FEATURE: Lying Beneath Select SM Malls are Structures that can Save Lives and Property

SM Prime Holdings (SM Prime), the country’s largest integrated property developer, is no stranger to massive flooding. In a country visited by an average of 20 typhoons a year, SM Prime recognizes the devastation this causes, the lives it puts at risk, and the overall potential danger which has become critical considerations for any of its new property developments.

To address such risk and without much fanfare, the company built underneath select SM malls enormous “catchment tanks” which are designed to help mitigate the impact of typhoons on both lives and property. The tanks represent additional costs to building the malls unseen by the public. But its payback go beyond anything that money can pay for.

“Investing in disaster risk resilience is definitely one of our key strategic goals. While the cost of DRR continues to rise, let us see it as an investment that translates not only to immeasurable returns but greater safeguarding of our communities, our customers and the general public,” SM Prime Director Hans T. Sy said in The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, a biennial forum by the UNISDR held recently in Mexico.

Today, these catchment tanks can hold rainwater equivalent to roughly a combined 45,328 cubic meters of floodwater or about 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Specifically, SM BF Paranaque can hold 5,544.71 cubic meters of rainwater; SM Masinag 15,033.40 cubic meters; SM Center Angono 1,600.00 cubic meters; and SM City San Mateo 9,500.00 cubic meters.

For one, the catchment tank at SM Masinag helped minimize the depth and duration of flooding compared with previous years. The latest in its roster of flood-resistant malls, SM CDO Downtown Premier in Cagayan de Oro features a catchment basin able to hold 13,650.00 cubic meters of rainwater, equivalent to about 13.6 million 1-liter soda bottles or about five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

SM CDO Downtown Premier

While it was building the CDO mall, SM Prime paid careful attention to the area which has seen its fair share of heavy flooding. In fact the catchment tank capacity was based on the maximum recorded rainfall in CDO City for 24 hours which reached 237.2 millimeters and the 24-hour rainfall intensity of 455 millimeters experienced from Typhoon Ondoy in September 2009.

SM City Marikina for its part stands on stilts and allows the free flow of rainwater to the Marikina river through its two-level basement parking. When Typhoon Ondoy dumped over a month’s volume of rain in Metro Manila in 2009, SM Prime’s investments in disaster resilience for SM City Marikina prevented damage to stores and loss of merchandise for its tenants amounting to PHP1 billion.

For SM Prime, understanding and recognizing disaster risks in areas of business are important because of both the direct and indirect impact, they have on lives and property. “By investing in resilience, SM Prime minimizes vulnerability, better safeguards physical assets, reduces recovery expenses, and contributes to local government efforts. Ultimately we are able to better protect lives and have safer, healthier, happier communities,” Sy had said during the forum.

This attention to detail and commitment to mitigate the impact of disasters have been evident in most of its malls. Beyond the unique and iconic designs, SM Prime allocates 10 percent of its capital expenditure for disaster resilience features when building malls.

The Mall of Asia Complex is a showcase of disaster resiliency. SM Mall of Asia and the entire Mall of Asia Complex, built on the reclaimed area of Manila Bay is a model of structural resilience as SM Prime has integrated into the property several disaster resilient features. For one, SM Prime went beyond the call of duty and what the government required by installing wick drains or drainage paths in the area to strengthen the soil and make the roads resilient to seismic events and erosions.

The whole complex is also shielded from tides and waves. A three-kilometer seawall stretches throughout the complex. Its foundation is deeply-rooted on the sea floor. On top of the seawall, dike is a meter-high L-shaped wave return, preventing waves from toppling over the seawall during high waves or storm surges. A drainage channel is also located on the other side of the seawall which is a line of defense against waves that breach the wave return. This allows water to enter the channel and pass through the pipes back to Manila Bay. Also, the Mall of Asia and other structures in the complex were built for a total of 4.5 meters above the mean lower water level.

In one of the strongest monsoons in 2012, the MOA Complex stood flood-free amidst inundated areas surrounding it, proving that this is not just about costs but about preserving and protecting communities, saving lives as well as properties.

At SM Seaside Cebu, SM Prime hired design experts who gave extra attention to the challenges of weather, especially typhoons and flooding given its location by the sea. SM Prime backfilled soil onto the reclaimed property specifically on the roads so that the whole complex where the mall sits is elevated by approximately 4.5 meters from the city roads.

A milestone in design was also reached when SM Aura Premier achieved LEED Gold in the retail sector. SM Aura Premier is the first and sole mall in the Philippines to achieve LEED Gold and is the largest LEED retail project in the Philippines based on gross floor area. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the foremost program for buildings, homes, and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained, and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.

Being at the forefront of sustainable development, SM Prime has likewise taken the role of educating and updating its partners and stakeholders on DRR through various fora such as ARISE events and its Annual Green Retail Agenda. It also creates awareness among the youth by showing films for free for students in its annual Green Film Festival.

SM Prime continues to lead the country’s private sector in advocating disaster resilience and business continuity. As more malls open under SM Prime, it will continue to innovate on its sustainability approaches, disaster resilience initiatives, and corporate social responsibilities.