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Andermatt Swiss Alps

When lowlanders built in the mountains

Hotel 4B and the Gotthard Residences are gradually taking shape. Even before the actual snowmelt, the construction workers have taken the excavators out of hibernation and begun preparing to resume the construction works. Lucas Conings, Deputy General Manager of Besix SA, is fully aware of the challenges: “Here in the mountains the construction period lasts a maximum of eight months. During this time, the work must be efficiently conducted. But winter didn’t come unexpectedly. We had closed down the site and sent our construction manager Björn Huebner on assignment to help out with a complex project in Poland. Unfortunately, the temperatures there were even lower than in the mountains.”

Besix SA has many seaside projects, such as Lustica Bay, the tourism project of Samih Sawiris in Montenegro, where the sun usually shines and temperatures seldom drop below 10 degrees Celsius. “It’s quite exciting! My colleagues working in the Emirates and Qatar can’t imagine what it means to work at -10 or -20 degrees Celsius, when concrete and aggregates must be heated.” In countries with up to 60 degrees Celsius in the sun, concrete must be cooled with ice or placed only at night. A completely different technology, but with the same result.

The Belgian company also sees a difference to its domestic market. In Belgium the highest “mountain”, Botrange, peaks at 694 m above the sea level. Lucas Conings, who lives in Belgium at sea level, remarks with a laugh: “At home we are constantly worried about the icebergs melting further and Belgium soon ending up completely under water. But before us, Holland would go first.” Hotel 4B and the Gotthard Residences are not the first project that Besix SA is executing under such climatic conditions, but the combination of snow, low temperatures and limited accessibility does make this construction project unique. “Our workers find it easier to adapt to the climate than to adjust to the Swiss mentality. But we are confident that they will quickly master this too.”

The construction of both buildings is on schedule. Currently, the concrete base is being put in place; soon the reinforced concrete walls will be erected. Some precast concrete elements will be used, which have been produced during the winter. Once the second basement level is finished, Andermatt visitors will be able to see the building steadily rise. Several floors will already be in place by summer. “We will do everything possible to see that the building shell is completed by next winter, which will surely come. And I will personally see to it that we begin in time to organize the topping-out ceremony – because where work is done, one must also celebrate.”

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