SELF is a living lab developed by Empa in order to investigate the limits of energy-efficient buildings. It is the result of a collaboration between Empa and Zurich University of the Arts. Designed by two industrial designers, Sandro Macchi and Björn Olsson, it is an independent living and working unit for two people able to autosupply itself with the required energy and water from the atmosphere. Forefront advanced technologies are applied for optimized energy efficiency, water saving and solar energy harvesting.


The installed solar power plant provides energy for heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, light and electric appliances. All appliances are WiFi-controllable and monitored in respect to operation and energy consumption. Surplus solar energy is stored as hydrogen to cover seasonal discrepancies. Hydrogen is used as fuel for the cooker by direct catalytic oxidation in a novel Empa-developed stove and for reconversion to electricity by a fuel cell.

Rain water is collected and filtered to use as drinking water. Waste water from sink, shower and dish washer is collected, filtered and reused as technical water for all purposes apart from drinking.

SELF serves as a lab for the continuous development and testing of innovative energy technologies on a systems scale. From 2014 to 2015 it was completely technically revised and upgraded.

SRF Einstein video with the titel "Geht es auch ohne Strom" where self is featured (in German) .