Close Login
Register here
Forgot password
Forgot password
or
or

Close
Close Inspiration on environmental sustainability, every month.

Currently 5,988 people are getting new inspiration every month from our global sustainability exchange. Do you want to stay informed? Fill in your e-mail address below:

Close Receive monthly UPDATES ON ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN YOUR MAILBOX EVERY MONTH.

Want to be kept in the loop? We will provide monthly overview of what is happening in our community along with new exciting ways on how you can contribute.

Close Reset password
your profile is 33% complete:
33%
Update profile Close

Travel travel Accomodation

Refuge du Gouter: Sustainable way to the top

Share this post
by: Sharai Hoekema
refuge du gouter  sustainable way to the top

Only a small number of us will ever be able to experience it: the last stop before the final climb to the top of the Mont Blanc. This stop on the main route was notorious for its lousy accommodation: a bland, uncomfortable building built in the sixties, that was not only painfully outdated but also an environmental hazard.

Those visiting for an overnight stay would do well to prepare themselves for recurring problems with hygiene - the two outside toilets are not only inconvenient, they also heavily pollute the surrounding area through its direct emptying of waste on the mountainside - and freezing nightly temperatures, even inside. 

Not exactly a great preparation for one of the biggest climbs in some climbers’ lives, yet it certainly adds a certain something to the charm and roughness associated with mountaineering. Right? Well, that logic might have been sound until recently, when it was high time to upgrade the lodging.

A new, sustainable mountain hut

This was done in the form of the Refuge du Goûter, a new and ecological hut. The remarkable structure, resembling some kind of futuristic egg, has four stories and an all-wooden structure that has been clad using stainless steel. It partly overhangs the cliff below, guaranteeing breathtaking views and enhancing its ‘curb appeal’.

And appeal it certainly has. Not only from an architectural point of view (the Swiss designer Hervé Dessimoz spent five years merely designing the building), but also from an ecological point of view. The building is self-sufficient in its demand for energy and water, boasting a solar thermal system and self-sufficient water supply. 

Plenty of ecological features

This sophisticated system for water reclamation provides a supply of water for cooking and washing. It makes good use of the egg shape of the building: because of the wind, constant turbulence lets the snow slide across its outer skin, after which it accumulates in a grid of some 60 square meters. Within this grid, heat generated by solar panels melts this snow, after which it is collected in huge tanks. Due to the size of these tanks, the building can operate for 16 days without snow. 

These solar panels also generate heat and electricity for the building, providing in nearly all of its heating and power needs - only the kitchen still makes use of gas. When there is no sunlight, a backup generator that runs on rapeseed oil will produce electricity. 

Sewage farm and isolation

Another huge plus: human waste will no longer be dumped on the mountainside. Instead, the six environmentally friendly toilets within the hut are built to be ecological and clean. The amount of water that they use is minimised through the implementation of a vacuum-suction system that most of us will know from aircrafts. Upon flushing, the human waste will be collected in a tiny sewage farm that processes it into some kind of highly compacted sludge that can, if required, be heliported down to the valley and be disposed properly.

No longer will eager mountaineers have to suffer from the cold: the new location is equipped with triple glazing and dual-flow ventilation, as well as insulation provided by wood-fibre panels. All of this ensures an indoor temperature that ranges between 18 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius. 

Construction in pieces

The entire structure was put together in pieces: pre-assembled parts were taken in by helicopter and mounted securely using a specific resin adhesive. This drastically reduced the number of nuts and bolts that would be required. It took three years to complete construction, with work only possible in the warmer months of the years - and frequently interrupted by severe weather events. 

Despite the difficulties, the project supervisor Thomas Büchi and architect Dessimoz never wavered in their dedication to the project: “What we're saying is that, if it's possible to build a self-sufficient, eco-friendly building at 3,835 metres, there's no excuse for not doing it at sea level.”

And right they are! The need for an ecologically sustainable building at this altitude and in this spot might have been doubted by some, yet it only seems to highlight the possibilities and the ease with which it can be executed, if only those in charge are dedicated to doing ‘the right thing’. 

Countering the effects of global warming

Even in this small Mont Blanc community, the effects of global warming and other strains that have been put on the natural environment are starting to show. The number of serious accidents amongst climbers on the Mont Blanc has increased significantly in recent years, most of which resulting from falling rocks. In the past, snow and ice would keep them in place, yet due to warmer temperatures, they are loose and subject to sliding at any time. Last summer alone, more than 1,000 climbers experienced falling rocks on their ascent.

