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Restoring China Bank Binondo Business Center for future generations

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Architect’s rendition after the restoration

From the beautiful moldings and cornices to stately window arches with ornate grills, the historic features of China Bank’s original head office, the Binondo Business Center, will be brought back to life as the restoration of the 95-year old building continues.  

Going beyond cosmetic restoration, bulk of the construction work involves retrofitting the building to improve energy efficiency and making it LEED compliant.  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

“We’re not only restoring an important heritage building to its original architectural design, but we’re making it stronger, resilient, and sustainable for the next century,” said SVP Alex Escucha, chairman of the Binondo Heritage Restoration Project. “This project is also part of China Bank’s Disaster Preparedness and Resilience initiatives and is likewise aligned to the goals of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and ARISE Philippines.” 

Mitigating environmental risks and disasters such as earthquake, typhoon, flood, and fire, are as crucial to the restoration project as using energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly construction solutions.

The mezzanine that was converted into a second floor in the last few decades was recessed to restore the lobby to its original high-ceilinged design. Pipe-laying is ongoing to mitigate flooding as the building’s ground floor is below the level of the Pasig River at high tide.

The building will be seismically retrofitted to withstand even “The Big One” (7.2 magnitude earthquake) using a new and innovative vibration control solution rather than the conventional spring aligned with resilient building design.

“China Bank is the first to use the Sumitomo Rubber Damper in the Philippines as an earthquake countermeasure system,” said VP Baldwin Aguilar, project manager.

Sumitomo Rubber's vibration control technology reduces everything from wind-generated swinging to large-scale earthquakes.  When the damper expands and contracts in response to seismic shocks, special viscoelastic rubber installed in the damper drastically mitigates a building’s vibrations by converting seismic energy to thermal energy.

The building is being earthquake-proofed. China Bank is the first in the country to use Sumitomo Rubber Damper to fortify the building and make it ductile enough for The Big One.

A modern pipe system will be installed in the ground floor of the building as a waterproofing measure.  Both passive and active fire protection systems will be set-up to help safeguard the building and its occupants during a fire. 

A team of experts led by Noche+Architects, Schema Konsult, and CMGI are undertaking the massive restoration project which commenced in April of this year.  Demolition works and scaffolding installation were completed in July. 

The construction is progressing along as planned, with the structural retrofitting work expected to be completed by the end of the year.  Architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and insulation works are also in full swing. The interior will be renovated to add modern touches that complement its original regal appearance and maximize the beauty of the intricate details on the arch windows, entablature, and ceiling cornices.  The exterior will be cleaned and restored by sandblasting the concrete and painting the decades of urban grime away. 

Steel scaffoldings surround the building for the painstaking work of restoring the ornate moldings, iron grills, and other exterior architectural details.

All in all, the unique character of the building will be maintained while bringing it up to modern building codes and safety standards and incorporating new technology for enhanced customer use now and in the future.  By the time China Bank celebrates its centennial year in August 2020, the fully restored Binondo Business Center will stand proud as a shining example of architectural renewal in Manila.

Binondo Heritage Restoration Project

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