The new building will provide the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) with more than 50 additional workspaces. These are urgently needed as the SLF has expanded considerably in recent years, in terms of both the issues it deals with and the number of personnel. The building meets the criteria for Minergie-P-ECO and has achieved the highest (Platinum) level of the Swiss Sustainable Construction Standard (SNBS).
WSL Director Beate Jessel is delighted: "To be able to open a new building is a privilege, especially when it's as successful as this one! It gives us much-needed room not only for our employees themselves but also so that they can fully develop their innovative ideas." The previous building was outdated in terms of energy efficiency and provided much less space. The SLF has been running increasingly short of this commodity in recent years. Its researchers' great success in securing projects, and the development by WSL – together with the Canton of Grisons, and with the support of ETH Zurich – of the Climate Change, Extremes and Natural Hazards in Alpine Regions Research Centre (CERC), which is integrated into the SLF, means that there are now around 180 people working at the institute (including visiting staff).
This is something that Marcus Caduff, President of the Canton of Grisons and guest of honour at the opening ceremony, very much welcomes. "Research is important for Grisons. It delivers insights that benefit us all and it creates valuable jobs. But Grisons is also important for research." By that he means not only financial support, but also the close ties of cooperation and the fascinating alpine phenomena that scientists can investigate here, right on their office doorstep. Michael Hengartner, President of the ETH Board, says: "Like the ETH Domain as a whole, the SLF, with its research on natural hazards, snow and the alpine environment, has long since left the proverbial ivory tower. It engages closely with all stakeholders working on these issues, whether in the federal government, the cantons or private companies." Smaller, decentralised locations like Davos are particularly valuable for connecting with society, he adds.
Platinum: even better than Gold
The first members of staff moved into the new building – which includes workshops, an assembly hall, storage areas, a bicycle garage, laboratories, meeting rooms and offices – around a month ago. They are working in bright, spacious offices, some with breathtaking views of the mountains. Such a setting (not to mention WSL's motto 'Research for People and the Environment') brings with it moral obligations: the new building, designed and planned by Schwarz Architekten, meets the sustainability requirements of Minergie-P-ECO thanks to its hybrid construction making extensive use of timber, its sophisticated building services and heating via the existing groundwater heat pump, eco-friendly and healthy materials, and photovoltaic panels on the east and west façades. Assurances have been given that it qualifies for the Platinum level of the Swiss Sustainable Construction Standard (SNBS 2.0), the highest tier available. It is the first building in the entire ETH Domain to demonstrably meet these strict requirements on environmental friendliness, economic efficiency (life-cycle costs) and user well-being. Beate Jessel says: "While any building uses resources such as soil, energy and a variety of materials from sand to metal, it was important for us to keep the impact on the environment as low as possible, while offering our employees attractive workspaces and making economical use of funds – which are ultimately people's taxes!" The SNBS Platinum award proves that these aims are mutually compatible in practice.
We would like to thank everyone who helped to make the new building a success:
- Empa Real Estate Management
- Dietrich Schwarz Architekten AG and all the planning/design companies
- Ralbau AG (general contractor) and all its subcontractors, namely Implenia Ltd (now Zindel AG), Alpiger Holzbau AG and Caviezel AG
- Martin Gentner and all the other WSL staff involved