The ecological renovation of the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne campus, a source of inspiration for France?

After five years of work, the EHL (Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne) has enlarged and renovated its campus, from 25,000 m² to 80,000 m². An ecological renovation that will accommodate a total of 815 students at the beginning of the 2022 school year.

The architects – who collaborated with architecture students – have indeed thought about energy renewal. For example, 80% of the energy consumed on campus is renewable. Several processes were used, including solar panels covering an area equivalent to three Olympic swimming pools, 44 geothermal probes buried up to 400 meters deep, and heat recovery from wastewater.

The school also has the minergie P ecolabel, which must meet numerous criteria in terms of ventilation, energy performance and building insulation, or self-production of electricity.

The architects have multiplied the communal living areas. // © Amélie Petitdemange

The new part of the campus includes sports facilities, a practice kitchen, an oenology room, 16 m² rooms and common areas. A 2500 m² garden, an apiary and forty vines complete the picture. “This makes it possible to emphasize the importance of seasonality and short circuits“explains Michel Rochat, CEO of the EHL Group.

The new campus has also been designed with materials from the region. “We have chosen similar materials. For example, the stone comes from Savoy. In the end, the ecological aspect was not insurmountable,” says Virginie Reussner, architect project manager.

Local revegetation is also integrated into the campus. “We preferred wildlife exchanges. The campus is open, so you can see animals such as rodents and foxes walking through it.” Nature is also visible from inside the campus. “All rooms are oriented towards a green space,” adds Laurent Gerbex, architect in charge of the new campus project.

In the garden is a conservatory that is open to students.  // © Amélie Petitdemange
In the garden is a conservatory that is open to students. // © Amélie Petitdemange

Ecological transition: technical schools pave the way

Nowadays, 58% of the carbon footprint of the five years of work has already been offset. The goal is to reach 100% by 2024. “We are working with a company that certifies carbon offset projects. For example, we have chosen a deforestation management project in Switzerland and another to replace lighting fixtures with LEDs in Singapore [où l’école a un campus, NDLR]”explains Noémie Danthine, Director of Strategy and Sustainable Development at EHL.

Taking into account the ecological aspect during the construction of campuses is becoming increasingly important, and this outside Switzerland. “A building renovation will no longer be done without thinking about the environmental elements, and campuses are no exception. The hotel industry has long hesitated to take action, there is still a lot to do,” emphasizes Noémie Danthine.

“In France, there are universities that are very advanced and others less so. There are more inequalities according to the institutions“, she adds. Differences that often have to do with the budgets of the institutions. That is why, according to her, the State has a role to play through subsidies.

Efforts by institutions to embrace sustainable development

It also advocates the exchange of best practices between sites. “You have to be inspired by those who are leading the way. For sustainability we must not be competitive, but work together and help each other. We also have a coalition with the University of Lausanne and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne to discuss this topic.”

For architect Laurent Gerbex it is a question of budget but also of brand image. If ecological renovation was innovative when the project started in 2012, it is now almost a standard. “We have just won a call for projects for a new campus at the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne. The buildings will be made entirely of wood.”

Pauline Jochenbein, who worked on the project while studying architecture, makes the same comment. “We used to have orders focused on aesthetics or comfort. Now, the demand is for projects that make long-term sense and integrate the climate emergency. We are convinced that a campus or any other element must now be thought out ecologically.”

According to her, the influence of the hotel school will inspire and inspire around the world. “The ecological movement is developing strongly on campuses, other schools will certainly take similar steps.”

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