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Prime Tower - Commitment to security

20.09.2021Bouygues Energies & Services
Rescue operations in and on skyscrapers pose major challenges for emergency services and building managers alike. In order to be prepared for an emergency, Schutz & Rettung Zurich practised rescuing cleaning staff from a window cleaning gondola at the Prime Tower at a height of about 80 metres.



"The surface heat of the tower poses a serious problem, especially in the summer months," Andi Birrer, head of operations at Schutz & Rettung Zurich, explained to the crowd of media present right at the start. The approximately 21,000 m2 green surface of the Prime Tower consists of 4,388 individual facade elements. On very hot summer days, these can heat up to 100° C. A problem for the material used as well as for the rescue workers themselves.


At least on this summery Friday morning, the heat problem was not an issue. In mild temperatures, the height rescuers from Schutz & Rettung Zurich arrived in front of the Prime Tower, where they were immediately welcomed by Michi Isenring, Head of Facility Management Zurich West of Bouygues Energies & Services in Switzerland. Since 2010, Bouygues Energies & Services has been integrally providing all infrastructural and technical facility management services in the former tallest building in Switzerland on behalf of the owner Swiss Prime Site. 

A demanding mandate

The operation of the 126-metre-high landmark of the city of Zurich requires the highest safety and building technology requirements from the provider. As mandate manager, Michi Isenring has been responsible for smooth operations in the Prime Tower since 2017. Although the upcoming exercise is also a touchstone for the quality of the organisation on site, he was not nervous. "Since Bouygues Energies & Services attaches the highest priority to safety and my team and I invest a lot of time in practising the correct procedures, I am very confident that the exercise will go off without incident. Of course, I also have full confidence in the specialists of Schutz & Rettung Zurich and the working material," he added.


The special height rescue unit of the professional fire brigade of the city of Zurich comprises about 20 employees. They all have a relevant background in mountain rescue or as alpinists and are familiar with dangerous situations at high altitude. This morning's exercise consisted of two sequences, both of which simulated the rescue of cleaning staff from a facade gondola. In the first sequence, the height rescuers abseiled from the roof of the 36-storey Prime Tower to the gondola on the 23rd floor. The second sequence involved a rescue at the 8th floor level, also from the roof. In the second case, a BYES employee realistically took over the part of the person to be rescued. After all, the specialised cleaners from Bouygues Energies & Services spend around one month a year cleaning the outer facade of the high-rise building.

Demanding exercise - for human and material

In addition to the high heat, strong winds on the exposed facade are also problematic for the evacuation. The conditions at such heights also place the highest demands on the materials used - both the facade gondola and the abseiling device used. After the abseiling device was attached to the building's own crane, the height rescuer, in consultation with the head of operations, moved down into the depths to the supposedly injured cleaning employee in a so-called safety harness. During both sequences, the employee was accompanied by a height rescuer from Schutz & Rettung Zurich, who supervised the rescue and acted as an attendant. After the height rescuer had reached the employee, he was first treated before being secured with a special device on the rescuer's harness and transported away. If possible, the patient is always transported downwards. This is easier and the patient is directly at the ambulance. Bringing the person to be rescued over the parapet would be more difficult because it would require a high deflection point. The second exercise followed the same pattern, but the gondola was only about 20 metres above ground directly under an overhang of the tower, which presented an additional challenge. In both cases, everyone involved made it back to the ground unharmed.

Safety at work is a high priority

In addition to the performance of the fire brigade, the interaction with the organisations responsible for the operation of the building is also crucial for the success of a rescue in an emergency. In addition to the conscientious practice of procedures, a quick and targeted response by facility management is required. "Safety thinking is part of our identity at Bouygues Energies & Services. Accordingly, such exercises are important to review all procedures and to constantly improve ourselves. Nevertheless, it is of course our aim to prevent such situations from arising in the first place by thinking, planning and acting with appropriate forethought and prudence. I would like to thank Schutz & Rettung Zurich as well as my staff for the trusting and pleasant cooperation during the planning and implementation of this training," sums up Head of Mandate Michi Isenring.

Interview with Michael Isenring, Head of Mandate Zurich West

(Video is only available in German)