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How a Congress Center in a Tiny Alpine Village Went Global

Surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery and serving as a meeting destination for high-profile guests of esteemed backgrounds, Congress Center Alpbach is no ordinary conference center. It sits embedded in a slope of the Austrian Alps in the village of Alpbach. The center’s premier event, the European Forum Alpbach, annually draws 5,000 visitors – more than double the population of the village itself. An interdisciplinary meeting spot for science, business, politics, and culture, the conference center is where visionaries shape the future.

So when Congress Center Alpbach was due for an expansion a few years ago, tourism officials knew it would be important to uphold the center’s reputation as a visually impressive, modern and green facility. By tapping into the latest building technologies and architectural innovations, Congress Center Alpbach has been able to grow its business while raising the bar for sustainability and comfort.

The expanded center took its final form in August 2016, providing an additional 6,000 square meters of space.

A need for more space

Congress Center Alpbach opened in 1999 and quickly became a sought-after conference site, renowned for its striking architecture and stunning views of Gratlspitz mountain.

Tens of thousands of conference guests descend on picturesque Alpbach each year. Among the center’s high-profile visitors was the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who was so drawn to the idyllic landscape that he decided to spend his final years in Alpbach.

But after a decade and a half in operation, Congress Center Alpbach was approaching capacity and needed to make room for more conferences, meetings and trade shows. Tourism officials decided an expansion was in order. Alpbach tourism officials tapped Innsbruck architectural firm DIN A4 Architektur to design the expansion.

Modern, sustainable features

The design of the Congress Center Alpbach blends seamlessly with village’s traditional architecture and the surrounding Tyrolean Alps. Architects on the expansion were tasked with preserving this balance.

Like the original building, the center’s addition was built almost entirely into the green mountainside. The only visible parts are a skylight structure and air vent, and a south-facing glass façade that floods the new space’s Europa Foyer with daylight. Natural light is a feature continued throughout the addition. Guests arrive through a glass sliding door with a protection leaf, which not only ensures maximized security, but also lets the alpine sunlight fill the building.

The expansion also features three seminar rooms, a two-story underground parking garage, and a partitioned assembly room that can be divided into multiple configurations.

One key consideration of the expansion was to provide ease during conference setup and cleanup, which involves arranging furniture such as tables and chairs, as well as amenities such as drinks, snacks, cutlery, plates and glasses. To better accommodate the people walking back and forth to perform these tasks, all of the center’s external doors, emergency exits and some interior doors feature a cutting-edge door closer. The easy to open technology and the delayed closing action of the door closers ensure that the events run without interruption or inconvenience.

For additional security, all internal and external doors contain a mechanical locking system with a special milling procedure which greatly hinders manipulation. These cylinders have a high level of resistance to picking, bumping and drilling. The center’s numerous glass doors feature high-quality corner fittings, locks and floor springs from the Universal range of patch fittings.

In addition to its functionality, the door closers help shrink the building’s carbon footprint by complying with DIN ISO 14025, a non-mandatory standard for environmental labels and declarations.

Because of its sustainable design, Congress Center Alpbach has earned several green building designations. With the completion of the 15-month addition, the center received the Austrian Ecolabel for Green Meetings, the international Green Globe certification for sustainability, and the klimaaktiv silver award for complying with the Austrian government’s climate protection building standards. By incorporating innovative, green design features, Congress Center Alpbach remains a leading Green Meeting destination, with a reputation that travels far beyond the German-speaking region. As the thought-leaders who come to the center continue to shape the future, Congress Center Alpbach is poised for future growth.

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