Technical building management with a focus on quality, safety and energy efficiency at Allreal

Allreal entrusts a team of seven to manage and oversee the maintenance and operations at many of its commercial properties. The Building Management team checks the technical systems and coordinates external service providers. There’s no stopping these dedicated employees – no matter how many new challenges they find themselves faced with every day.

It’s a foggy Wednesday morning and Fabian Graf is taking a walk around the Center Eleven in Zurich Oerlikon, a residential and commercial property in Allreal’s portfolio of yield-producing properties. Coop is the main tenant at the Center Eleven, where it has no less than one of its signature supermarkets, a DIY store, a restaurant and a pharmacy. The quality checks on Fabian Graf’s walk around are an important part of his work as one of four property supervisors at Allreal. 

Once a week, he checks the sprinkler system and tests the fire alarms and building control system at the Center Eleven. When it comes to the sprinkler system, he has to make sure that the water pressure doesn’t fall below a specific limit. If it did, the system wouldn’t have enough pressure to activate the top sprinklers in the event of a fire. The fire alarms always need to be able to communicate via two different channels – GSM and the internet – to ensure that the fire department can be notified if a fire does break out. 

The building control system maintains a water temperature of between 50 and 65 degrees Celsius with the exception of once a week when the water in the pipes is heated to above 65 degrees to kill off all the legionella and other bacteria in the system. Once a month, Fabian Graf visits the Center Eleven to perform a thorough check. As part of this, he has to test out all the levers and switches belonging to the sprinkler system – after the fire department have deactivated it to avoid him triggering the fire alarm. 

Allreal is providing a valuable service by guaranteeing safety and tenant satisfaction through these quality checks. “Safety is a top priority for us at our buildings, as owner liability is always brought up in the event of an emergency situation. We never want to be at fault,” says Fabian Graf.

Allreal outsourced all its building operations work until a few years ago, but that set-up never quite worked. The company always had to listen to what the external service providers thought and had no choice but to trust that they knew what they were talking about. With little relevant expertise amongst in-house staff, there was no way of checking that a ventilation system did in fact need to be serviced or a bulb did indeed need to be replaced. Not keen on being so dependent on external contractors, Allreal made the decision of principle to create an internal technical building management department around three years ago.

The company has been reaping the benefits of that move ever since. First and foremost, the company has access to experts internally now, putting Allreal on a level playing field with service providers like engineers, electricians and caretakers. Not to mention that Allreal has always been keen to get closer to its customers, the tenants in commercial and residential properties. 

“The idea was to open up direct and efficient communications with our customers, so we can be proactive in our responses to what they need,” says Mathias Knellwolf, Head of Building Management at Allreal. A qualified carpenter with a degree in Facility Management, he heads up a team of seven: the Head of Building Service Engineering, two property managers and four property supervisors.