Building on permafrost

When temperatures rise, the permafrost continues to thaw, losing ice and allowing water to flow through the previously frozen ground. This favours ground movements. As a result, the building substrate no longer bears as well. This endangers existing buildings and requires more elaborate measures for new buildings. Based on our research, we recommend practical solutions to better explore the nature of the ground and thus ensure the technical safety of mountain infrastructure.

Construction and maintenance of infrastructure in high mountains are a great challenge for architects, engineers and construction companies. Extreme weather conditions, complicated geological conditions and natural hazards such as avalanches and rockfall influence and threaten construction sites and buildings. Permafrost ground often contains ice. This can melt and cause slope movements. This changes the substrate structure during the service life of a structure and can lead to deformation and damage. Climate change and thermal influences of the buildings themselves on the ground intensify this. An adapted construction method is therefore indispensable.

Infrastructure on permafrost

Typical structures in mountain permafrost are cable car stations, pylons, restaurants, huts, water pipes, avalanche barriers, telecommunication facilities, tunnels and railway tracks. These play an important role for tourism, communication, energy supply or protection against natural hazards. In order to ensure the safety of this infrastructure, it is important to build according to the situation and to continuously monitor the structures and the ground during their use. We advise those responsible on site for construction or renovation projects in permafrost. Our book "Bauen im Permafrost." (Building in Permafrost) provides initial information. In the technical guideline "Lawinenverbau im Anbruchgebiet" (Defense structures in avalanche starting zones ), we also recommend how to correctly construct avalanche defence structures in permafrost.

Research Group


The "Permafrost" team investigates the interactions between permafrost, structures and the snow cover.



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