Self-sufficient with water and energy, thanks partly to Hydro's Wicona-brand aluminium building systems, the new Monte Rosa Hut is accepting guest reservations for its first winter in the Swiss Alps.
Monte Rosa Hut – or, Monte Rosahütte in German – is a mountain hut 2,883 meters high, located near Zermatt at the foot of Monte Rosa, looking up at the Matterhorn and other tall neighbors. It is owned by the Swiss Alpine Club, which decided to replace the original hut, constructed in 1895, with its self-sufficient vision, five stories high and shaped like a crystal.
The construction was conceived as a self-sufficient building for 120 guests, and its goals have been realized. Almost. All the building’s required water is meltwater from the environment, from snow and ice, collected in summer and stored in a 200-cubic-meter reservoir dug into rock just above the hut.
About 90 percent of the building's energy needs – for heating the hut, for warming water and cooking, for its own purification plant – come from the sun. And thanks to its advanced system of batteries, the hut is guaranteed power even when it is overcast.
An important factor in the realization of the high self-sufficiency degree of the Monte Rosa Hut is the building's energy management system, where individual energy-saving components also interact by means of intelligent regulation.
As an example, the system uses information on visitors and weather forecasts together with current climatic data and other building data to come up with a foresighted regulation of the overall system, and thus a further increase to efficiency.
Students from the Zürich Federal Institute of Technology are going to use the hut as a research station, where they can investigate how to use energy and resources efficiently.
Right the first time
Monte Rosa Hut is built on stainless-steel foundations with a spiral interior completely made of wood. Its exterior is covered with an aluminium shell, which sparkles in the sun. Everything appears postcard perfect. But the road was not easy.
Its location, isolated and very high, meant that construction materials and the prefabricated elements, including the Wicona-brand systems, needed to be transported by train to nearby Zermatt or carried by helicopter. Even so, the extreme conditions limited active construction work to three or four months per year, according to Dino Rossi, who managed Hydro's work on the project.
Hydro Building Systems Switzerland, which is headed by Rossi, won two significant orders on Monte Rosa Hut. One was a post-bolt construction for the photovoltaic plant on the south façade. The other was the trickier of the two, the 80-meter-long aluminium strip with windows and facades that winds around the crystal-shaped building like a pearl necklace.
This challenging lace of pearls required Hydro to do its planning in technical offices and workshops away from the actual building site. Each person on Rossi's Mägenwil-based team contributed.
The whole construction was noted in Wicona's WICTOP program as a three-dimensional construction with all data on-line. The biggest of the elements were pre-mounted in the workshop, then assembled and put together at the site. "This demanded a high level of logistical coordination with regard to sequence," he says.
"It was a task of planning of the highest requirements," says Rossi. "We could not afford to err. It had to be right the first time. But we did achieve this and the customer is satisfied, and it is nice for all of us to have contributed to this fantastic construction."
Hydro's building systems brands – Wicona, Technal, Domal and Alumafel – offer a wide range of aluminium-based systems, such as for windows, doors, curtain walls, facades, railing, skylight and solar systems.