Bangkok’s current building boom is “throwing up” a huge assortment of structures: most are legal though not all; some are ethically sustainable but not many; a few have architectural appeal, though a considerable number look cheap and ugly.
An example worthy of praise is the recently launched Magnolias Ratchadamri Boulevard. Visually stimulating, this project is a well-thought-out, high-end construction, and has been designed to comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria with a view to vigorously promoting energy efficiency and sustainability. Pats on the back all round!
Just 300 metres further along Rajadamri Road is the St Regis Hotel and Residences. Situated on prime land, this property is disappointingly office-like and boxy. What a wasted architectural opportunity. In terms of general planning, design and overall sustainability, those in charge of the project set out from the start to “mis-LEED”. The hotel opened illegally early last year, and remains so on a number of counts. Problems with drainage, sewage, noise, health, safety and hygiene are ongoing and there are significant public liability insurance issues. Additionally, questions are now being asked regarding the structural integrity of the building. The hotel’s defensive attitude towards the local community remains scandalously inadequate and the American hotel brand name has been locally exploited to paper over six years of legal, constructional and operational cracks – cracks that continue to this day to affect hotel guests, local residents, the public and international investors.
It is now time for both the construction and hospitality industries as a whole to look beyond the narrow confines of corporate, financial and personal ego stroking and self-interest. The long-term benefits of ethical design, construction and functional viability (which include environmental sustainability and energy efficiency) far outweigh any short-term costs or disadvantages. Implemented correctly, everyone’s a winner long into the future.
In the case of the St Regis Bangkok, the owner, Minor International, should be ashamed of what has been set in concrete. Resulting from its failure to follow due process and to conduct appropriate due diligence in line with international codes and regulatory requirements, it is now looking increasingly likely that Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc, the US hotel operator, will be facing major legal challenges going forward.