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.