Quake questions for ASEAN’s tallest planned building

Quake questions for ASEAN’s tallest planned building

Construction is scheduled to get underway on ASEAN’s tallest building when the 133-storey Thai Boon Roong Twin Tower Trade Center breaks ground in downtown Phnom Penh at the end of 2016.

At 500m tall, the Thai Boon Roong development is the most ambitious example so far of the tall building trend which has been dramatically altering the skyline in the traditionally low-rise Cambodian capital. An exceptionally ambitious – some say unrealistic – three year timeline aims to see construction on the Twin Tower Trade Center completed in 2019.

 While Cambodia has experienced more than its fair share of natural and man-made disasters, the potential impact of a serious earthquake has not been a contemporary source of concern. However, following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake which hit neighbouring Myanmar in August, genuine questions are now being asked about the safety of buildings in Cambodia, and especially for the new generation of high-rise constructions.

 Under recently-appointed minister HE Chea Sophara, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction has stated that it is working to draft better laws to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on high-rise buildings.

 Tous Saphoeun, deputy secretary-general of Pannasastra University’s architecture faculty, which is involved with the skyscraper project recently told the Phnom Penh Post that the Thai Boon Roong structure is being designed to withstand a 9-magnitude earthquake.

 

“In building this 500m building, not only do we consider the aesthetic, quality, and architectural aspects, but the company also pays attention to protecting against earthquakes, storms, and other natural disasters,” Saphoeun told the Post.

 Also speaking with the Phnom Penh Post, Touch Samnang, deputy director of leading local developer Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation, said that “all high buildings” in the country have earthquake safety systems against events ranging from 5 to 6 on the Richter scale.

 Cambodia is generally considered to be at low risk of earthquakes – and the tsunamis which commonly follow - in comparison to some of its ASEAN neighbours such as Indonesia. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology even pointed out 10 years ago that in fact Cambodia had little to worry about from such geological disasters. 

 However, there is little doubt that lax construction standards on many already existing buildings together with a ground base high in sand concentration could combine to create significant destruction should there ever be a serious geological disaster in Cambodia.

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