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A Japanese Brewery's Zero-Waste Philosophy Goes Beyond Not Wasting Beer

If beer fans had to venture a guess where one could find a new eco-conscious brewery, the Pacific Northwest would be a likely response. It would take a real expert to guess Kamikatsu, home of the new, eco-conscious Rise & Win Brewery. A recently launched microbrewery near the eastern end of Japan's Shikoku Island, the new company repurposed a faded local department store, transforming the commercial center into a brewpub and BBQ spot amidst the forested landscape. Decorated with old windows and bottles, it's a fitting adaptive reuse project in a town that abides by an aggressive zero-waste policy (trash is sorted into nearly three dozen different bins). Curbed spoke to the architect of the building, Hiroshi Nakamura of NAP Architects, about the design and build process.

Can you tell us about Kamikatsu—what's the area like, and how is the landscape reflected in the design?
"Kamikatsu, a town in Katsuura District, Tokushima Prefecture, suffers all the problems particular to hilly and mountainous regions in Japan, such as depopulation, a falling birthrate, an aging population, and the decline of forestry. Meanwhile, it still possesses rural landscapes that show people living and working in a beautiful coexistence with nature. Kamikatsu's terraced rice fields, established on slopes between high mountains and deep valleys, have been acknowledged as a Cultural Landscape and one of the best 100 terraced rice field regions in Japan. Seeking to form a sustainable and independent recycling-oriented society while protecting its beautiful landscapes, Kamikatsu has implemented a "zero-waste" policy. Having no garbage incinerator, the town is already achieving an 80% recycling rate by separating garbage into 34 categories. Its efforts have captured widespread attention to the degree that delegations from regional governments in Japan and abroad have visited for observation. We designed the symbolic façade which is visible as soon as you exit the tunnel and enter the city of Kamikatsu. The architecture is designed to become a symbol for the zero-waste campaign, which is being promoted by the city of Kamikatsu. A scheme of a private enterprise (SPEC Bio Laboratory, Inc.), inspired by the town's efforts, the enterprise felt that, in order to truly achieve zero-waste, a paradigm shift was needed in the early stage of product commercialization, distribution, and sales. To realize its vision, it sought out the cooperation of creative people in various fields."

How does the building take the town's zero-waste policy to heart?
"We actively used the waste materials from the garbage station, the core facility of the zero-waste policy. We reduced the generation of waste due to the demolition of the building by getting ahold of parts of the dismantled building, as well as furniture. In addition, we also used brick tiles that were damaged during the manufacturing process and could not be sold as commodity."

What were the inspiration for the building's shape and design?
"In order to make the process from raw material and production to consumption visible as one sequence, we aligned facilities side-by-side in the same room. Therefore, we lined up the process, from the material storage and decomposition of the raw material for beer, to fermentation, filtration, and at last, bottling with the bar and the shop. Then we gathered fittings which were about to be disposed as waste, and created a stained glass-like façade."

What reused materials did you use for the building? Where did you source the construction materials?
"We used parts of the demolished building, wood produced in Kamikatsu, lumber materials and brick tiles for the exterior materials, and also wooden fixtures, fittings, and furniture from deserted houses for the furniture.These materials were provided by acquaintances of the owner and people that support the zero-waste movement in Kamikatsu."


Is the whole brewing operation zero-waste? What are the byproducts of beer-making used for
"The brewery re-uses the peels of a citrus speciality from Kamikatsu, called yukou, to add the flavor of Leuven White to the beer. The peels would otherwise be thrown away after being squeezed to make fruit juice. They process the by-products of malt that are produced during the making of beer into powder form and use them as an ingredient to make confections, such as granola. The by-products of malt and hops are used as raw materials for organic fertilizers by local contract farmers. Additionally, they are doing research on how to use these fertilizers to grow wheat that can be used as raw material for the beer."

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