Tour Menarco Tower: The First WELL Certified Building In The Philippines

The Menarco Tower in Manila has incorporated a variety of design elements meant to promote the wellbeing of its occupants.

Internationally recognized for its best practices on health, safety, and sustainability, Menarco Tower is a 32-story, multi-awarded, premium office building designed to showcase cultural heritage through Filipino ingenuity. Southeast Asia’s healthiest and safest building is situated on the main street in Bonifacio Global City, and Menarco proudly stands as the first and only WELL Gold and LEED Gold certified development in the region. Its main entrance is along 32nd Street, a prominent spot of diverse development from foreign to local institutional office buildings.

Menarco’s four basement levels house full parking requirements of vehicles – with special parking for green vehicles and bicycles. The building’s support facilities and utilities, such as a materials recovery facility for recycling and Bokashi composting are prioritized to reach Menarco’s zero waste goal for 2021.

The Ground Floor’s retail spaces enjoy double volume ceilings, allowing natural illumination for its tenants. Continuity of the wood fin façade envelops through the Main Lobby and is flanked by natural stone walls, contributing to the organic feel.

Office spaces comprise the tower with about 1,228 square meters per floor. A range of single tenants to a maximum of four (4) tenant spaces are accommodated per floor with a maximum population density of 8.0 square meters per person. A 4 meter slab-to-slab height and a 2.80 meters clear floor-to-ceiling height for each floor provide ample room for built in ventilation systems and fresh air circulation. Offices have provisions for pantry areas with potable water better than WHO requirements, multiple data and telecom service providers, and dedicated reinforced areas for server rooms.

Menarco is clad with a double glazed, curtain wall system which mostly comprises an IGU system for both viewing panels and spandrel panels, and parapet glass walls with an innovative wood fin accent. The well-appropriated glass thicknesses and systems limit tropical heat from entering, thus reducing the air-conditioning load to achieve optimum thermal comfort in the office environment. Tenants enjoy sunshine without the heat and lower utility costs.

Menarco Tower also provides sustainable features such as landscape forms at the podium deck which utilize grey water harvested from air-conditioning condensate drains and captured rainwater for maintenance and irrigation. Smart systems are adopted within the building, as well as efficient toilet and lighting fixtures. This endeavor aids the project in its objective to be a green structure without diminishing its aesthetic value.

As a healthy building, Menarco’s fire stair case uniquely allows sunshine in, creating a space for free exercise. Along with encouraging movement through its dedicated wellness floor, Menarco’s Pandan Garden features indigenous herbs that are served as life giving tea on Monday afternoons to its tenants.

When was the project completed?

Menarco Tower was completed in 2017.

How many SF per person?

Menarco Tower has a density ratio of 86 SF per person. However, Menarco has seen some like-minded tenants provide their workers up to 300 sq ft per person.

How many employees work here?

Home to local and international companies, Menarco Tower was designed to accommodate a maximum of 2,600 occupants.

What is average daily population?

Menarco Tower’s daily population, prior to quarantine implementation, was around 1,300. The number has been reduced to 250 as many businesses shifted to a work from home arrangement.

Is there a remote work or work from home policy? If so, what percent of employees are remote workers?

To address health and safety concerns, remote work is still the current set-up for Menarco Development Corporation specifically. A rotational reporting schedule is implemented allowing 70-80% to work from home. This figure is consistent with the tenants of Menarco Tower, as we have seen 20% reporting to the offices.

Describe the work space type.

Menarco Tower offers a combination of mostly open space workstations with a few enclosed type cubicles including casual work areas.

Generally turned over as bare shell spaces, tenants are given the opportunity to execute a lay-out that’s most apt to their respective organizations.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

Dedicated meeting spaces are available at each of the tenants’ offices.

Menarco Tower generously provides an alternative venue for meetings and concentrated work. The 8th floor, a 1,000 sqm (10,000 sq ft) dedicated community space, provides the workers with conducive areas for campfires and caves. The Yard and The Banaba Conference Room for larger gatherings and even intimate conferences, respectively. Nourishing food choices are available, as are coffee, tea, and home cooked meals.

