October 5, 2020

Implementing a building project in permafrost presents technical as are contained in the reference work in German “Bauen im Permafrost. Arenson L () Unstable alpine permafrost: a potentially important natural Keusen HR, Teysseire P (b) Bauen im Permafrost: ein praxisorientierter. Bommer, C., Phillips, M., Keusen, H.-R. and Teysseire, P. () Bauen im Permafrost – Ein Leitfaden für die Praxis. WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche.

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Due to their complexity, is not appropriate to develop general, all-encompassing ‘recipes’ for sustainable construction in permafrost. Monitoring systems can be used to detect and avoid problems or hazards, thus increasing safety during all project phases. The reason therefore is to give the contributory scientists the possibility to assess and publish their results.

In summer an exceptionally large number of rock slope failures was reported in the Swiss Alps, with a concentration in permafrost regions.

Since the water content of the active layer is important for slope stability, we also measure the water content of the individual layers with special probes. Loading conditions taking into account potential changes to the permafrost substrate must be considered for the structure design. The potential evolution of the permafrost during the service life of the structure must be forecasted and the substrate characteristics chosen accordingly.

Where there is permafrost, the ground often contains ice, which can grow, melt or creep. Higher temperatures deepen the active layer and cause ice loss in permafrost.


Building on permafrost

In addition, the specific handling of building materials for pedmafrost in permafrost is discussed. If climate change causes glaciers to melt and permafrost to thaw, there may be an increase in natural hazards like rockslides or debris flows.

Thawing permafrost soils have a major impact on the Earth’s climate.

Rock slope failure on Piz Kesch, GR. In order to measure the temperature in permafrost and the active layer thickness, scientists need to drill a hole in the icy soils, before installing sensors.

However, up to now this issue has not been considered in any climate model. Estimating non-conductive heat flow leading to intra-permafrost talik formation at the Ritigraben rock glacier western Swiss Alps. Permafrost and Snow Climatology.

Permafrost and natural hazards – SLF

Due to the unrestricted availability, not only scientists but politicians, governmental agents or other interested parties have access and are therefore able to use the information as basis for decisions.

Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 28, 1: Structures typically found in the Swiss Alps include mountain railway and cable car stations, pylons, restaurants, mountain shelters, water pipelines, avalanche barriers, telecommunication facilities, snow sheds and railway tracks.

This is going to change now. The successful realization of construction projects in mountain permafrost areas is a technical and logistic challenge for all parties involved. With that in mind, we regularly forward the results of our research to the authorities and publish key findings. Furthermore the GTN-P team is going to report about the state of the permafrost and possible changes every two years. We use controlled laboratory experiments and computer models to simulate the mechanisms that trigger slope movement in permafrost terrain.


The influences of climate change, construction activity and the use of the infrastructure can lead to permafrost degradation and for example induce differential settlement and creep. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 21, 1: Building and maintaining infrastructure at high elevations is a major challenge. The data collected in the field serve as key input parameters for such simulations.

Every construction project in mountain permafrost is unique and requires specially adapted solutions in order to account for the many exceptional situations which can be encountered.

Infrastructure in exposed locations can additionally be affected by natural hazards originating in permafrost areas. These guidelines nevertheless describe various challenges and solutions, which are based on the current practical and scientific state-of-the-art regarding permafrost infrastructure, but do not claim to be exhaustive.

New measurement results are included in the database after 12 permaafrost by the GTN-P team. This practical guideline is subdivided into three main parts. We are investigating how quickly various landforms like scree slopes, rock glaciers and rock walls respond to temperature changes and are examining the consequences of these responses.

Extreme weather conditions, complex geological conditions and natural hazards like avalanches and rockfall all have an impact on construction sites and buildings.