Autonomous alpine shelter, New Monte Rosa Hut

Autonomous alpine shelter, New Monte Rosa Hut

Zermatt, Switzerland
Project Year
Individual Buildings


Social Housing

Autonomous alpine shelter, New Monte Rosa Hut

Holcim Foundation as Developers

Project background The "hut of the future" is finished. After six years on the drawing board - two of which as a student project design - and a construction phase spanning two summers, the New Monte Rosa Hut near Zermatt inaugurated in September 2009. As part of the inauguration ceremony of the new Monte Rosa hut, CEO of Holcim Switzerland, Kaspar E A Wenger presented project author Professor Andrea Deplazes with a certificate marking the structure as one of fifteen finalist projects in the 2nd International Holcim Awards competition (2009).

Nicknamed the “Mountain Crystal”, this innovative building generates over 90 percent of its energy itself (excluding cooking). It opened to hikers and mountain climbers in March 2010 and will continue to serve ETH Zurich as a research object in power and building service engineering.

A shining tribute to solar energy 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 façade, it generates its own power and is expected to be at least 90 percent energy self-sufficient (excluding cooking).

Solar collectors, installed adjacent to the structure, 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 remote-controlled from Zurich Such a high degree of energy self-sufficiency requires the interaction of the individual components and shrewd energy management. Software developed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) operates 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.

Milestone for sustainable building The corner stone 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 closed for the winter before reopening for alpinists for summer seasons lasting April to September.

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 USD 6.5 million. Apart from the SAC and ETH Zurich, a number of patrons and sponsors including Holcim provided financial and material support to enable to project to be realized.

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