Some call it a work of art, others a masterpiece. One thing is for certain: Converting a more than 100 year-old hotel up on 2,500 meters above sea level into a modern, sustainable and CO2-neutral building is no walk in the park. The result is the first plus-energy-hotel in the Alps on Muottas Muragl.
What to do, when in one of the most beautiful and popular places of the Engadin there is an old hotel with a higgledy-piggledy layout which does not allow an optimal course of business anymore? Which annually devours 40,000 litres of heating oil that needs to be delivered hazardously up to 2,500 meters above sea level? Which, even in a region with 320 days of sunshine, has a heating period of 365 days?
Knocking it down and building a new one, for the responsible parties that was out of the question. Opened in 1907, the hotel on Muottas Muragl and the integrated summit station of the «little red train» are historically significant witnesses of the past. Instead, the Mountain Railway Engadin St. Moritz Ltd decided to launch a showcase project: «When we decided, in 2006, to get Muottas Muragl into shape for the future, we wanted to create more than an extraordinary architectural and operational ensemble,” explains CEO Markus Meili. “This also included treating nature with due care and diligence.»
Aside from the conservation of the hotel’s historical basic structure, this meant to make the building as independent as possible of fossil energy sources. Which options do we have? building-owner and energy planner asked themselves. Wood? No, too many goods to be transported and as such an additional strain for the funicular. Wind? Well, on a mountain a stiff breeze is to be expected, however, it would blow too erratically. Geothermics? Of course, there is plenty of soil. Solar power? Absolutely, as the hotel is located at one of Switzerland’s sunniest spots!
«The Engadin is predestined for generating solar power,» states Kurt Köhl, chairman of the Swiss Solar Agency and of Clean Energy St. Moritz-Graubünden. «A best practice regarding open space, rooftops and facades could cover all needs of photovoltaics in the Engadin, provided that the building shells are state of the art.»
The Romantik Hotel was re-opened after ten months as the first plus-energy-hotel in the Alps. With 16 comfortable rooms, one panorama restaurant and one self-service restaurant, a 200-seat sun terrace and the new basement with storage, staff and technical rooms, 1000 m2 were added to the previous space. The highlight: Despite the larger space, the total energy expenditure could be reduced by two thirds.
All in all, the hotel can now draw on five energy sources: Energy for heating and water warming is generated by 1) the utilization of waste heat from the mountain railway operation as well as from the refrigeration for the kitchen and storage rooms. 2) 84 m2 flat solar collectors on the roof of the summit station and 3) 56 m2 tube collectors in front of the windows in the basement. 4) Should the collectors not generate enough energy, the geo-thermal heat pump joins in. Its energy is transmitted by 16 probes at a depth of 200 m, located directly behind the mountain hotel. Another task of those probes is the underground accumulation of any energy surplus. 5) With its 460 m2 of solar panels the 228 m long photovoltaic plant that runs along the upper railway, this generates more energy than is required by the Romantik Hotel.
However, in order to become a plus-energy-hotel, not «only» sustainable energy sources are required but also an optimised heat insulation in the interior. Due to flooring that is capable of storing heat, special ceiling and wall constructions and sophisticated underfloor heating, the energy demand was vastly reduced. An accomplishment that among others has been awarded the prestigious Swiss Solar Award and the Watt D’Or of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.