With the ever-increasing number of people gearing up to conquer Europe’s highest mountain, it only seems to underline the importance of providing ecological and sustainable accommodation and facilities: to preserve this miracle of Mother Nature for many generations to come.

https://www.whatsorb.com/category/architecture

Messange
You
Get updates on environmental sustainability in your mailbox every month.

Refuge du Gouter: Sustainable way to the top

Only a small number of us will ever be able to experience it: the last stop before the final climb to the top of the Mont Blanc. This stop on the main route was notorious for its lousy accommodation: a bland, uncomfortable building built in the sixties, that was not only painfully outdated but also an environmental hazard. Those visiting for an overnight stay would do well to prepare themselves for recurring problems with hygiene - the two outside toilets are not only inconvenient, they also heavily pollute the surrounding area through its direct emptying of waste on the mountainside - and freezing nightly temperatures, even inside.   Not exactly a great preparation for one of the biggest climbs in some climbers’ lives, yet it certainly adds a certain something to the charm and roughness associated with mountaineering. Right? Well, that logic might have been sound until recently, when it was high time to upgrade the lodging. A new, sustainable mountain hut This was done in the form of the Refuge du Goûter, a new and ecological hut. The remarkable structure, resembling some kind of futuristic egg, has four stories and an all-wooden structure that has been clad using stainless steel. It partly overhangs the cliff below, guaranteeing breathtaking views and enhancing its ‘curb appeal’. And appeal it certainly has. Not only from an architectural point of view (the Swiss designer Hervé Dessimoz spent five years merely designing the building), but also from an ecological point of view. The building is self-sufficient in its demand for energy and water, boasting a solar thermal system and self-sufficient water supply.   Plenty of ecological features This sophisticated system for water reclamation provides a supply of water for cooking and washing. It makes good use of the egg shape of the building: because of the wind, constant turbulence lets the snow slide across its outer skin, after which it accumulates in a grid of some 60 square meters. Within this grid, heat generated by solar panels melts this snow, after which it is collected in huge tanks. Due to the size of these tanks, the building can operate for 16 days without snow.   These solar panels also generate heat and electricity for the building, providing in nearly all of its heating and power needs - only the kitchen still makes use of gas. When there is no sunlight, a backup generator that runs on rapeseed oil will produce electricity.   Sewage farm and isolation Another huge plus: human waste will no longer be dumped on the mountainside. Instead, the six environmentally friendly toilets within the hut are built to be ecological and clean. The amount of water that they use is minimised through the implementation of a vacuum-suction system that most of us will know from aircrafts. Upon flushing, the human waste will be collected in a tiny sewage farm that processes it into some kind of highly compacted sludge that can, if required, be heliported down to the valley and be disposed properly. No longer will eager mountaineers have to suffer from the cold: the new location is equipped with triple glazing and dual-flow ventilation, as well as insulation provided by wood-fibre panels. All of this ensures an indoor temperature that ranges between 18 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius.   Construction in pieces The entire structure was put together in pieces: pre-assembled parts were taken in by helicopter and mounted securely using a specific resin adhesive. This drastically reduced the number of nuts and bolts that would be required. It took three years to complete construction, with work only possible in the warmer months of the years - and frequently interrupted by severe weather events.   Despite the difficulties, the project supervisor Thomas Büchi and architect Dessimoz never wavered in their dedication to the project: “ What we're saying is that, if it's possible to build a self-sufficient, eco-friendly building at 3,835 metres, there's no excuse for not doing it at sea level .” And right they are! The need for an ecologically sustainable building at this altitude and in this spot might have been doubted by some, yet it only seems to highlight the possibilities and the ease with which it can be executed, if only those in charge are dedicated to doing ‘the right thing’.   Countering the effects of global warming Even in this small Mont Blanc community, the effects of global warming and other strains that have been put on the natural  environment are starting to show. The number of serious accidents amongst climbers on the Mont Blanc has increased significantly in recent years, most of which resulting from falling rocks. In the past, snow and ice would keep them in place, yet due to warmer temperatures, they are loose and subject to sliding at any time. Last summer alone, more than 1,000 climbers experienced falling rocks on their ascent. With the ever-increasing number of people gearing up to conquer Europe’s highest mountain, it only seems to underline the importance of providing ecological and sustainable accommodation and facilities: to preserve this miracle of Mother Nature for many generations to come. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/architecture