared and created through presentations and discussion over the two day event. A publication of the presentations and discussions is planned after the event and we invite participants to share their ideas freely and to engage in a thougtful and lively discussion.


Practicing Adaptation in Northeast Asia
Development and Environmental Risk in Asia
Resiliency and Reconstruction in Architecture and Planning
Smart Society and Community-Based Energy Innovation

symposium 2011




   Over 150 presenters and participants gathered on December 16 and 17, 2011 to discuss the connections between disaster recovery and resilience building in the context of climate change.

From Post Disaster Reconstruction to the Creation of Resilient Societies

The second Environmental Innovators Symposium in Tokyo, hosted at Keio University’s Mita Campus on December 16 and 17, brought together more than 150 speakers and participants to discuss the creation of resilient society and the ways that communities and nations work to recover from disaster.

The annual Environmental Innovator’s PACC symposium was originally created to bring together practitioners and theorists who are focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation.  However, after the multiple disasters that hit the North-East coast of Japan in March, 2011 (an earthquake followed by a series of powerful tsunamis and a subsequent nuclear disaster) it became clear that many of the challenges faced in the recovery process were also found in projects designed to support climate change adaptation.  The possibility of learning from both practices therefore seemed highly appropriate.  Working from that insight we invited a diverse group of speakers and other participants to share their knowledge and to set the stage for building a network of like-minded practitioners and experts.


Though the symposium was relatively small we were able to bring together environmental leaders, representatives from governments, policy makers, climate scientists, architects and urban planners, environmental entrepreneurs, and students.  We were also very fortunate to have the keynote speech delivered by Dr. Young-Woo Park, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP).

Sessions Summary

The two-day event was divided into six sessions.  The first session was used to announce the appointment of Keio University as the North-East Regional Node for the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN).  The APAN program is organized by the United Nations in order to create a resource network and database that can be used to share knowledge and experiences around the globe amongst frontline workers and researchers who are taking on climate change adaptation.  For the session we were lucky to have the participation of several other regional and thematic nodes nodes (the Global Water Partnership South Asia, the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, and the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia) who explained their own efforts as well as presentations from research partners of Keio University whose members will form the backbone of the North-East regional Node. 

session3-small The presentations of all the sessions in many ways reflected the ambition of Keio University to gather like-minded practitioners and to build the network that APAN is calling for.  Taken as a whole, the symposium offered evidence that the network will have many willing partners.

Session Two was devoted to discussion about top-down and bottom up approaches to managing the devastation that earthquakes and other natural disasters inevitably bring, and ways to build a certain degree of resiliency into the system that is developed in response. Lessons were shared from recent disasters from all over the world, including the United States, China, Indonesia, and Japan.

Session three focused on the possible introduction of massive changes in energy production and consumption patterns in Japan.  In the wake of the nuclear disaster Japan still faces the challenge of imposing rolling blackouts to meet demand, while large institutions are asked to significantly curtail energy consumption.  The question remains unanswered for Japan as to which way the energy production system will be taken.  Presenters in the session offered renewable alternatives but the possibility that status quo solutions will prevail remains large.

The fourth session considered the challenges and opportunities in the creation of resilient societies in the face of massive disasters in Asian regions, and looked at examples from Myanmar to Indonesia, Taiwan and Mongolia.  Presenters offered us a look at how communities are dealing with disaster at the local level, and the impact those activities are having on the larger scale.  We were also introduced to the discrepancies attached to gender and other social issues in the ways that disaster response is carried out and supported.  Perhaps of all the session this one truly underlined the need for local knowledge and the effect that society has on building capacity or hindering its creation in the face of climate change and disaster. fifth session was devoted to exposition of recent projects undertaken by students at Keio University and introduced several theoretical structures to be used in the education of future environmental leaders. It was followed by the results of a 24 hour workshop that asked a group of students to map out and integrate the various factors that contribute to and limit the process of creating a resilient society in the wake of disaster.

 Their presentation was remarkably complete for a mere 24 hour effort and indicated how hard they worked while the symposium went on around them.      Their efforts underlined quite powerfully the speed with which we are able to integrate ideas and issues in order to reach a goal, and also underlined the need to bring students into the process of finding solutions.  student.workshop.presentation-smallThis is a role that Keio University is quite capable of fulfilling and is in fact devoted to carrying out in the form of the Environmental Innovators Program.  The student presentation was concluded by a short session that brought together all of the participants to discuss future directions for the symposium and for the network that the presenters and guests represented.



