Manila Bulletin, Business, October 30, 2019
Livingsprings Communities is a family-owned premium boutique real estate developer founded in 2007. At the helm of this startup is MONICA THERESE “Monique” C. ALBERT LOPEZ, whose mother and her children decided to join this sector in a small but unique way.
Monique explained that the name Livingsprings is coined after “living” and “springs” to mean overflowing abundance. Once a property was found by his brother, Monique did a project study and their mother bankrolled it. That started the family’s first venture into real estate development.
Livingsprings develops and builds communities, focusing on creating residential properties that fulfill the needs of end-users. With its vision of enabling residents to have an overflowing life experience, Livingsprings designs communities with greater living spaces and privacy, enhanced security and convenience, and easy accessibility to urban comforts while being able to escape from the stress of city life.
As a boutique real estate firm, Livingsprings concentrates on building residential condos with commercial components.
The name itself connotes the subliminal way of life Livingsprings. An architect himself, Monique has been meticulous on the details of their designs that may not be that obvious at first glance but means a lot when discovered.
“We would like our customers to have an overflowing life experience,” says Monique, who graduated cum laude at University of Sto. Tomas with a degree in architecture.
The family has also professionalized the organization including their processes to make its accounting system easier.
One of the most recent projects of Livingsprings is Tres Palmas located in Taguig city. This modern Mediterranean, boutique resort-style development is proof of the company’s promise of enabling residents to have an overflowing life experience. The 8-storey residential tower provides premium amenities and secure co-living spaces for a worry-free community.
With its gym, garden, pool, sky deck, barbecue area and other lounges, Tres Palmas combines wellness, recreation and relaxation to provide residents with an environment for a healthy and fit lifestyle.
Recently, the company launched its next project 10 Acacia Place, a Pacific-modern cosmopolitan residence in Quezon City boasting a low-density population and greater privacy with only 184 units, providing residents with utmost privacy, comfort and peace.
10 Acacia Place is designed with a Pacific modern aesthetic. This theme is specifically found in tropical countries throughout the Pacific like the Philippines with wood finish and glass curtain wall feature.
10 Acacia Place offers spacious studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units that can be easily converted to accommodate one more room. The newly unveiled showroom features a 40.08 sqm spacious one-bedroom apartment with beautiful wooden furnishing inspired by and consistent with the condominium’s Pacific-modern design. It has also a commercial component in front of the residential area.
The development, which sits on a 2,100 square meter lot in Cubao near the Gateway Mall, is strategically located to offer easy access for unit owners and clients. It is only 2.2km from the Ateneo de Manila University, 4.2km from La Salle Greenhills, 5.4km from the University of the Philippines and 6.4km from Miriam College. It is also just 1.8km from Gateway Mall and 3.3km from Eastwood, Libis. They also have customers who are working in the BPO offices near the area. They are also looking at other properties near the area.
Its amenities include a pool, gym and sky deck with a jogging path and meditation area. RFID exclusive access and 24-hour security service provide security and peace of mind for residents.
Livingsprings mid-class condo is still affordable to customers with easy down payment installment for 36 months. They can also structure payments for those who would like to settle for 50 percent down payment. The 27 sqm studio type is being sold for ₧2.7 million complete with kitchen cabinet with frosted glass.
“We design in such a way that buyers can actually fit 2 bunk beds they can rent out to four students where rent can be used for the monthly amortization,” adds Monique, who was awarded Outstanding Thesis for her batch School Year 1998-2003.
Despite being the latest kid on the block, Livingsprings won the prestigious Asia Pacific Property Awards 2019. 10 Acacia Place won double awards at the recently concluded awards, bagging the Best Apartment/Condominium and Architecture Multiple Residence for the Philippines.
It is the only double award-winning property in the Philippines wining 5 Stars for Best Apartment/Condominium and Architecture Multiple Residence.
“It is great to be validated by international bodies and we were just a blind entry,” says Monique.
“We are purpose-driven so we are trying to think how to improve to give better services to our customers,” she adds.
“If you want to serve the needs of Filipinos, then look at the affordable housing,” says Monique stressing that while there is also demand for mid-class condominium in the metro, although there is a bigger backlog for economic housing, which price could range from ₧1.7 million up to ₧3 million.
“With our value and quality, we are giving more,” says Monique.
At Livingsprings, Monique said they do not sacrifice quality because these units are going to be passed on to the next generation. “We make sure the materials are long standing, our steel and other construction materials all passed quality and standards. We do not cut corners,” she adds.
