This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on August 22, 2022 - August 28, 2022
Menara Bangkok Bank is an imposing structure that is hard to miss. Located at the intersection of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang, and adjacent to the Bukit Nanas monorail station, the tower is situated opposite the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel and only 1km from the KL city centre. A fountain with a water curtain greets visitors to the building, creating a soothing atmosphere.
Sitting on a 2.7-acre freehold parcel, Menara Bangkok Bank is part of the Berjaya Central Park development, which comprises two 48-storey towers — the other of which is a branded residential tower known as The Ritz Carlton Residences.
Menara Bangkok Bank is a Grade A stratified office building with 192 corporate suites in flexible layouts. With built-ups of 775 sq ft to an entire floor of 12,000 sq ft, the units can cater for the needs and requirements of different businesses.
Completed in June 2015, Menara Bangkok Bank was developed by Wangsa Tegap Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berjaya Corp Bhd, and is managed and maintained by Henry Butcher Malaysia (Mont Kiara) Sdn Bhd (HBMK). The tower, with a total net lettable area of 497,878 sq ft and an occupancy rate of 74%, boasts an excellent location and accessibility to public transport, factors that have attracted several business owners to set up shop there.
Menara Bangkok Bank has once again bagged the Gold award in the Below 10 Years Multiple-owned Strata Office category. It received the same accolade at the inaugural awards ceremony in 2017 (Gold winners are only eligible to re-enter the same category after three years).
Since its last win, HBMK managing director Low Hon Keong says the building has installed electromagnetic (EM) locks on every floor to prevent people from using the staircase to access other floors.
“The system, however, is connected to the fire system, so the EM locks would automatically be released when the alarm is triggered. For some of the major tenants/owners who occupy multiple floors, they can request access [to more than one floor], so that they can use the staircase instead of the lifts.
“As for the building’s connectivity, telecommunication signal boosters are used to enhance cellular signals. The carbon dioxide (CO) sensors, CCTV system, fire system equipment and the speed/efficiency of the lifts have been enhanced. The lighting in the building has been switched to energy-efficient ones, which has reduced the cost. It is also a better and safer light source overall,” says Low.
To ensure the office tower remains secure at all times, a five-tier security system has been incorporated, says Low. “[They are] the visitor management system, which requires all visitors to register themselves at the lobby; car park barricade system; security turnstile gate before entering the lift lobby; lift access control system; and office suites’ entrance access system, for which access cards will only be programmed for the registered floors.”
He adds that the loading bay entrance is also strictly controlled by a security team to ensure all contractors have registered before they enter the building’s premises. There is a dedicated lift for them to access the respective floors.
Another aspect that has helped in strengthening the building’s security is loyalty, says Kamarul Zaki Kamarull Azman, who is a member of the joint management committee (JMC). “The security team and concierge have been with us since day one, thus they are very familiar with the [security] system and building occupants.”
According to Low, Menara Bangkok Bank is one of the first office buildings to use a variable refrigerant volume (VRV) chilled water system. “Unlike conventional chiller-based systems, the VRV system is an inverter product and allows for varying degrees of cooling in specific areas. It changes the refrigerant volume in a system to match a building’s precise requirements. This is where only a minimum amount of energy is required for a system to maintain set temperatures and ensure that it automatically shuts off when no occupants are detected in a room.”
Low explains that the VRV system is equipped with a trouble sensor that helps to save time for maintenance and troubleshooting works. The cost to maintain the said system is a bit high but for five-star equipment like this, it is important to ensure that it is well maintained and always up to the standard, he adds.
“Preventive maintenance is done consistently to avoid major breakdowns, thus regular servicing work for the cooling tower is required. The service works are conducted twice a month by our appointed contractor and the filter is replaced every two years. With proper maintenance, the chance of a major breakdown is expected to be reduced and will save up to 40% of [the system’s] maintenance [cost] in the long run,” Kamarul reckons.
Meanwhile, HBMK has managed to maintain a strong average service charge collection of 99.91%. “Setting up a good culture for the entire building is important and in fact, the service charge has remained at RM9.61 per share unit from day one. We have a strong financial position that enables us to provide quality maintenance for the building, and we were also able to provide rebates to occupants during the lockdowns,” says Low.
One of the major measures taken to maintain the collection rate was to have a rebate programme, which was implemented once in 2020 and twice in 2021. This was when occupants were given a two-month waiver on service charges.
The collection rate was close to 100% pre-Covid-19, but decreased marginally to 95% during the lockdowns. Although the rate was affected during that period, Low believes that it was still at a manageable level. The accounts personnel follows up accordingly by making calls and sending reminders, so that the collection rate will remain healthy.
“Occasionally, we do have certain owners and tenants who were slightly late in paying their service charges and were charged late payment interest. For those who fail to make payments, legal action will be taken against them. Nevertheless, most of the occupants do pay their service charges on time,” says Low.
