Sustainability is a word that is closely linked to the famous ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. With the help of fuel-efficient Volvo machines, the hotel has used and fine-tuned a natural process of building with snow and ice from the nearby river. Until now, this unique tourist attraction has only been built and in operation during the winter season, but all that is about to change.
"When I first moved here, people told me that the winters are dark and cold. Even the tourist manager was convinced that nobody in their right mind would come to visit Jukkasjärvi during winter. He called it a cold hole," says ICEHOTEL founder Yngve Bergkvist.
He continues: "I wanted to change that image, and started to think about how we could use the cold in a productive and exciting way."
The result of his reflections now entices excited tourists from all over the world to stay in a hotel made entirely from snow and natural ice, with ice art exhibitions on display both inside and out. "But we have never been satisfied with the natural off-season that the summer usually presents. And that's what we are going to change with the new all-year facility."
From a sustainable point of view the ICEHOTEL does play in a league of its own. The natural ice is cultivated and harvested from the Torne River, which flows past the ICEHOTEL. Come spring, most of the hotel and all the artwork melts and returns to the river again. This minimizes wastage and emissions as the ice is not transported from source to storage and any ice that is not used also returns to the river in spring.
"I have a background in environmental science and have always believed that you should be able to utilize and recycle every part of what you build," Bergkvist says.
The goal is to make the hotel CO₂ negative, a goal formulated in 2008, and many steps have already been taken to realize this in the near future. The warm buildings within the hotel area are heated using only renewable energy, storm water is used to save tap water and wastewater from the ice storage cooling system is reused. All laundry is handled on site, saving on transport, and the facility repurposes the excess steam from washers and dryers. Plans for the all-year-round hotel include a solar-cell park to keep the hotel chilled during the warmer periods.
Over the years, the unique construction conditions have presented new challenges for both man and machine. Alf Kero, site manager, has been working on the venue for more than ten years. "The biggest challenge with planning and constructing the ICEHOTEL is definitely the weather. The autumn never looks the same from year to year. The perfect scenario is a winter with between -10°C and -15°C starting in the middle of October," he explains. "Starting in January we clear snow from the marked areas on the river. We then use custom made applications for the machines when we harvest from the middle of March and put the ice in storage for the next season."
The extreme cold is definitely a challenge for man and machine as we are working in -30° to -40°C at times. For this purpose, we only use Volvo machines as they are generally regarded as the most reliable.Site manager
Bergkvist is enthusiastic about the imminent launch of the new all-year ICEHOTEL 365, scheduled for the end of 2016. "We are basically building a shell that contains walls of snow and ice. There will be 20 rooms, a 200-square-meter ice bar and a large art hall with sculptures and exhibitions, all available 365 days of the year. The state-of-the art solar power plant will generate more than enough power to keep the facility cold during summer. The arctic phenomena known as the midnight sun offers the unique opportunity to generate power throughout the night. This way, the sun will ensure that the guests at the ICEHOTEL 365 get a cold night’s sleep and a warm welcome in the morning.
Playgrounds in Kiruna, next door to the ICEHOTEL, are covered with snow and ice for seven to eight months of the year. Local residents, working in conjunction with the ICEHOTEL, came up with a solution in the shape of an ice park for children.
“We are building a playground made entirely of ice and snow, complete with slides, labyrinths and all sorts of fun things. It is being created with excess material from the River Torne and the ICEHOTEL construction explains project leader Mats Persson, who also works as a machine operator.
The playground is a collaborative project between the ICEHOTEL, Kiruna municipality, local government agency Tekniska Verken and designers at PinPin Studio. Students at the local school Hjalmar Lundbohmsskolan are also an important part of the process.
“Three years ago, the students made a very much appreciated ‘miniature version’ of the playground as a school project,” says Petra Wadlund Lindh of the ICEHOTEL. “This project is a continuation of that goal which was to make something that could be appreciated by children as well as adults. We simply want to make something fun but beautiful.” The playground eventually melts in April or May.
It’s fantastic to work on a local project for children, which at the same time is aesthetically beautiful. And it gives us a chance to share the knowledge of working with snow and ice that we’ve gathered over the 26 seasons we’ve been building the hotel.
700 million snowballs
The 35 000 cubic meters of ‘snice’ (a mixture of snow and ice) used to build the venue equates to the volume of 700 million snowballs.
-5° C /21° F
This is the average temperature in the ICEHOTEL, thanks to the insulating effect of the snow. Outdoor temperatures range from 20°C/68°F in July to -40°C/-40°F in January.
With 150 warm and 150 cold beds, the ICEHOTEL complex also houses an ice church, ice bar, ice sculpting studio and pillar hall, two heated restaurants, lounge, four meeting rooms and two wilderness camps.
Volvo machines on site
Volvo L60E, Volvo L35B, Volvo L30B and Volvo L50.