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Investigative Report: Centennial Hall construction

Its design has garnered the curiosity and fascination of many; even LRT patrons, who look in awe at the latest addition to the campus, as the trains pass by.

The construction of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall, probably the most prominent project among the laundry list of activities that marked the celebration of DLSU’s centenary last academic year, has raised concerns regarding its cost among others.

Initially, University stakeholders had a difficult time conceptualizing what the structure would look like. The plan was presented to only a select few and it seemed as if the execution of the plan was done in haste – just to say that DLSU has prepared well for its centennial year. But as the construction gradually materialized, one floor was added to another, escalators and elevators were installed, and when the exterior fixtures were attached, the skeptics immediately became believers.



During the presentation of the Centennial Renewal Plan, which the Henry Sy Sr., Hall is a part of, together with the St. La Salle Hall retrofitting, Centennial Hall phase two project, and various improvements and maintenance on existing campus buildings, Leandro Y. Locsin Jr., the head architect of the project, disclosed that the building will have 15 floors that will house administrative offices and the Learning Commons, but in previous interviews with The LaSallian, Br. Jun Erguiza FSC, former DLSU President and Chancellor clarified that the building floor count is only 14 floors.

Mainly because of financial constraints, the original floor count was reduced, according to Br. Jun. P600 million of the P1.4 billion total building cost will be shouldered by DLSU, P500 million of which will be sourced out from capital campaigns, targeting more third-party donors such as alumni and corporations.

Raul Locsin, a partner of the architectural firm Leandro V. Locsin Partners, confirms the floor count reduction, but instead of the 14-floor tally of Br. Jun, he shares that the building is down to 13 floors, above ground.

In the website of Asian Technicon, the project manager of the Henry Sy Sr., Hall, it states that the building is a 12-storey structure; short of two floors from Br. Jun’s count and one floor short of the Locsin’s floor count. Johannes Badillo, Operations Director of the DLSU Strategic Communications Office (STRATCOM), says that the building currently erected already counts for 14 floors.

The conflicting information regarding the number of floors poses several questions on transparency, prudent spending and building integrity.


On transparency

In the Centennial Hall’s website (, the expected completion time of the Hall was said to be last June. However, It was only the ceremonial blessing of the building that took place last June 15, during the Centennial closing celebration.

Previous interviews with administrators in 2010 suggest that the initial outlay was for 6 to 8 floors, but last year confirmed 13. Out of these suggested 13 floors the Locsin architectural firm confirmed that only eight out of the said 13 were actually erected. Two of the eight were functional during the closing celebrations. The sixth floor was utilized to welcome the building’s benefactors and guests. The perimeters of the building were closed once more after the events of June 15. As of press time, construction workers are still finishing the remaining six floors and other exterior details. The building is said to be completed by the end of August this year.


On prudent spending

The P1.4 billion budget for the Centennial Hall was met with criticisms when the valuation was finalized. During the Centennial Renewal Plan exposition two years ago, Economics Professor and University Fellow Tereso Tullao Jr., pointed out that if the University would be able to fund a building of such scale, the necessary funds could be used for other projects that would concentrate on increasing DLSU’s human capital resources.

Henry Sy Sr., generously donated P300 million to jumpstart the construction of the building, but the difficulty to raise the remaining amount and the increasing construction expenses drove the project directors to modify and downgrade (omit floors) the exterior and interior features. Aggressive value engineering driven by the project directors to meet financial targets was the resolution, according to Locsin.

“The reduction in area without sacrificing the original program resulted in a more compact and efficient structure. The solutions involve merging some of the spaces like exhibits, lobby and cafeteria dining spaces,” Locsin adds.

Along with the floor reduction Locsin adds that there will be a reduction on alternative energy features, a reduction in the number of connecting floors to the Yuchengco Building and the double height display/exhibit halls will no longer push through.


On building integrity

At first glance, the Centennial Hall appears to be disproportional given its narrow bases and heavy body. Dr. Lawrence Dacuycuy, Vice Chairperson of the School of Economics, expresses his apprehensions on the capacity of the building to withstand calamities and earthquakes.

Jay Vincent Zantua (V, AMG) observes that the building’s construction progress seems to be faster compared with structures of the same scale. He asks whether construction protocols and good practices were compromised just to meet the budget.

Locsin affirms, “Anticipating seismic loads is basic to any tall building design, and the structural engineers have built in these considerations and tolerances into the columniation of a building, which is relatively modest at about 14 floors overall.”

He adds that the structure’s appearance of being top heavy is an illusion, and is deliberate in its reference to appear much like a tree, a learning oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle called Taft Avenue.

Anticipation of climate change is also integral to the design, reminds Locsin. In the event of massive flooding in the area, this structure will continue to function, having all utilities and its backup systems raised up and located 16 meters above ground level.

With regard to whether construction best practices were compromised, Locsin admits that the construction timetable had some delays in the start-up, but a re-design (re-layout) of the building, and value engineering necessitated an aggressive schedule that placed the project in a fast-track mode.

“This meant that the project was divided into a number of design packages, i.e. the superstructure package, specialized utility and equipment packages, an interiors package, etc., which ran on parallel, overlapping time frames. In short, the design of various packages were being carried out at the same time that the bidding, commissioning, and construction was taking place,” Locsin adds.

Furthermore, he that what was mentioned is not the ideal situation, but conditions that have become almost standard operating procedure on many construction projects in recent years, especially in a rushed economy.

According to the building’s website, it will be the first academic structure to be rated with the Philippines’ own BERDE Standard upon its completion, but according to the architectural firm handling the account, there was a reduction in alternative energy features due to the tightened budget.

The aforementioned standard is a measure of how “environment-friendly” a structure is.

To date there are no indications of any serious issues with regards to the structural integrity of the building, nor are there reasons to suspect any, Locsin mentions.


What’s next?

A maintenance manual containing schedules, technical information from system suppliers and material manufacturers, and a detailed maintenance program should also be assembled by the building operators, engineers, and design teams for the regular upkeep of the building, Locsin points out.

University Student Government (USG) President Jana Cabuhat shares that students are already anticipating the official opening. She believes that the existence of the Centennial Hall, a new building in campus in general, will aid the congestion problems of the University.

The University, together with the building’s project owners and funders should have, as part of the project’s business plan, established a building endowment specifically to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the building in perpetuity.

This practice, a standard feature in any new project in most developed countries, has so far been painfully absent in most Philippine projects. To project proponents, this is an essential aspect.

Jessy Go

By Jessy Go

Pilar Go

By Pilar Go

13 replies on “Investigative Report: Centennial Hall construction”

This would be a good addition to the ambiance of the campus. But as far as I’m concerned, the structure design does not conform to the structures beside it like Yuchengco and St. La Salle Hall. They should’ve patterned the building design to Yuch. 😀 Nevertheless, I am so much excited to witness the opening of DLSU’s newest building!

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