When it comes to indoor air quality (IAQ) features, HBMK associate director Lee Siang Ling notes that CO sensors have been incorporated in all office units. They are located above the ceiling of every floor and made to leverage the heat energy and enhance IAQ.
“The sensor will be able to detect unwanted heat and provide a signal to the exhaust fan to remove the heat energy and replace it with fresh air. If the CO level in the building appears to be higher than usual, the sensor would be able to detect it and pull in fresh air. If the sensor is faulty, we will receive a signal and be able to detect it,” she explains, adding that indoor potted plants have been placed in the common areas to enhance IAQ.
Menara Bangkok Bank is a smoke-free building, says Lee. “We ensure signage is placed at the prohibited areas and smokers are required to go to the dedicated smoking area, which is located near the loading bay. Those who are caught smoking [elsewhere] will be penalised.”
The Joint Management Body and management team of Menara Bangkok Bank have also requested the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) to conduct an IAQ assessment of the building. “The DOSH has monitored and assessed the effectiveness of the building’s IAQ and the results have shown that the IAQ is good — it is about providing healthy air, not chilled air, to the occupants,” she continues.
The building has received the BCA Green Mark Gold Certification by the Singapore Building and Construction Authority. Thus, it is able to attract good quality tenants and investors to set up office and buy units there, says Lee. These are the people who prioritise having a sustainable environment and healthy workplace, and are willing to pay higher rents.
Prices of office suites at Menara Bangkok Bank have escalated since their completion in 2015. Low states that the office suites were sold at RM1,000 psf during the launch in 2013; their current value is hovering in the region of RM1,400 to RM1,500 psf, an appreciation of 40%.
“Rental, however, was affected in 2020 and 2021 by Covid-19 which prompted many businesses to adopt work-from-home policies. Prior to the pandemic, the rental rate was about RM6 to RM7 psf. The rate had decreased to RM4 to RM5 psf during the pandemic, which is a yield of 5.7% to 6.6% based on the current market price.”
In addition, the renovation guidelines of the building were done in accordance with BCA Green Mark standards. Lee says occupants are encouraged to use certified low volatile organic compound paint in all units and low-emitting formaldehyde adhesive for all composite wood products for better IAQ.
“Certified sustainable materials of the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme should also be used for all carpets and ceiling boards that are installed within the premises, as well as energy-efficient electrical appliances to save on utility bills and to install curtains, blinds or solar window films over the windows to maximise natural light and reduce energy consumption.”
The façade of Menara Bangkok Bank utilises aluminium panels and wall glass panels, with the use of low-E double glazing for heat and sound insulation, thereby reducing electricity costs, says Lee.
“The building’s façade bears the brunt of environmental stress as well as weather conditions. Thus, we appoint façade cleaners [three times a year for all outer surfaces of the building], as regular care and upkeep are extremely important for the maintenance of the overall condition of the structure and the property value,” she adds.
“As a property manager, our job is not only to manage and maintain the common areas but also to ensure that the entire building is functioning well. Hence, we need to take ownership of our role to get to know who the tenants and owners are in the building and the nature of their business,” says Low.
Mahdi Aliabadi, who owns office suites at Menara Bangkok Bank, is currently on the subcommittee of the JMC.
During the development stage of the tower, Mahdi says the developer had taken into consideration that the area is prone to floods and designed the building to be slightly elevated above the road level. “The crisis management team also established an emergency response plan (ERP) and disaster recovery planning (DRP) to increase occupant safety and reduce business interruption.”
Kamarul notes that the security team and technicians are required to conduct patrols every hour during rainy days to monitor the office building, especially the basement, so that problems can be identified at an early stage.
“We will conduct routine checks by inspecting the sump pump’s condition and ensuring that the sump pit is cleared from time to time. During patrolling, the security team will constantly check the drainage and immediately notify the management should any issue arise, such as an increased water level.”
HBMK’s main target is to ensure the building is fully functional and things remain in good condition and look as good as new.
“We will enhance the security and safety features and ensure that the firefighting system is always in tip-top condition and operational. In respect of the CCTV system, we will continuously upgrade the system. We are also developing a facial recognition system for the occupants to strengthen security measures,” says Low.
The management is looking to have a centralised building maintenance and monitoring system. “This is an enhancement of our current building monitoring system, which will allow us to monitor critical areas remotely, such as the water pump room, lift motor room and genset room. This will also help the management to monitor and control security issues in real time, off-site,” he notes.
“We intend to incorporate solar panels to reduce energy costs. However, the building has limited space for solar-panel installation, so we are thinking of how to allocate the space for the panels.
“It is also crucial to ensure that the building’s signage is always up to date, subsequently providing clear communication to visitors and occupants. Having said that, we believe our funds will be sufficient as most of the work has been budgeted,” says Low.
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