Zurich Insurance Group’s head office has stood on its prominent site on Mythenquai in the city of Zurich for 117 years. In April 2017, Implenia was given the contract to redevelop and renovate the Zurich complex. On a plot of around 10,000 m2, Implenia is replacing one building with a new one, and modernising three listed buildings that date from the last century. For the high-quality interior fit-outs, the “Quai Zurich” project is using the latest technology and, in keeping with the overall approach to sustainability, will meet the requirements of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED Platinum). The new building will be certified to the Minergie-P-Eco standard, and the existing listed buildings to Minergie Eco. The whole campus will qualify for the 2000-Watt Site label.
Zurich Insurance Group
Conversion of three existing listed buildings, and construction of a new building at group head office in Zurich.
Size of Implenia’s contract:
In the hundreds of millions of francs
March 2020; the ground-breaking ceremony took place in September 2017.
Listed status means fire protection regulations in the historic buildings being converted are very strict. The weak ground necessitates major pile work. Extensive archaeological investigations are being carried out at the same time.
Dealing with risk is an insurance company’s core business. Avoiding risks is also a top priority on a construction site, and Implenia sets high standards for the health and safety of its employees. HSEQ (health, safety, environment and quality) requirements are integrated quickly and flexibly into every project and process, and “Quai Zurich” is no different in this regard.
“The demolition work carried out at the beginning of the project required a lot of flexibility from us,” explains Martin Wegner, Safety Manager at Business Unit Implenia Buildings. “As work progressed during the demolition phase, the safety officers on site had to keep adjusting the emergency and escape routes and the evacuation plan for the buildings.”
Listed status presents major challenge
The strict fire protection regulations that apply to listed buildings are another challenge for this complex “One-Company” project. Three of the buildings are listed in the Swiss registry of protected cultural-historical properties. These three are being retained and renovated. All works involving naked flames or sparks – known as “hot works” – can only proceed if a permit has been obtained in advance from site management. And once the work is complete, it is vital to ensure there’s no risk of re-ignition. A fire watch must be arranged if required.
On the “Quai Zurich” construction site, the need for communication and coordination between the different trades and their various safety officers is extensive. Three of Implenia’s Business Units are working on site. Martin Wegner coordinates regular discussions with safety officers. The most important contact on site for safety matters is Construction Manager Benny Rosario, who acts as Health & Safety Coordinator for the “Quai Zurich” project. He coordinates all technical safety issues. “The building site is very complex, and the lack of space adds a further challenge, but the interplay between internal and external partners makes my job very interesting,” says Rosario.
An external security firm has been brought in to protect and guard the site. This company will also be responsible for access control at the shortly installed turnstile. People entering will be identified using electronic readers. All external partners and visitors already have to announce their arrival in advance, while spot checks ensure that access authorisations are in order.
Martin Wegner (right), HSEQ Manager Implenia Buildings Zurich and East Regions, and Benny Rosario (left), Construction Manager Implenia Buildings Prime, in intense discussion about the “Quai Zurich” project.
Incentive programme and web-based safety training
“We rely on positive incentives and motivation,” explains Martin Wegner. Employees who commit to working safely are given scratch cards as part of the incentive programme. These offer spot prizes in the form of shopping vouchers worth between 20 and 100 Swiss francs. This is how the workers get an appreciation that can otherwise be easy to forget during day-to-day work.
A newly developed web-based safety training course ensures that all workers and craftsmen on the building site are informed about and trained in the project-specific requirements and safety rules. Confirmation that training has been completed successfully can be combined with access control and loaded onto a worker’s ID pass. The plan is that from 2018 onwards, this web-based safety training will be used as standard at all Implenia Buildings projects.
Preventative concepts rather than checking
“Our work is changing in fundamental ways,” says Wegner. A few years ago, his day-to-day work consisted almost exclusively of going round the site checking whether people were wearing their safety helmets, for example, or whether the proscribed protective railings were in place; but preventative work dominates now. Wegner doesn’t see demanding customer requirements as a burden, however, but as a challenge. “For the most part we develop our own individual solutions for safety training. And then we test them on the construction site. If one of our innovations is shown to have a positive impact, we’ll introduce it to other sites too.”
Every accident is one too many. Implenia aims to achieve the best possible performance with regard to HSEQ, which is why it has systematically driven improvements in safety culture within its Business Units for years. The fact that big international clients are always setting the bar higher helps Frank Becker, Head of HSEQ at Implenia, to do his job.
“Occupational safety is not a cost, but an investment,” he says. For Becker “return on prevention” is the central concept. In addition to direct factors, such as the reduction in accident numbers, good prevention work also delivers indirect improvements. For instance, employees’ motivation goes up when they see that their employer is genuinely concerned that they go home healthy each evening.
“The lessons we learn from challenging projects always help improve our own safety processes.”
Openness about mistakes
Specialists believe that if a culture of safety is to be embedded successfully, two things are needed. Firstly, the safety culture has to be top-down, with managers setting the example. And secondly, sustainable improvements can only be made if there is a culture of openness about mistakes. People need to talk to each other impartially and transparently about incidents of all kinds. Rather than apportioning blame, everyone should try to identify opportunities to make improvements.
“The fact that HSEQ delivers a return is reflected in the way international corporations are setting ever higher standards in their tender documents,” Becker emphasises. It is no longer possible to justify so-called “avoidable accidents” to either employees or the general public. This development is very much in tune with Implenia’s philosophy.
challenge that Implenia willingly accepts: “These challenges allow us to demonstrate that we are in a position to meet HSEQ requirements very individually. And the lessons we learn on these projects always help us to improve our own safety processes.”