Prefab Chalets Built at Water-Powered Eco-Resort in Swiss Alps

Montalba Architects use local materials for minimalist chalets.

Whitepod Eco-chalet

 Micha Riechsteiner via V2com

Montalba Architects have designed 21 "eco-chalets" for the Whitepod eco-luxury hotel in Les Giettes in Valais, Switzerland. The resort has a mission to "combine ecology with luxury to create a unique hotel experience." Its original chalets were geodesic domes, which were perhaps too unique; these new chalets are a little more conventional.

The new cabins are designed for groups or families, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in each. According to the V2com press release:

"The structures are made entirely with Swiss materials and products, including larch wood-paneled exterior and interior millwork by a local fabricator. These materials create a seamless transition between the structures and the surrounding mountains, while also evoking the design of a traditional Swiss chalet."
Whitepod Eco-chalet
 Micha Riechsteiner via V2com

The traditional Swiss chalet style is usually defined as having "a heavy, gently sloping roof and wide, well-supported eaves set at right angles to the front of the house." These buildings have no roof overhangs or eaves (a preoccupation with Treehugger, see All About Eaves.) However, they do have snow stoppers on the zinc roof to keep snow from sliding off, really big eavestroughs, and gravel around the building to keep water from splashing on to the larch siding.

Interestingly, according to research by Daniel Stockhammer, the style was invented by touring British architects.

In the late 18th and early 19th century wealthy foreign architects such as Briton Peter Frederick Robinson began travelling through Switzerland to draw and document the wooden buildings, said Stockhammer. Back in London, they redrew these sketches, altering them in the process based on their own idealistic view of Switzerland. “The tourists brought their idealized images (back) to Switzerland . The Swiss responded to the needs of guests [by building] hotels and railway stations but also kiosks and souvenirs in the Swiss style."

So it's OK to say that these evoke the design of a traditional Swiss chalet, given that designing without eaves is actually a Scottish tradition, to prevent the roofs being torn off by strong winds.

Whitepod interior
Micha Riechsteiner 

The units are made with Swiss materials, with oriented strand board (OSB) and larch trim on the interior, triple-glazed windows, and lots of insulation, with a polished concrete floor.

Dining Room in Whitepod
Micha Riechsteiner 

Architect David Montalba says:

“Heritage and craftsmanship are at the heart of design, so we give considerable attention to making sure local, timeless materials are incorporated into each project to create a continuation of a user’s experience with both the space and the region as a whole.”
Micha Riechsteiner
“For these projects and in our creative work, we draw upon the beauty of the surrounding nature, obscuring the lines between indoor and outdoor, contrast and allowing the landscape to influence and shape the spaces.”  
Defender Deliveries.  Whitepod

There are other interesting green eco-features at the Whitepod eco-resort. Every morning an electric Defender Land Rover delivers fresh croissants. The whole resort is powered by its own hydro-electric turbine.

"Whitepod aims to prove that hospitality and environmental conservation can coexist to create a unique and positive experience. The use of energy and water is controlled. The waste is recycled. Ingredients are purchased locally. The staff lives nearby and simply walks to work. Motorized transport is limited."

Winter activities are all low-carbon too, including ski touring, snowshoeing, and getting pulled around by a husky. This is a true eco-resort, if you don't have to fly to get there.