Gervasutti bivouac: how to build in extreme places

YEAR:

2011

The Gervasutti bivouac is a small shelter, built in a factory and then transported by helicopter to Val Ferret, on the Mont Blanc massif, at an altitude of 2835 m above sea level.

Stefano Testa, founder together with Luca Gentilcore of LEAPfactory, told us about the construction of the Gervasutti Bivouac

It was a question of building a structure in a very beautiful place where nature is the predominant element of the landscape, but also the reason for a great technical difficulty. Using classical construction techniques it would have been impossible to build a building up there. This not only because of its location, which is practically inaccessible but also because of the performance required at that altitude and in that particular geomorphological situation. In addition we had to deal with a tradition that was firm in the 60s for this type of building.

The first problem we had was the weight, so we decided that the construction needed to be built in the factory, downstream, then transported, with a small helicopter on the mountain.

In terms of size, the building offers 30 square meters of living space and includes a living area with kitchen and a sleeping area. This can accommodate 12 people, plus 2 emergency ones. The bivouac is completely self-sufficient from an energy point of view. The photovoltaic system is able to power the lighting, cooking plates, mechanized air changes and a PC connected to the internet. Speaking of environmental impact, the building was erected in just 2 days and anchored to the mountain with only 6 nails. If one day it should be removed we will see the rocky spur as we found it.

Often we like to use the expression “to inhabit nature on tiptoe”.

To build it we have drawn on materials that are different from those present in the building supply chains. The shell has both a structural and thermal protection function and is made of fiberglass composite, with a stratigraphy similar to that of the hull of an America’s Cup boat. The whole wall including the decorative coating has a thickness of 6 cm. Thanks to the use of heat-reflecting insulation, the building has an excellent living comfort, even without heating.

This aerospace derivation technology reflects infrared radiation, so even the sole heat of the users’ body is used as a thermal source.