Origin of the word
The word renovate comes from the Latin word ‘renovatus’, the past participle of the verb ‘renovare’. The prefix ‘re-‘ means ‘again’ and the root word ‘novus’ means ‘new’. The word renovate originated in late Middle English sometime between 1400-1450.
Renovate is a verb that refers to the process of making something old look new. The word is typically used to describe the practice of returning a building or piece of property to a former state of good repair.
There is currently a great interest across the globe in restoring historic buildings and landmarks in an effort to preserve their significance. Even private homes are a part of this trend, with numerous television shows dedicated to documenting the process of home renovation. In Japan, however, the desire to renovate seems to be rather muted.
In many countries, homes tend to increase in value over time. This is not the case in Japan. In fact, most Japanese homes steadily depreciate and are almost totally without value after just 20 or 30 years. Vacated houses are demolished instead of being renovated, with new construction going up on the lot. According to a recent report in the Guardian, this so-called scrap-and-build method is unique to Japan and can be explained by a number of factors including cheap construction during the post-World War II housing boom, poor maintenance, and an ever-changing building code that attempts to improve earthquake safety.
In some regions of the country, however, the tide seems to be turning in favour of renovation. A population that is ageing and shrinking, more people moving to metropolitan areas, and Japan’s current economic lull are all contributing to a desire to renovate existing homes rather than invest in new construction.
“Everywhere from major metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Osaka to struggling mid-size cities to suburban housing estates, renovated buildings are an evolving niche in the property market, emblematic of the dramatic transformation underway in Japan.” – Guardian. 16th November 2017: ‘Raze, rebuild, repeat: why Japan knocks down its houses after 30 years.’
1. to make something old look new again by repairing and improving it, especially a building
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.