“My mom is the CEO, but she trusts me,” adds Monique, who also dabbles into her own architectural practice under M.CAL Architecture & Design outside of the family business.
“I am just blessed to have several projects now and at the same time we have very competent people in every department,” adds Monique.
Harmony is also kept by having fully delineated job descriptions. In a pure corporate world, there are no personal attachments involved, just pure business, but a family corporation can be sensitive. So, they are careful not to hurt each other’s feeling.
“But we are all challenged to become better,” she adds.
As an architect, the most satisfaction comes from a realized design. “Even seeing the structure being built already excites me,” says Monique, who has been married for 11 years and with two young kids, a boy and a girl.
Her first job as an architect was a house in Valle Verde whose owners just put their trust in the young architect. From then on, she did several projects already. But her dream project is a modern resort development.
“If you noticed, Tres Palmas is designed like a resort and 10 Acacia is like a hotel because I love vacations so I translated it into the business,” she adds.
Her interest for architecture started when she was just 14 years old. “I looked out the window and I saw a building and I just thought ‘How do they do that, what goes into the building’,” recalls Monique.
It was an “aha” moment for Monique. From then on, she wanted to become an architect. She is the only architect in the family because everybody’s into business.
What makes a good architect? “It is his creativity, the hunger to keep on learning so there is always good material coming out, new concepts, your subconsciousness is so powerful,” she adds noting that an international exposure is also a good plus factor for an architect.
In addition, she said, that an architect must be organized and be able to cover all areas in the designing process.
“People tend to draw immediately when given a plate, but you end up not so happy with the results. I found out that if I spend more time conceptualizing, I will finish faster and happier with the results,” she adds.
To her, it is always about experience. Every time, she designs she would consider the market or the users of the design. When in a store for babies, she has to consider the child. So, the design should be accountable for the child and it affects the feeling.
“I call it experiential architecture, if you are mindful of these details it can make you a good architect,” says Monique.
For instance, she designed the roofs of a project facing the rotunda that they look like saluting you as you enter. “It is very conceptual; it is not noticeable unless you take a closer look. It conveys a very positive feeling,” she adds.
A good architect is also someone who has always the passion and desire to design and to improve his works. At Livingsprings, they incorporate designs for easy transformation of spaces when the need arises like a new baby that needs extra space.
“Our designs allow for super easy renovation,” she adds.
Livingsprings is also mindful of the environment and its carbon footprint. Thus, developing condominium near work places is the most ideal because that is the greenest way to do it – live near your work place and bike to work.
NOT ALL FOR PROFIT
Monique really appreciates the works of Architect I. M. Pei for his timeless structure. “The iconic pieces of the Chinese-American architect are built to last, classic yet of modern form through the materials used and that’s what we want to be,” says Monique.
She also looks up to Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi lady architect but based in the UK. She was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. She also received the UK’s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011.
She also loves the Japanese minimalist architecture. “I want clean designs, but which actually takes more effort because to design something simpler you have to ensure to put all the functions and to be able to accomplish that you have to give more thought into it. A minimalist is more peaceful but there is actually much going on,” says Monique.
Definitely, she always considers green buildings and has already incorporated in their standards the green principles like using natural light, open spaces and new ventilation technologies for efficient cooling, and the use of energy efficient lights. Even the plumbing layout and sprinklers must be green-inspired.
Green principles can be costly if not done properly. But even if the green principles are expensive, it would just cancel out because the materials used reduces carbon footprint and less labor that would accrue to more savings and faster project completion.
As a startup, Monique has realized that every single day is a challenge but the trick is also to always keep in mind that there is always a solution. “So, there is no worry, no reason for anxiety for as long as we are doing right. We always follow the Housing and Land Use Regulator Board, the building code, the Bureau of Internal Revenue. If everyone follows the rules, there is nothing to hide, that can be most peaceful,” she adds.
She encourages honesty in doing business stressing, “We can all make money, just tell the truth because that will set you free.”
A health buff, she goes to gym regularly. Most of the time, she relaxes by watching Netflix focusing on historical dramas.
“My dream is to build a resort. If government will give me a space by a river to design, I would like to design a museum by the water front,” says Monique, whose roots are engaged in the sugar business in Bacolod.
As boutique developer, so much is in store for Livingsprings. “It depends on God, we are just following his plans step by step,” says Monique.
Monique, however, would like to ensure that each future project would have a complete market research. She would also like to stay on course with their vision to be different by not shortchanging their clients and never to sacrifice quality and standards for money.
“I believe to be different in providing affordable condo housing units, it is a calling. You cannot just do business all for profit,” concludes the 39-year old architect.