Construction robot "In situ Fabricator" ready to go

Construction start for NEST unit “dfab house”

5 mai 2017 | STEPHAN KÄLIN

On May 2, at the ground-breaking ceremony for the NEST unit “dfab house”, the project team, consisting of the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) “Digital Fabrication”, ETH Zurich and numerous partners from industry, celebrated the construction start together with Empa, the owner of NEST. “dfab house” is a unique project, which not only has been digitally designed and planned; it will also be built using digital fabrication methods and with the use of robots and large-scale 3D printers.

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A sudden flash of light, a gentle fizzling – followed by applause for the robotic protagonist: on May 2, the construction robot “In situ Fabricator” created the first weld for the next NEST unit, “dfab house”. In the upcoming weeks, the robot will start the construction of a load-bearing, formwork-free concrete wall using the novel and award-winning building technology “Mesh Mould”. Initiated by the NCCR “Digital Fabrication” and ETH Zurich, the “dfab house” demonstrates innovative methods for both bespoke digital prefabrication and digitally supported construction executed directly on the building site.
Leading global position in the field of digital fabrication in architecture and construction
After its completion, the three-story building will serve as an innovative living and working space for visiting researchers of Empa and other NEST partners. During the ground-breaking ceremony, Peter Richner, Deputy Director of Empa and initiator of NEST, was clearly impressed with the variety of new innovations being implemented in this unit and being showcased in NEST. With “dfab house”, the NCCR “Digital Fabrication” further consolidates Switzerland’s globally leading position in the field of digital fabrication in architecture and construction. Speaking to the 70+ invited guests, NCCR Director Matthias Kohler and “dfab house” project leader Konrad Graser proudly presented the development process, the steps in the upcoming construction phase, and the individual innovation and architectural features of the unit.
From digital fabrication to digital living

“dfab house” is scheduled to be complemented in the summer of 2018. Once in operation, the digitally fabricated unit is conceived to highlight new forms of digital control and communication within the home and will thus extend the smart home concept with advanced digital interconnectivity for the benefit of its inhabitants. On the occasion of the ground-breaking ceremony, Balz Halter from digitalSTROM presented the initial concept for how “dfab house” will be able to understand what is happening within the unit. Integrated technologies will be enhanced with responsive control systems to both reduce energy consumption and improve the overall living experience for the residents.

With the broad range of technologies invested into this unit, “dfab house” is well positioned to become a flagship project for both the digital fabrication and digital living of the future.

Ground-breaking dfab house
Media contact

Stephan Kälin
Communication NEST
Phone +41 58 765 49 93

Tanja Coray
Communication NCCR Digital Fabrication
Phone +41 44 633 33 23


NEST – Exploring the Future of Buildings
NEST accelerates the process of innovation in the building sector. In this modular research and innovation building of Empa and Eawag, new technologies, materials and systems are tested, researched, honed and validated in realistic conditions. NEST consists of a central “backbone” and three open platforms, where individual research and innovation modules can be installed based on the “plug-and-play” principle. People live and work in these units, which double up as bustling experimental laboratories. Around 100 partners from research, industry and the public sector join together at NEST to explore the future of buildings. nest.empa.ch