Menarco believes that meetings need not be formal. Ideas are generated through informal settings, so a play area with an air hockey table is provided for employees who may want to play and talk. Creative juices are stimulated in the Yard as there is a space for Philippine Contemporary Art to be interacted with — promoting expression of thought or a release of feelings.

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

At the Menarco Corporate Office, we have a large open area with a pantry that has potable water supply (which is unusual in 3rd world countries that rely on bottle water deliveries). The entire office is populated with greens and designed to allow natural light to be enjoyed while working, promoting natural circadian rhythms and better sleep at night.

Each elevator lobby floor showcases museum quality, Philippine Contemporary Art. Curated by an internationally recognized group, creating the Menarco Vertical Museum, which is envisioned to be a commentary on Philippine history and culture — mirroring the thrust of Bonifacio Global City, as a city of the arts.

On the 8F of the building is a community space called The Yard where healthy food options are served and adjacent to it is an edible garden called The Pandan Terrace where guests can relax and breathe fresh air. The outdoor space allows them to experience greenery in the middle of the city while taking in the view of the surrounding area.

On the 9th level is the Wellness floor designated for health services and fitness classes.

Has the project achieved any special certifications?

The Menarco Tower is the first and only corporate office tower in Southeast Asia to be double certified with LEED™ Gold certified, WELL™ Certified Gold, and 2nd in the world to achieve the WELL™ Health-Safety Rating.

What is the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

Conveniently situated along 32nd Street, Menarco Tower is highly accessible, with a Walk® Score of 99%. It is highly accessible to bikers and pedestrians, being at the center of the city and close to Bonifacio Global City (BGC) bus stops.

It is located less than 800-meter walking distance from Track 30th, a park with a jogging path and Turf BGC, a community football field.

Other points of interest and leisure within the vicinity include restaurants, cafes, bars, and museums. For shopping and recreation, you can walk two blocks south to Bonifacio High Street, or proceed east to Uptown Mall, SM Aura, or Market! Market!

How is the space changing/adapting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • Even before preventive measures were heightened, Menarco Tower had prioritized the health and safety of its occupants as part of its ethos. It is the first developer in Southeast Asia to achieve WELL Health-Safety Rating, and the second in the world.
  • Safety protocols are strictly, yet gently followed in Menarco Tower and reminders are also flashed in strategic spots around the building.
  • Security personnel check the temperature of visitors and tenants. Contactless forms are used. At the lobby reception area is a QR code that visitors and occupants scan to fill out the contact tracing form.
  • Queueing markers and stanchions are put in place for proper social distancing and alcohol dispensers are available in common areas.
  • In addition, online processing of tenant work permits and gate passes have been implemented to minimize physical contact.
  • Maintenance procedures are also heightened, particularly of the built in Merv 13 air filtration system. Fresh air intake is increased 2 hours before the tower opens and 2 hours afterwards, to allow natural ventilation to maintain the indoor air quality of the tower.
  • An indoor air quality sensor has been placed in several locations in Menarco for real time data and for Menarco to address issues immediately. A virus index also indicates if there is a threat.

What strategies have been put in place for continuous monitoring / ongoing measurement?

Bi annual customer satisfaction survey is being rolled out to building occupants to get their feedback and suggestions for the continuous improvement of services and facilities of Menarco Tower. Indoor air quality sensors provide objective, real time data.

Has COVID-19 impacted which WELL features you pursued or your strategy for your WELL Portfolio approach in general?

Since Menarco Tower was built and designed with the health, safety, and well-being of its occupants in mind, the pandemic just validated our best practices and has further pushed us to strive for excellence in all that we do.

In addition to our global WELL & LEED Gold certifications, the WELL Health-Safety Rating is a testament to our commitment to adhere to elevated standards throughout our facility in terms of the following: cleaning and sanitization procedures, emergency preparedness, health service resources, air and water quality management, and stakeholder engagement and communication.

Did your project face any roadblocks during the WELL Certification process? If so, how did your project overcome the roadblock?

