Glaciers are mammoth, slow-moving rivers of ice that cover about 10 percent of Earth's surface and hold nearly 70 percent of its freshwater. But due to climate change-induced melting, those percentages are shrinking. In Glacier National Park in Montana, USA, for example, the park's original 150 or so glaciers have dwindled to just 26, while visitor numbers have soared.
Hospitality brands looking to capitalize on travelers’ catch-them-before-they're-gone mentality are now launching projects to build accommodations adjacent to these shrinking wonders. But remote sites, sensitive ecosystems and environmental stewardship are just a few of the unique challenges these initiatives present.
North Pole Igloos
How does one tackle a hotel project in a location that is only accessible for part of the year? Make it movable.
Finnish hospitality group Luxury Action is doing just that with its hotel made up of 10 portable, heated “igloo” domes. The North Pole Igloos, which the company calls the “northernmost hotel of the world,” were constructed off-site and tested extensively for extreme weather. Each of the pods, which include glass ceilings and walls, will be transferred on-site in early 2020. For the 11 months each year that the hotel is uninhabitable, the pods will be relocated to a glacier on the Norwegian island of Svalbard.
“All our guests who have been traveling with us are concerned by the climate crisis,” Luxury Action CEO Janne Honkanen told Dezeen. “I believe they are also the best messengers for us in order to spread word of how climate change affects our lives in the arctic.”
At the foot of Norway's Svartisen glacier, the Svart hotel is expected to be the first energy net-positive hotel above the Arctic Circle, once construction is completed in 2021. The hotel, designed by architecture firm Snøhetta and sustainable building firm Miris, will use 85 percent less energy than a traditional hotel, while producing more energy than it uses.
“Svart is intending to pioneer the way in which we look at hotel and building design, while placing nature, climate protection and sustainability at the forefront of every aspect of project development,” says Ivaylo Lefterov, project director for the Svart hotel and a hotel development director at Miris, Lisbon, Portugal.
To that end, Svart's project team aimed for a minimal footprint on the land near the glacier. The ring-shaped hotel hovers over the Holandsfjorden, suspended on weather-resistant wooden poles that extend below the water's surface. The design was inspired by traditional fishing structures. The project team also used extensive solar mapping to determine the most efficient placement for solar panels, which provide the main source of electricity and heat for the completed project. The facade wards off the summer sun's direct rays, while large windows allow sunlight and warmth to stream in during colder months.
Glacier View Lodge
Currently 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) long and situated in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, Athabasca Glacier loses more than 16 feet (5 meters) of ice each year. To give travelers an unprecedented view of the glacier, Pursuit partnered with Calgary-based DIALOG in 2018 to launch a project that would renovate an existing hotel. Opened in April, the high-end, 32-room lodge is the only glacier-view resort in Canada.
Floor-to-ceiling glass windows were a no-brainer for view-hungry tourists. But some of the most sustainable elements of the project plan manifested behind the scenes. For instance, the team invested US$1 million in a water treatment system that uses oxidation to eliminate pollutants before returning the water to the local environment.
Lea Lohnes, DIALOG architect and project manager, credits flexible scheduling with driving the project's overall success.
“I believe that people protect what they love,” says Ms. Lohnes, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “And that's really what we were aiming for with this project: That it will lead people to love these places, appreciate them and protect them.”