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Monte Rosa Alpine Hut Goes Solar (Swiss Alps)

Credits: ©2009 Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

The architecture department of the Swiss Federal Technical University in Zurich (ETH) and the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) put many heads together to come up with the "hut of the future" - After about six years on the drawing board - two as a student project design - and a construction phase spanning two summers, the Monte Rosa Hut above Zermatt, Switzerland, is open for business. Nicknamed "Mountain Crystal", the innovative building generates over 90 percent of its own energy. It is scheduled to receive guests in March 2010 and will continue to serve ETH Zurich as a research project in power and building service engineering.


Monte Rosa Alpine Hut (Zermatt, Switzerland)

The Swiss Alpine Club’s new Monte Rosa mountaineer’s hut in Zermatt, Switzerland, is 90% energy self-sufficient. The facet-like, metallic skin is studded with photovoltaic panels that supply the building with the necessary operational energy. ©2008 Swiss Federal Technical University in Zurich (ETH)

2,883 meters above sea level, the New Monte Rosa Hut is currently the most complex wooden construction in Switzerland. Covered in a shimmering silver aluminum shell and with a photovoltaic system integrated in the southern facade, it generates its own power and is expected to be at least 90 percent energy self-sufficient. Solar collectors installed in the grounds generate solar heat, which provides warm water and heats the ventilation system's supply air to control the temperature in the rooms. In the few months of the year where the ice melts, the water is collected and stored in a cavern to provide the guests with flush toilets and four hot showers. A bacteria-based microfiltration system cleans the sewage; the graywater is then reused to flush the toilet and for washing.

Computer in Zurich operates hut technology
Such a high degree of energy self-sufficiency requires the interaction of the individual components and shrewd energy management. Software developed at ETH Zurich is to operate the technology at the hut. The relevant data from the reservation system, energy storage and the weather station, for instance, is conveyed from the hut to a computer at ETH Zurich. The computer then uses the data to maximize the degree of energy self-efficiency. Any actions subsequently necessary - such as the command to engage the combined heat and power unit if the solar radiation is insufficient to generate enough power - are communicated back to the hut and performed automatically.

Energy sources that will be utilized:

-photovoltaic plant built into the south facade of the building

-valve-regulated lead-acid accumulators

-rapeseed oilfired combined heat and power plant

-thermal energy recovered from waste air

-heat emitted by people also makes a considerable contribution

-thermal solar collectors

Today, representatives of ETH Zurich and the SAC inaugurated the New Monte Rosa Hut together with the general planning team and various patrons and sponsors. Numerous media representatives also took the opportunity to visit the innovative building at the foot of the Dufour Peak overlooking the Matterhorn.

The cornerstone for the building was laid in August 2008 and the foundations were completed before the onset of winter. Thanks to prefabricated elements, which were initially transported by train and then flown to the building site by helicopter and assembled on site, the building was completed in the summer of 2009 after just five months. After the inauguration, the 120-bed hut will close for the winter before reopening for alpinists in March 2010; the season lasts until September.

Milestone for sustainable building
With its combination of outstanding architecture and groundbreaking technology, the project heralds a new chapter in sustainable building. ETH Zurich is looking to use it as an example of how marrying excellent architecture with sustainability and state-of-the-art technology can work. For the SAC - with over 120,000 members, one of the biggest sports unions in Switzerland - the building of the new hut is a milestone in its 145-year hut history.

The New Monte Rosa Hut cost about 6.5 million Swiss francs. Apart from the SAC and ETH Zurich, a number of patrons and sponsors also pitched in.

Article from InHabitat:
This remote alpine retreat features futuristic design, advanced building technology, and views of the Matterhorn. Just outside of Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, it’s the Swiss Alpine Club’s new Monte Rosa mountaineer’s hut, and it’s 90% energy self-sufficient. Since the hut is situated at the edge of a glacier and outside of the range of power lines, it was designed to be 90% energy independent and very energy-efficient. The majority of its energy is generated from photovoltaic panels and solar thermal systems, while the rest comes from a cogenerative heat and power system as a backup source. The designers are still considering how to generate bio-gas from human waste in order to make it totally powered from alternative energy and even more self-sufficient.

The autonomous alpine shelter, which resides at 2,810 meters above sea level, was designed by the Department of Architecture at the Swiss Federal Technical University in Zurich (ETH). The four-story building is used by mountaineers, from all over the world as a base camp from which to go on expeditions up the mountains and glaciers. The hut can accommodate up to 125 guests in its restaurant and hostel-like guest rooms. Resembling a shimmering ice crystal, Studio Monte Rosa blends in with the surrounding rock and snow and has a minimal environmental impact on the natural reserve around it.

The retreat was designed by both students and professionals at the ETH in a combined effort to create a modern, efficient building. Interestingly, the structure was pre-fabricated from from wood and digitally optimized to become a state of the art hotel – so James Bond. The hut was recently completed and at the end of September and has received a Holcim Bronze Award for Sustainable Construction.



  Monte Rosa Alpine Hut Fact Sheet (147 kb)