Menarco Development Corporation decided to pursue its WELL certification one year prior to construction completion. Back then, no one in the country had received the certification yet, but its components resonated with the values espoused by Menarco’s Founder & CEO. We realized, upon further inquiry about WELL, that the design of our project was serendipitously already aligned with what WELL promoted. We just needed some tweaking to fine-tune our plans to ensure we complied with the stringent requirements of WELL VERSION 1, including specific rectifications on our original mechanical design for air quality. Not even the local hospitals have the filtration system that Menarco has!

How has COVID-19 affected your organization’s ESG reporting?

COVID-19 has made our ESG adherence more important. ESG is not well adopted in the Philippines, and we are one of a handful of developers that believe its importance in long term, sustainable growth. We have seen how our ethos contributes to strong ESG practices, and we share our findings with our shareholders for their continued support.

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

Carmen Jimenez-Ong, the Founder and CEO of Menarco Development Corporation has always been involved from the conceptualization to execution of the safest and healthiest building in Southeast Asia. With her big heart for the health and well-being of others, and her passion for excellence, she spearheaded this project, aimed to prioritize people and planet over profit, a concept unheard of in the construction industry.

To make the award-winning concept a reality, Ms. Jimenez-Ong collaborated closely with aligned design, consultancy, and construction firms, ensuring that her vision would be executed well, even in a third-world country like the Philippines. The odds were against her. Being an early adapter, there were no previous models to refer to, and much resistance in the industry to deviate from the norm, but with her tenacity and her team’s cooperation, they made history in the Philippines by breathing life into the healthiest building in our region. This has spurred other, bigger developers who have been in the industry longer than Menarco to examine their ways. Menarco has started to create a ripple of change as industry leaders wondered how one female, without construction experience, did what was deemed impossible. Menarco has been a living, breathing case study, and has been a voice for healthy, sustainable choices that contribute to profitable operations.

Together with the project team, Ms. Carmen delved into the world of construction and became heavily involved with all the processes — even going beyond her scope to build a premium structure that’s truly a first in the industry. This includes design planning, understanding system flows, international testing & design, and even choosing sustainable materials and finishes, as well as equipment and facilities installed in the tower.

Input from other companies dissatisfied with their current spaces in Manila were used to determine international best practices that could be adapted. It took out-of-the-box thinking and a can-do attitude to rise above what couldn’t be done or what had never before been done in the Philippines.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

Putting the welfare of people first and foremost is Menarco’s philosophy. With this in mind, a special research on performance based design was conducted while wind-tunnel testing and facade performance mock-up were done to ensure the resilience of Menarco Tower. (The Philippines is the 4th most disaster prone country — with super typhoons and earthquakes rocking it at its core.)

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

Central to the Menarco Development Corporation’s mission is to prioritize the well-being of its occupants. As such, the Menarco Tower was envisioned to be a place where a person can perform his best — where he can be inspired, energized, and do meaningful work.

Recognizing that people perform their best when they are physically and mentally healthy, the Menarco Tower has integrated biophilic features with aesthetic and mindful design to support a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. Menarco Tower also ensures ideal parameters set for health and safety are met.

Invigorating Clean Air

At Menarco, you breathe nothing but clean air. Its pre-cooled, MERV 13-filtered air helps prevent the spread of airborne viruses, bacteria, and other contaminants. The building also uses non- or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, which helps reduce toxins in the air. Green cleaning products are carefully selected to not contribute to the fresh air. Even pest management practices use internationally certified green products & mindful processes to protect the people. Indoor air quality sensors are strategically placed for real time monitoring and addressing of air quality.

Filtered Potable Water

The tap water that runs through the faucets in its tenant units is filtered and completely potable, exceeding World Health Organization standards and providing much-needed hydration.

Stress-Reducing Natural Light

During the daytime, Menarco Tower is designed to utilize and maximize natural light from the sun without the heat, using a double-glazed, unitized curtain wall system. Electric-powered lighting is only needed at night.

Ample Spaces

We focus on the quality of space. Although the building is designed for higher density, we recommend that our smallest units be occupied by a maximum of 20 people, or an ideal density of at least 8 meters per person.

