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A new high in window construction.
A new high in window construction.
The Santnerpass hut in South Tyrol: from a modest hut to a modern refuge.
Finstral delivered the windows for this new mountain refuge at an altitude of 2,734 metres above sea level – by helicopter.

One last step and they’ve arrived: salesman Thomas Röggla and Kristin Oberrauch, Head of Direct Sales for South Tyrol down to Verona, have reached their destination – the Santnerpass hut, located at a lofty 2,734 metres above sea level. They take a deep breath and enjoy the marvellous views, ranging from the Latemar massif to the Weisshorn and Schwarzhorn peaks. They then inspect the finished work: a new refuge, located in rocky surroundings on the edge of a cliff.

“We at Finstral have already overcome numerous complex and challenging projects, such as the refurbishment of a working hospital in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, or the renovation of a listed educational establishment during school hours. But the new construction of the Santnerpass hut – that’s where matters really took off, we literally reached a peak in window construction”, laughs Oberrauch.

The wardens at the refuge, Michel and Romina Perathoner, welcome the two new arrivals. The couple took over the running of what was at the time still a small hut, with accommodation for 17 people, in 2019. Then, in 2021, the coronavirus pandemic brought most lives to a standstill. For the Perathoners, however, it was a unique opportunity to renovate their hut and make it more sustainable, more extensive and more elegant. “We can now offer accommodation for 36 people. The architectural redesign and expansion of the refuge has certainly sparked a debate in South Tyrol: not everyone was delighted that such a large, modern building was being constructed in these natural surroundings”, says the warden. Yet the architectural design language of the new building harmonises perfectly with its Alpine ambience: the hut’s pointed shape represents a mountain peak, while the wooden structures give the building a natural feel.

But how did the windows and entire window walls manage to find their way up into the Dolomites? “This is where our fascinating story begins – our windows have learned to fly”, explains Thomas Röggla, who oversaw the delivery and installation of the windows. The construction of the new refuge was divided into two phases over the years 2021 to mid-2023.

In both phases, Finstral transported both the installation frames and the other elements up to the refuge. Each step had to be meticulously planned and prepared. “It all started at our glass production plant at Scurelle, near Trento. This is located at 375 metres above sea level, while the hut is at 2,734 metres. The higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure. So, to prevent the glass from bending and simply breaking or shattering due to the huge difference in altitude and air pressure, we installed a pressure equalisation valve in the spacers between the panes during production”, explains Röggla.

The finished elements had to be delivered to the very minute at their collection point on the Santner Pass, from where they were carried up by helicopter. “We had to know the exact weight of the loaded elements because the helicopter only had a limited carrying capacity in flight. We couldn’t make any mistakes, especially with the large and very heavy window walls; the loads involved could not under any circumstances be too great. In addition, the helicopter had to ascend relatively slowly so that the air pressure in the windows would adjust and the elements would not shatter. It was all timed down to the minute”, explains Kristin Oberrauch. Once arrived at the top, the installation frames and elements were deposited on a storage area, then transported to the hut with a construction crane for subsequent assembly.

The installation work, directly on a steep slope, also required installers who would not only wear appropriate clothing and footwear, but who were also physically fit, not susceptible to dizziness nor afraid of heights. Finstral employed four suitable installers for this task; they fitted both the installation frames and the elements in a total of ten days, spread over both phases. Installing these frames and the elements required maximum concentration and fast working – as well as maximum flexibility, as the helicopter would be grounded in rain, storm or snowfall conditions and therefore could carry neither personnel nor materials upwards. Here too, Finstral always reacted in a quick and confident manner to such situations.

However, the decisive factor in awarding the contract to Finstral was not simply the smooth installation, but also the variety of products offered: the windows had to match the architecture and natural surroundings in aesthetic terms, as well as providing outstanding insulation while withstanding the harsh climate. Large window areas and light colours were to ensure plenty of light and a welcoming atmosphere. Not a problem for Finstral: the entry door and the frames for the windows and window walls were fitted with aluminium on both the inside and outside. The frames on the exterior thus perfectly match the style of the façade and the roof of the hut, while in the interior they lend the rooms a modern, elegant character. Aluminium also proved the best choice in functional terms, as it is resistant to extreme weather conditions and especially dimensionally stable. The glass used for the elements also had to offer stability, especially in the lower area: the triple glazing used was fitted with laminated safety glass on the exterior to prevent the glass from breaking should snow press onto the surface from outside.

Finstral managed to install windows in a mountain hut in the heart of the Dolomites, with high-quality products, flawless installation and smooth working methods. The intensive preparation, precisely synchronised helicopter timing and scheduling and the challenging environment of the construction site all made installation of the windows a unique and fascinating experience for everyone involved. Kristin Oberrauch and Thomas Röggla are proud of their work: “The project was very complex and there was no shortage of tension, but we mastered it and are happy that everything went so smoothly”, Oberrauch summarises. “And we enjoy the marvellous views from these magnificent, high-quality windows”, Michel and Romina Perathoner conclude with satisfaction.
A new high in window construction.
The Santnerpass hut in its new-found glory, high up in the Dolomites.
A new high in window construction.
The aluminium window frames harmonise with the façade.
A new high in window construction.
The aluminium window frames harmonise with the façade.
A new high in window construction.
Maximum glass for outstanding views.
A new high in window construction.
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