​Views of the northern lights - KNX building automation takes care of glass igloos in demanding conditions

​Views of the northern lights - KNX building automation takes care of glass igloos in demanding conditions

Glass igloos offer tourists in Lapland and Greenland the ideal opportunity to experience the aurora borealis. ABB's technical know-how, coupled with systems that use KNX standard for building automation technology, ensure their smooth operation in challenging weather conditions.

ABB has been working with glass igloos developers in Finland for many years. Since 2016, ABB technology has been ensuring these igloos offer tourists uninterrupted views of the northern lights and all-round comfort in Lapland within the Arctic Circle. These igloos have made the best of new innovations in heating technology and building automation, with the igloo's air heat pump, ventilation unit, floor heating and heating of the inside and outside of the glass roof connected to the ABB i-bus® KNX – the centralized system for automated control. In the event of a water leak, for example, the magnetic valve shuts off the water supply in a flash, and the fiber optic connection transmits the alarm to the reception and the maintenance office. All major elements of building management are catered for.

An updated design of the glass igloos called Smart Lucia, supported by ABB technology using the KNX building automation standard, has been introduced in Greenland. Made of smart glass and steel, the glass igloos are set on the grounds of the Arctic Hotel in Ilullisat on Greenland’s coast. Positioned on the edge of the cliff, tourists staying in the igloos can follow nature, the sea and the passing of icebergs around the clock.


“People come here to fish and gaze at the icebergs, which you can see quite a lot of here. There is a fjord nearby, from which huge icebergs break off. Sea currents carry them from here past the city.” says Kari Matti Ruhanen, owner of Savon Lasituote – the Finnish company producing the new glass igloos.


The glass igloo works with KNX in any weather

This range of glass igloos were first made in 2018, with inspiration drawn from the thought of building more comfortable living spaces out of glass besides small, glazed terraces. Architect Teemu Pirinen joined the Smart Lucia project team and thus the distinctive igloos, which offer 360-degree views with exterior walls made entirely from glass panels were devised.


From the very beginning, the glass igloos were developed to be suitable for all weather conditions. Glass is a challenging building material – in summer it heats up easily and in winter snow can gather, cooling the glass and obstructing views, including the aurora borealis at night, one of the great attractions for visitors to the Arctic Circle. Igloos require a sophisticated heating system.

“I wanted a high-quality building automation system which is easy to use. Our choice was ABB i-bus® KNX technology based on our previous experience. It is important that the glass igloos perform as expected – whatever the weather. We’re taking igloos to the challenging conditions of Greenland. There is also interest potential in tourist destinations located in the desert, as even in hot conditions, the glass igloo can be made comfortable enough to see the starry night sky”, Ruhanen explains.

The igloos provide smart technology controls inside the rooms for adjusting the condensing heaters and water-circulated underfloor heating. The temperature of the internal glazing and the external roof is maintained with silent electric relays, while cooling and backup heating are supplied by an air-source heat pump. The whole system can be controlled from the room or remotely via an app and can be turned off with the room access card.

Key data on resource usage and consumption is visualized and customized specifically for the hotel to ensure proper monitoring and management and useful information for the visitors, including the restaurant menus for example, is embedded in the user interface. Data from measurements, alarms, history and activity logs of fire detectors, temperatures of the rooms, floors, and heated glass is all captured and available to the hotel staff to analyze.

“With the help of KNX, we are able to monitor remotely how the building automation works when used by guests. If problems arise, we can also help and advise how they can be resolved. Training and familiarization with the implementation can also be done remotely, so we don't have to travel from Iisalmi to Greenland or to the desert if help is needed” – Kari Matti Ruhanen adds.

Easy, international and energy-saving

Oskar Järnefelt, Area Sales Manager in ABB, said: “A glass igloo is not the easiest structure to maintain, but with the help of KNX it works really well. The igloos have floor and glass heating, which must work reliably and be easy to operate.” According to Järnefelt, the advantages of KNX lay in its expandability, scalability, and replicability, as well as its international support. KNX is an international open standard, so experts can be found all over the globe and ABB as a global company can assist almost everywhere in the world.

“When the functions and programming of the first igloo are thought through carefully, it is already significantly faster to install the rest, thanks to the copyability of KNX”, says Järnefelt. “A big advantage of the KNX solution is that good building automation saves energy without undermining end-customers’ comfort. When the controls are set up properly, it is easy to control their operation so that energy is not wasted”.

Functional and easy building automation also helps the igloos save energy. Residents can apply settings to turn all lights off, set ventilation to minimum and switch outlets off. It is possible for the hotel to remotely change the settings during vacancies and the system automatically adapts to different climate conditions, saving energy and reducing the need for hotel staff to make individual adjustments. The system can be monitored and managed remotely as well, significantly reducing the need for on-site maintenance.


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