Retrofit for hut planned as energy costs soar

Posted by Ed Douglas on 24/05/2012
The Alex MacInyre Memorial Hut: facing rising energy charges.

It’s an issue that every club with a hut is facing. As energy costs soar, how to keep hut fees at an acceptable level? At the recent AGM of the Alex MacIntyre Memorial Hut’s management committee a vote was taken to increase fees – but the future lies in reducing the energy needed to heat the building.

If you don’t know the AMMH, then you probably should. It’s superbly located on the A82, one mile north of the Ballachulish Bridge, just north of Glen Coe. If you’re a member of the BMC or the MCofS, or an affiliated club, then you’re entitled to use it.

At the moment, it costs £8 per person per night, which is great value. From 2013 that will rise to £8.50 and the hope is that this will raise an additional £1,000 a year based on current levels of use. The extra money will be invested in the building’s fabric.

The increase wasn’t uncontested. Committee member Ruth Chambers compared the AMMH’s fees with those of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club, but the BMC’s trustee Iain MacCallum argued that the FRCC meets improvements to its huts through the club’s general fund. Ultimately, the decision to increase fees was passed.

The background to the increase is one familiar to all hut-owning clubs. Electricity prices in that part of the Highlands, already among the most expensive in the UK, has risen 26 percent in the last two years. Heating at the AMMH has been improved in recent years, but that runs on electricity, the largest component of the hut’s annual expenditure.

Without the facility for hut-users to pay for electricity as they use it, the risk is that careless users leave windows open and start heating the Scottish countryside as well as the hut. Some hut custodians have opted to ban hut groups who abuse the availability of apparently free electricity, but that isn’t possible with the AMMH – or even fair.

So the management committee has decided to prioritise the effective insulation of the hut. New access points have been made in the ceiling of dormitories to gain access to the loft and these have revealed that the hut’s insulation is not as good as has been thought. They have commissioned a refurbishment programme from 55° North Architecture which has produced a list of works that can be done as finance allows.

Right at the heart of these is improved insulation, including the floor of the living room and a downstairs bedroom that is particularly cold. With government energy policy putting upward pressure on energy costs, and the urgent need to cut carbon, the energy performance of climbing huts will need to improve.

The minutes of the AMMH AGM are now available

The BMC’s next hut seminar is on 10 November. Check back later for more details.

Are you responsible for managing a climbing hut? Do you have any experience of funding and implementing energy-saving measures? Leave a comment.


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1) Anonymous User
27/05/2012
I find it amazing that anyone could contest a 50p increase! The increase should have been rounded up to £10. What would anyone staying there spend their £1.50 change on anyway?
2) Anonymous User
10/06/2012
The Climbers' Club has 8 properties and I would agree rising costs are an issue. Its not feasible to run them on hut fees alone, particularly when we have upgrade and development projects. Huts have come a long way from the basic hovels where mountain men hung up their sodden tweeds and shelved their clinkers for a brief respite from the storm - modern, comfortable properties are costly to own and care for. The low carbon agenda is now with us and there are interesting challenges and opportunities to reduce CO2 and reduce costs.
The BMC's Huts Group is a useful forum to share good practice.
Neil Hewertson, Chair, CC Huts Management
3) Anonymous User
16/06/2012
The London Mountaineering Club, which has a hut in Nant Peris, shares these concerns on cost and environmental grounds. We have replaced some old windows with double glazed units and will replace more as funds allow. The hut would also benefit from improved loft insulation. However, this all has to be covered form limited funds and like the CC most hut improvements are funded from general club funds. I would support any efforts of the Huts Management group in the development of better energy use practice.
Tony Williams
Treasurer London MC
4) Anonymous User
16/06/2012
Interesting article. I haven't used the hut and agree he increase is neither here nor there. I'm sure the architects have got it covered in their plans but is there any scope for solar panels and/or wind turbine technology with associated grants if any. As users of the hills and mountains we all need to see the bigger picture and apply sustainable energy to facilities. Otherwise what's the point of complaining about wilderness areas being subjected to the large scale march of wind turbines and pylons if we can't demonstrate alternative and sensible micro generation. The example of island energy schemes such as that on Eigg can surely provide guidance on what is possible.
5) Anonymous User
16/06/2012
Our hut is well insulated, but the LPG heating had only simple controls. The addition of a PIR sensor linked to an air thermostat a year ago delivered savings of aprox 30%. There is a frost stat, but the pir sensor, when the temp is above 5 deg, only allows the heating to be on if someone has activated it within the hour. There were some teething issues, mainly of members getting used to not having a simple on/off switch, but has solved many issues and deliver substantial saving.
6) Anonymous User
19/06/2012
Some great and positive comments. This was an interesting project with a lot of ideas on how to marry the different use patterns of the building, the energy supplies and minimise capital costs. I would be happy to chat through the principles with other hut custodians and the reasons why certain technologies / actions were ruled out.
Matt
55º North Architecture
0141 551 8383

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