The Philippines’ “healthiest” high-rise is Menarco Tower.
Take the expected challenges that come with getting the most coveted sustainability certification. Then add the requirements of helping and empowering people to thrive–that is, to be happy, productive, healthy, and well-rounded. You know, appreciate gardening, the arts, and music, even. Menarco Development Corporation was actually on track with the International WELL Building Institute’s philosophy before they had even heard of WELL. When a friend told Menarco founder and CEO Carmen Jimenez-Ong that her ideals were in sync with WELL standards, Jimenez-Ong quickly investigated and fell in love with what she discovered.
She recounts how it happened: “My friend said, you know what, I came from Japan, and I thought of you. Why? Because there are WELL buildings there and I think it’s worth your while to come see it. Because you’re already doing it in your building. There’s a certification for wellness? Within that day, I started reading about it, and within 24 hours I told my team we’re doing this because we’re already doing it anyway. I was already in talks with Silverlens for art, we had already designed our staircase, which had natural light coming in, so it was a natural progression for us. It was just a matter of upping it a notch and allowing others to test it. Because for me in my heart of hearts, I believe every person should be well. Well at work, well at home.”
Menarco applied for certification in 2017 and this September 2019, received the WELL Gold certification, the first among six Filipino projects that had applied with WELL for certification.
Jimenez-Ong adds: “Work is hard enough. We spend so much time indoors, so I am personally making it a mission to give back as stewards and property developers. We will take care of things that are seen and unseen inside the property. This is like a baby that took us five years to build, and we will make sure that everyone who uses the building is cared for,” says Jimenez-Ong.
This commitment to prioritize the well-being of Menarco Tower’s occupants is manifested in the way air, water, lighting, acoustics, and other elements are used and measured to ensure guests and tenants enjoy the best possible environment for human beings within the office building. Samantha Allen, director of business development for International Well Building Institute Asia, explained that while a building’s integrity is important for safety, WELL also emphasizes on the health of people who will actually use the building for most of their waking time.
“Buildings are where we spend about 90% of our time. And because we spend so much time inside, this actually influences and impacts us in the way we work, play, or study inside a building,” Allen says. “It’s all about the little reminders to take care of ourselves the moment we step inside a WELL building. When you walk into a WELL building, you should actually feel it.”
As proof, Allen recounts how her headache went away within five minutes after entering Menarco Tower. “What Menarco is doing now is it’s looking at performance metrics: air quality, water quality, acoustic measurements, lighting measurements,” Allen continues.
Air quality, according to her, should be free of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds that are hazardous to one’s health. Since these are things that cannot be seen by the naked eye, specific equipment, such as air filtration systems so fine they can prevent the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses are used for in the building. Lighting, on the other hand, is the biggest influence on the human circadian rhythm, or the sleep-wake cycle. A person’s performance can be affected by the kind of light used in a workspace.
“WELL was only three years old then and practically unheard of when Menarco applied for registration. It was an early commitment that demonstrated Menarco is about future-forward and human-centric space; and not just offices, but something more like a home for guests and tenants of this building,” says Allen.
“WELL is meant to be holistic. The designers, architects, engineers, human resources – all of them play an important role in making a building WELL. It’s like a family. Everyone has to care,” Allen adds. “Menarco went above and beyond the standards to deserve the Gold certification.”