Sustainable flagship project at Lake Zurich

Surrounded by scaffolding, only the shell of a commercial building stands at Bellerivestrasse 36 in Zurich Riesbach at the beginning of 2022. No big deal when you consider that Zurich has been abuzz with building work for years and years. But you should know that this particular building between Bellerivestrasse and the lakeside in Zurich has a eventful story behind it dating back to the day it was originally completed in 1974. After almost half a century, Allreal is thoroughly modernising the former Elektrowatt building.

In 1974, the world just was recovering from the oil crisis in the previous year, Richard Nixon resigned as US President in the wake of the Watergate scandal and Germany won the football World Cup on home turf. And Elektrowatt opened its new Zurich headquarters at Bellerivestrasse 36 – a spacious statement in a prime location. The global company was one of Switzerland’s leading businesses. Originally a finance company (as was so often the case within the European electrical industry towards the end of the 19th century), its new head office was a symbol of commercial success complete with modern architecture.

During the 1990s, the majority owner decided to head in a different direction and leave the energy sector altogether. Elektrowatt was split up and sold. As part of these changes, the building at Bellerivestrasse 36 was put on the market and later added to Allreal’s property portfolio in 2004.

Since the property was built, the only work to be done to it has been minor tenant fit-outs and the odd repairs to the building facilities. The building envelope in particular no longer fulfils the current demands for comfort or the energy requirements. It was decided that modernisation work would also need to be performed to ensure structural fire safety and protection against earthquakes. “We’ve known for a long while now that we wanted to seriously refurbish the building on that basis,” says Alain Paratte, Head of Property and member of Group Management at Allreal.

Convincing floor plan solutions and pragmatic portfolio management

Around three years ago, the building’s main tenant, PartnerRe, was due to move out. With customer service being so important to Allreal’s success, the company helped PartnerRe to find a new location that could better meet their needs. The company’s own new build project at Hardstrasse 299/301 in Zurich-West turned out to provide an ideal solution for both parties. This offered the opportunity to start the modernisation of the building at Bellerivestrasse 36. The main objective was to improve on the division of space and make an effort to meet sustainability standards. 

“We invited several architecture firms in Switzerland and beyond to take part in a study contract for the project,” recalls Murat Özküp-Steiner, Head of Project Development at Allreal. The aim of the competition was to guarantee high-end architecture and an impressive overall appearance that even fitted in with the city planning. But other requirements included an innovative new energy concept, multifunctional use of the building and a coherent outside design, whilst keeping a close eye on profitability.

In the autumn of 2019, the judging panel headed up by Dani Ménard decided in favour of the plans submitted by C.F. Møller Architects. “The project stands out with its bright and fresh look and feel,” says Murat Özküp-Steiner, referring to the judging report. “The plans have the building facing the lake and promenade, include impressive floor plan solutions for the office floors and demonstrate pragmatic portfolio management.”

A challenging and complex project

The planning application was submitted in the summer of 2020, and the decision came before the end of the year, at which point the Bellerivestrasse 36 project was passed from the Project department to the Realisation department. “Once it had been decided that I would be taking on the lead as project manager at the implementation phase, I was confident that my team and I had an exciting and interesting yet challenging and complex project ahead of us, with the existing building alone posing plenty of difficulties,” says Alain Granwehr. His work as a project manager in the Realisation division has seen him take on no end of complex projects for Allreal before this one. He was responsible for two lots on the Richti site in Wallisellen and managed the Gleis 0 project at the train station in Aarau, where space and time were tight and the proximity to the railway tracks caused some major challenges. “I can now draw on that experience and apply it to the Bellerivestrasse project,” says Alain Granwehr with a smile.

The office spaces spanning around 9,300 square metres in the extended main development are being expanded from the ground floor up to the sixth floor. “This means that the later office areas with uncovered raised floors and activated metal ceilings holding the heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems are being developed. Common areas like the toilets, corridors, front courtyards, atrium, main entrance and restaurant are being fully refurbished,” says the project manager.

Photovoltaic system to cover large proportion of energy required

Around 415 square metres of the ground floor will be dedicated to an employee restaurant with a catering kitchen. Cloakrooms, storage spaces and side rooms for the restaurant will be found on the second underground floor. Once all the work is complete, the building will be meeting high sustainability standards. The plan is to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

The new photovoltaic system will play a huge part in the sustainable operations, producing around 270,000 kilowatt hours of energy every year. The photovoltaic modules will be installed on the roof and front of the building. The 114 roof modules will account for around 32,000 kilowatt hours of the annual total, but the modules on the facade will be to thank for the remaining 235,000 kilowatt hours. “With its photovoltaic modules, projecting canopy roof and interior glare protection, the building front is one of the biggest challenges in this project,” says Project Manager Alain Granwehr. The building’s heating system will rely on nearby Lake Zurich, with the relevant licence having been acquired. By the time the project has been completed, energy sourced in this way will cover most of the requirements in this building and the neighbouring building at Bellerivestrasse 30, which also belongs to Allreal’s property portfolio.