The low number of visits to the Lifeline Emergency Clinic of Menarco is a testament to the healthiness of the spaces in Menarco Tower. What was envisioned to provide treatment to many employees (a top request from potential tenants from the research prior to building Menarco) seems to not be needed in a healthy building. The clinic only receives 3-5 visits a month.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

As a boutique corporate tower that is built to age gracefully and efficiently, Menarco Tower boasts of features and finishes that have been meticulously chosen to create an elegant environment for successful and innovative companies.

On the interior is a relaxing, yet strong, light colored palette of beige honed marble contrasted with habana brown honed stone and solid oak wood cladding. On the exterior is a taut and clean composition of soft grey glass, pronounced charcoal grey colored aluminum mullions, and honed dark grey granite.

A secondary layer of deep vertical wooden fins is asymmetrically composed along the lower façade and extends into the interior space, poignantly adorning the full length of the main lobby ceiling. Through continuity of the exterior expression into the interior space, a singular and cohesive identity for the tower is markedly defined. The layer of wooden fins again appears towards the upper levels of the facade, screening the penthouse terrace and boldly capping the tower.

By creating a building that will last, Menarco Tower has made investments in seen and unseen materials that matter. Another unique feature is the MERV 13-filters that help prevent the spread of airborne viruses, bacteria, and other contaminants. The building also uses non- or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint which reduce toxins in the air.

By knowing that Menarco is built and operated to international healthy and green building standards, its tenants can focus on taking their business to unprecedented heights.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

Menarco Tower uses a combination of high-quality Spanish Porcelanosa tiles and stones on most common areas. The tiles along its lobby walls are even protected with a liquid treatment meant to drastically reduce bacteria.

The uHoo indoor air quality sensor helps Menarco understand the health and safety of the building in real time.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

The Menarco logo elements were heavily inspired by the design of the structure itself. The icon hails from Menarco Tower’s form where the wooden fins on the building façade are represented by corresponding bars on the logo.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

Menarco Tower is designed to offer humanity-centered spaces. It is built to be a work haven for urban achievers while meeting the needs of the modern worker to connect, collaborate, and play. Common areas that address these are The Yard and the Pandan Terrace at the 8F.

The Yard, Menarco’s food and social hall, is filled with healthy options for daily meals and snacks. It offers spaces conducive for meetings, collaborations, and safe socialization. An open hall is also available for workshops, seminars, open-mic nights, concerts, or even post-work hangouts with single-person pods for those who opt to work in solitude.

On the other hand, The Pandan Terrace, just outside The Yard, is a venue where one can find greenery amidst the concrete. With tables and chairs where guests can lounge, it also offers a view of the city. For recreation, guests and tenants may even tend to the indigenous plants at the edible garden and turn them into tea. Found on all floors are curated works of some of the country’s best contemporary artists. The Menarco Vertical Museum is a novel initiative celebrating the art milieu of its home city, BGC.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

Aside from the 8th floor community space mentioned in the previous question, the 9th floor of Menarco Tower is a dedicated wellness space where health services and facilities are available. Here, one can find yoga, pilates, and crossfit studios as well Spinal Care, a specialized clinic for chiropractic needs.

And, believe it or not, the lowly fire staircase was purposely elevated with natural sunlight, a built in sound system for pleasant music, and adorned with inspirational quotes to encourage free movement throughout the building.

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

From its inception, the Menarco Tower was envisioned to showcase the extraordinary talent of contemporary Filipinos. Homegrown professionals who excelled in their fields were carefully chosen to compose the project team — consisting of architects, consultants, and builders.

AIDEA (lead Architect)- is one of the Philippines’ most highly ranked architectural practices, recognized by World Architecture’s Top 100 biggest practices where it ranked 39th.

CS Design Consultancy Inc. is a full service architecture, interior design, and consulting firm. Their work is defined by a cohesive understanding of spatial awareness, massing and materiality, and functionality.

DATEM, the Philippines’ only AAAA construction company, is known for its multi-disciplinary range of construction capabilities, diversity, and leading-edge innovation.

JACMI is the only construction management company in the country with triple ISO certifications for management systems, environment and occupational health and safety.

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