Monte Rosa Hut
This facility is 90 percent self-sufficient and offers hikers protection from the elements in a new-style alpine hut that rises dramatically out of the snow-covered terrain. At first glance, the Monte Rosa Hut looks like the kind of place Snow Miser might live, a large glacial formation rising out from the snowy peak. In reality, however, it's a high-altitude mountain shelter that sets new milestones in sustainability and innovative design.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich)—a top technology and science university—teamed up Swiss firm Bearth & Deplazes Architekten, the legendary Swiss Alpine Club (SAC), and Vectorworks® software to design and build the "hut", which sits 2,883 meters high in the Swiss alpine sky near Zermatt. The facility houses a state-of-the-art research lab which measures the building’s efficiency as a self-sufficient entity. Vectorworks Architect software files served as input and output for the energy design. Continue.
The asymmetrical angles of the five story hut minimize exposure to snow and wind and provide more room for guests.
Studio Monte Rosa, a combined group of selected ETH students and Swiss architecture firm Bearth & Deplazes Architekten, designed a structure that would replace the original hut, which was in great need of repair. The new lodging serves two important purposes: to provide alpinists and hikers protection from the elements as well as a comfortable, clean space to eat, rest, and commune with fellow travelers; and to provide ETH Zürich with valuable research on effective sustainable practices.
The facility can accommodate up to 120 guests. It contains a simple kitchen and dining area—both fashioned from spruce and fir, which were chosen for their sustainability quotients. A large common room provides a spot for socialization. The bedrooms feature trapezoidal mattresses in various sizes made to minimize wasted space by matching the shape of the human body (broader at the top and tapering for the legs). During the specialty research phase, the ETH students used Vectorworks software to maximize the placement and number of beds within the given space. By simulating many different scenarios for the beds and other building elements, the design team optimized the hut’s entire design―which saved a great amount of development time and significantly reduced building costs.
Ribbon windows, mirroring the surrounding mountain ridge and and angled staircase, stream light into the hut and enhance thermal energy.
The design team used Vectorworks Architect software to create the complex geometry of the Monte Rosa Hut, designing 420 different wall and ceiling elements that were pieced together. A big task was handling the different geometries while keeping the detailed solutions as similar as possible, as was done with the ribbon glazing/window strip, the timber construction/woodwork, and the furnishing of the bedrooms. The program’s accurate, flexible symbol libraries were very helpful to the team because the designers did not have to create the components from scratch.
The software also provided the basis for calculating project costs according to Swiss standards and enabled the students to employ a “digital chain” methodology to fine-tune the hut’s components at each step of the project and move their data seamlessly from concept to design, to development, to fabrication, and finally to construction. The end result: precisely-manufactured building elements and smooth collaboration with numerous other project teams. By using the digital chain to address complexities and efficiencies, they were able to reduce the number of building elements by 30 percent and the weight by 40 percent, and also adjust design elements throughout the process.
Images courtesy of Holcim Foundation and the Wikimedia Commons.