1.    Choice of topic


Over the last years, the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG[1] have undertaken many environmental projects in order to enhance the sustainability of their touristic resort. Therefore they are ISO14001 certified. In this mini case study, we will be focusing on one of their sustainable projects: the solar restaurant at 3’883 metres.[2] The aim of this case study is to emphasize the different features this solar restaurant at 3’883 metres, in terms of technology, environment, tourism, and benchmarking (I chose this topic, because I want to look into more details at the environmental, economic and touristic purposes of this project.)

2.    Introduction

2.1   Location of the solar restaurant and solar prize award


The Matterhorn glacier paradise (Klein Matterhorn) in Zermatt with its viewing platform at an altitude of 3,883 metres above sea level is one of the locations that provide the most sunshine in Switzerland. With more than 2,500 hours of sunshine a year, the Matterhorn glacier paradise is the undisputed sunshine capital of Switzerland. Thus, the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG cableway company decided it could be worth utilising this environmentally friendly energy. During the winter season of 2008/2009, the Zermatt Bergbahnen opened the solar restaurant, which is located on the south flank of the mountain with a tunnel relating it to the cable car.[3] Within the restaurant, there is a shop, public restrooms located on the ground floor, while the upper floor consists of bunk rooms for mountain climbers and skiers in a small hall. The building meets the conditions of the Minergie-P standard, which is why the energy concept is a role model for the entire Alpine region and it was therefore awarded the 2010 Solar Prize for new buildings in Zurich. However, for Zermatt Bergbahnen AG, this is only a first step forward on the way to intelligent utilisation of solar energy to operate its infrastructure.


2.2    Innovative technology


The solar building produces all the electricity for heating and ventilation using a photovoltaic system incorporated into the façade. “The façade consists of two layers – an interior timber[4] “skin” with timber window frames, plus an exterior metal skin that integrates solar panels, glass and sheet metal. The air between the two layers primarily serves to produce heat: air warms up, its heat is trapped and stored.”[5]


3.    Environmental and touristic purpose of the solar restaurant

3.1   Environmental impact


When developing the infrastructure of the solar restaurant, Zermatt Bergbahnen AG  focused on three pillars:


1)    The energy used should achieve the maximum possible effect.

2)    Having renewable energies, such as photovoltaic panels.

3)    The third is to provide the electricity of the infrastructure without the use of CO2 in buildings and to operate the facilities.


 Of course, there are other factors that make the solar building environmentally friendly.  First of all, the building itself has an innovative ventilation system that prevents the photovoltaic panels to overheat.  Then low energy loss is guaranteed, thanks to the 52 centimetres of heat insulation and triple-glazed windows. The building also retains all material cycles to the maximum possible extent. And finally, appropriate solutions were found for dealing with the scarce resource water. Thus the building is equipped with its own membrane reactor water treatment plant. This allows purified waste water from the kitchens and washrooms to be recycled for flushing toilets. [6]

Nevertheless, as said previously, this is just the beginning of sustainability development in Zermatt. It is still rare to find in Zermatt buildings which are utilizing renewable energies to provide the heating, electricity and water infrastructure, according to Eva Maria Klay, of Switzerland’s Pro Natura group. [7]


3.2   Touristic impact


The solar restaurant is a place for hikers and alpinists. The building offers guests an attractive contemporary infrastructure: the ground floor of the prefabricated wooden construction is home to a shop and restaurant seating 100; on the upper floor is a room with seating for 50 and accommodation for 40 alpinists. The company also engages in restoring the mountainous landscape and carries out broad information campaigns to heighten the local people and visitors’ awareness of ecological themes. [8]


3.3   Benchmarking


 “It sets the benchmarks with regard to energy efficiency. At an altitude of more than 3,800 metres above sea level, the building is exposed to extreme climatic conditions. Wind speeds of up to 300 km/h and temperatures of as low as minus 30° Celsius and especially the risk of overheating due to the intensive solar radiation, presented the planners and engineers with a set of particularly tricky challenges.”[9]





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[1] Zermatt Bergbahnen AG = local cableway company of the resort

[3] Zermatt Matternhorn (en). (2010). 2010 solar prize for Zermatt Bergbahnen. Retrieved from http://www.zermatt.ch/en/page.cfm/news_events/news/solarpreis_zbag

[4] Timber=wooden

[5] Quotation from Peak Architekten (en). (2008). Glacier Restaurant, Klein Matterhorn, Zermatt. Retrieved from http://www.peakarchitekten.com/en/page/5

[6] Zermatt Matternhorn (en). (2010). 2010 solar prize for Zermatt Bergbahnen. Retrieved from http://www.zermatt.ch/en/page.cfm/news_events/news/solarpreis_zbag

[7] BBC News. (2012). Sun, snow and sustainability in Zermatt. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17553989

[8]  Zermatt Matternhorn (en). (2010). 2010 solar prize for Zermatt Bergbahnen. Retrieved from http://www.zermatt.ch/en/page.cfm/news_events/news/solarpreis_zbag


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