Conclusions and Questions

The content of the symposium was designed to be broad in order to bring together as varied a group of practitioners as possible.  In light of this breadth it is perhaps not a surprise that the participants confirmed the need for synergy across question3-smallbroad areas of expertise and abilities in the face of climate change or natural disasters. During the course of the two-day event we learned about disaster reconstruction in very different contexts, discussed the role of green energy in building resiliency, and heard a variety of presentations about risks and adaptation practices in Asia-Pacific countries, from nomadic cultures in arid Mongolian plateaus to Coastal issues in the Southern ocean archipelago.  The specific needs in each area were naturally unique, and yet we learned of a shared need to build capacity and good practices and to create an infrastructure for sharing knowledge. In order to take on that practice a certain amount of synergy is urgently required. That need can perhaps only be met through the development of leaders and capacity builders in all of the regions affected in our discussions.  We imagine that some leaders will emerge naturally but also that education could and should play a role in fostering their development.

It was similarly pointed out in the final group discussion that we may be more effective if our efforts are conducted in partnership with entrepreneurs and business people as well as with government and community groups.

In the end the symposium demonstrated the potential and capacity of the invited guests and particpants, and pointed towards a future in which all of these members would work together in a larger network of practitioners and specialists to take on disaster issues as well as climate change.  For our part we were inspired by the collaboration of our faculty members in the projects they showed and also by the capacity the students showed in the 24 hour workshop and other projects, and hope to take that energy further in the creation of a broad collaborative network with international organizations and expertise.  We look forward to exploring the development of that potential capacity as we look to new ways to take on the challenges presented to us and to the world as climate change and natural disasters test the ability of both communities and nations to create a resilient foundation to build a future.




EI Symposium 2010

Programs and Actions on Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change in Higher Education

The first Environmental Innovators Symposium in Tokyo, hosted at Keio University’s Mita Campus, was a success both for the content presented and for the connections and the discussions that developed between presenters and participants.

On December 17th and 18th, 2010 close to 200 participants gathered to discuss the role of higher education in the global effort to mitigate against Climate Change and to adapt to its effects. The goal of the symposium was to bring together a diverse group of participants from many fields, and in that regard we were particularly successful. Participants included representatives from government, environmental leaders, policy makers, climate scientists, architects and urban planners, environmental entrepreneurs, and students, all currently active in countries in Asia and Africa.

During the two day event several questions evolved during discussion, including:

  1. what is the role of so-called first world knowledge in educating the students of developing nations?
  2. What is the benefit of hands-on experience in educating students about climate change?
  3. What is the appropriate balance between local and global activity?

The answers to these questions remain elusive but the discussions that evolved around them could become useful starting points for further examination. It was particularly interesting to see a growing awareness of the different points of view and indeed of the differing problems faced by the participants, many of whom come from countries separated by large economic and social gaps.

Each day of the symposium had a distinct flavor.
On day one the presentations focused on a broad group of topics related to climate change, highlighting the variety of approaches that educators and practitioners are taking in light of the complexity and scale of the problem.
Many experts have come to understand that mediation of climate change is a global problem and therefore will take some time to unravel - simply bringing all of the actors to the same table to discuss the issues has proved a contentious issue. Adaptation on the other hand is local and somewhat easier to take on even with small groups. It is perhaps unsurprising that many of the presentations and discussions at the symposium revolved around issues related to adaptation, including techniques being used and the problems that are faced at the local level. How universities respond to the emerging trend seems likely to become an indicator for success at least in the near future. It may be that a certain amount of fresh thinking is required. Based on the topics raised in the symposium there is already a movement in that direction amongst various groups both inside and outside of academia. One novel example presented at the symposium included the work of an insurance company that is offering climate change insurance to farmers, which suggests that the economic realm is possibly beginning to catch up and even move ahead of the evidence of climate change on the ground.

On day two of the symposium topics were more focused on environmental design, in large part because the day was used to support the first gathering of the International Keio Institute for Architecture and Urbanism (IKI) ( was a particularly special event because two Pritzker prize winners agreed to take part as president barack obama recently pointed out the Pritzker is the Nobel prize of architecture : namely Mr. Fumihiko Maki and Ms. Kazuyo Sejima. Both have global practices and they added a particularly unique viewpoint to the proceedings.

The day was organized around a series of workshops that included many lively discussions. Perhaps because of the diversity of the group involved the debate often returned to issues of local fit and the appropriateness of architects and planners working in countries that are not their own.

Additionally discussion often turned around the role of architecture and planning as tools to affect social change and to reduce energy use. How architects can be taught to create resiliency was also a common theme. In this aspect the projects presented were compelling and positive, however it was also clear that the typical approach to construction, especially in booming economies such as china, has not yet come to a place where such themes are in the mainstream.