Project "Energy efficiency for alpine huts"

The Alpine associations have been looking into how to optimally construct and equip their mountain huts for a long time now. The 1,000+ Alpine association huts in the Alps represent a substantial number of buildings with very specific construction and maintenance requirements.

For this reason, since 2011 the CAA has been funding a project to develop a tool which enables the Alpine associations to check the carbon footprints of their huts and to compare data on their energy consumption. The project was completed in 2015. However, specialists will need to be trained to ensure that the Alpine associations use the tool effectively.

The newly developed tool is fully tailored to the specific needs of mountain buildings and covers all aspects of hut construction, from transport and the building work itself to the maintenance and supply of the huts, as well as their dismantling. It also provides a specific way of calculating the number of guests, giving a key indication of the extent to which each hut is being used. It is important to know whether the guests come in summer or winter and when the greatest number of day guests can be expected.

The tool was developed on the basis of fundamental data collected from four different huts in the Alps. These huts represented the entire range of issues being investigated in relation to the construction of mountain huts.

While buildings in the valley that can be evaluated normally are always designed to be used at full capacity throughout the year, we can precisely map out the unique usage patterns of mountain huts and consequently demonstrate how the building should be constructed and technically equipped.

The type of use, opening times and size of the hut determine whether it requires high-efficiency insulation. These factors influence the type of construction and energy production most suited to the location in question. Here, it is important to choose the best possible type of system by looking at the existing and planned parameters. This is due to the fact, that the major parts of our huts has been designed as a stand-alone system. All the energy generated by a stand-alone, off-grid power system has to be used by the building for which it is being generated. The same therefore also applies to any surplus energy. This excess energy must be stored intelligently, and if this is not possible (due to the battery storage system and boiler being full), it must be used as expediently as possible.

It is difficult to compare huts because the primary key data is determined by the location of the hut, its exposure to sunlight and the availability of drinking water, as well as the possible use of water to generate electricity. The finished tool is now capable of defining and determining these very aspects for each location so that the best possible energy production, construction and waste water technologies can be identified and put together for every hut location.

The first training course for specialists in energy efficiency will be held next spring. After completing the training, these specialists should be in a position to directly support the Alpine associations and their sections, and show them the best methods of increasing efficiency.

In the future, the finished tool will enable us to better understand our existing portfolio of huts as well as the huts we are planning to construct, and to check the feasibility of the measures being envisaged. The tool should also allow us to identify the conditions under which existing systems should be adapted, and how the available resources can be used to get the best out of the portfolio of existing huts.

Efficiency lays the foundations for the future of our mountain huts.


Weinfelden, 12 December 2015

Peter Büchel

Büchel Neubig Architects

Architecture + Energy Consulting

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Alpenverein SüSüdtirol Liechtensteiner Alpenverein Deutscher Alpenverein Schweizer Alpen-Club / Club Alpin Suisse Planinske zveve Slovenije Österreichischer Alpenverein fédération francaise des clubs alpins et de montagne Club Alipno Italiano