The Pierre Arnaud Foundation was created in 2007 with the goal of constructing an Art Centre in Crans-Montana in the Municipality of Lens that offers programmes featuring exhibitions of an international nature to a wide audience as of 2013. The building obviously could not resemble a chalet, and it was not easy to decide which contemporary building to choose in a mountain village replete with traditional architecture. The architect Jean-Pierre Emery, a native of the region, developed an astonishing design in which the building disappears under a roof garden that gently slopes downward toward the road at the back. The southern facade, by contrast, clearly asserts itself, and the Pierre Arnaud Foundation set size requirements for its design. It had to fulfil six particularly demanding criteria: to reflect the panoramic view of the lake and surrounding mountains like a painting, to generate energy by means of photovoltaic panels, to guarantee an optimal thermal insulation for the works of art, to comply with ‘Minergie’ standards, and to allow just enough light penetration to enhance the works of art on exhibition while at the same time allowing for light effects at night. As Daniel Salzmann, Vice President of the Pierre Arnaud Foundation, emphasises, ‘It was imperative for the Foundation to have a modern and elegant Art Centre which meets the highest standards in terms of energy efficiency’.
High technology and modernity for a unique facade in Europe
The technological challenge put forward by the Foundation was thus significant. Alpiq InTec, in association with A.S. Alu-Concept SA, took on this challenge. The two partners developed the ‘Face InTec®’ concept, an innovative process which allows for the combination of energy efficiency and aesthetics. The 250 m2 southern facade was thus covered with twenty-one panels (10 m x 1.21 m) thereby satisfying all of the initial requirements of the Foundation. The facade modules were prefabricated in a factory and delivered to the site ready for use. Raised by crane and assembled like Lego blocks, placement of the modules was completed in just two days. The photovoltaic elements of the facade will generate on average 15,000 kWh per year, which corresponds to the entire lighting requirements of the Art Centre. As Oliviero Iubatti, Director of Alpiq InTec in the Romandie, specifies, ‘The «Face InTec®» concept is unique in Europe. The photovoltaic panels and the insulation system are one unit which allows for the production of energy while at the same time guaranteeing a perfect resistance to heat’. This new technology can be adapted to all types of buildings, whether new or under renovation. From an economic point of view, the energy generated by the facade can significantly reduce the operational costs of a building. In general, the return on investment is estimated to be about twelve years without even the smallest subsidy from the federal government in the form of compensatory feed-in remuneration (CFR).