Andreas Tower: When inspiration overcomes the impossible

Building the 22-story Andreas Tower, which rises gracefully into the sky from a fork in the tracks at the Zurich Oerlikon railway station, was a truly monumental task. As an integral member of a diverse team of planning, engineering and construction specialists, EBP made a significant contribution to the realization of a daring project whose essential success factors included a holistic vision of all construction phases and excellent teamwork.

«Seriously? Build an 80-meter high-rise on that narrow spot between the tracks at the Zurich Oerlikon railway station?» was the unanimous initial response of the project’s key participants upon learning of SBB Real Estate’s vision for the Andreas Tower. The Zurich Oerlikon railway station is one of the most important transportation hubs in Switzerland. When the planning for the project began in 2013, it was clear that the space available at the site was extremely limited and that despite the location’s intensity, with trains rolling past by the minute on the left and right, there were to be no interruptions in railway service.

Comprehensive developer support

Originating in a developer’s vision, the proud appearance of the Andreas Tower rising above an urban rail yard to mark out a major European transportation hub was made possible by meticulous planning and execution. And we at EBP are proud of the role we played as members of the project team. As a provider of comprehensive developer support services, the focus of our work throughout the project’s various phases was to secure adherence to the goals laid out by SBB Real Estate at the start of the project. Acting as a kind of sparring partner, we used our foresight and experience to keep SBB informed of the various tasks involved and what needed to be prioritized as we moved forward with the project’s execution.

Eliminating bottlenecks

The limited space at the site presented a major challenge, particularly in the area of construction logistics. Numerous subcontractors needed to deliver tons of new material to the site every day, and then distribute the material from the ground floor to the upper stories via only 6 elevators – elevators that also needed to serve as a means of conveying waste material back down to ground level. In the end, we were able to manage potential bottlenecks by introducing a ticketing system that allowed the subcontractors to reserve crucial timeslots on a digital platform and thereby avoid a cascade of delays.

A highly complex excavation task

The limited space between the tracks also presented a major challenge to those responsible for planning the excavation pit. Working in close consultation with the planning team, the general contractor recommended a bidirectional construction plan, according to which the 22 stories were to be built from the ground floor upward, while at the same time proceeding with the underground levels via cut-and-cover excavation – a complex task requiring a precise alignment of the smallest details. Here, too, the supply of new materials and the removal of excavated material needed to be managed via a limited number of access points. This work was facilitated by the deployment of a special excavator. Moreover, the excavation pit needed to be re-secured at regular intervals to prevent any damage to the building, the track beds and other surrounding structures. While the general contractor’s proposal was costlier up front, it ultimately lowered overall costs and allowed the SBB to gain much valuable time.

Farsighted consultation

The challenges presented by the elevators and the excavation pit give a small insight into the many tasks we faced in our role as a provider of comprehensive developer-support services. Availing ourselves of our own planning experts, we carefully examined the viability of each proposal and made sure that SBB Real Estate always had a solid basis for its decision-making processes.

Indeed, our extensive experience with other major construction projects and our holistic, farsighted view of the project’s planning and execution were distinguishing features of our approach that redounded to the benefit of SBB throughout the project. This included our commitment to managing projects from the initial inquiry to the final acceptance procedure and beyond, as well as our capacity to recognize all of the important things that will need to be attended to from the start.

Added quality assurance thanks to EBP planning experts

As the developer, SBB also benefited from our extensive range of technical expertise, including construction engineers and planners in the areas of building-services engineering, electrical systems, and façades. Working together with our developer representatives, our expert planners examined whether the building was also being executed in the manner envisioned by the developer. During the planning phase, this meant assessing the plans for each construction phase in terms whether the developer’s goals had been properly interpreted by the primary planners. Similarly, our experts were always there to examine the integrity of the project’s technical implementation. Thanks to this additional layer of quality assurance, we were able to detect challenges at an early stage and minimize risks. Throughout the project, the developer profited from a unique EBP synergy: the general knowledge of our developer representatives and the specialist knowledge of our planning experts.

Throughout the project, excellent teamwork proved to be the key to meeting the many challenges and securing the success of the Andreas Tower. Whether on the part of the EBP team members, the primary planners or the many subcontractors, there was a clear commitment at all times to acting in concert and facing all challenges together.