NEST – Exploring the Future of Buildings

NEST is the modular research and innovation building of Empa and Eawag. At NEST, new technologies, materials and systems are tested, researched, further developed and validated under real conditions. Close cooperation with partners from research, industry and the public sector ensures that innovative construction and energy technologies are put onto the market faster. NEST contributes to making the use of resources and energy more sustainable and circular.

CO2 catcher at NEST

Are buildings that affect our climate in a positive way soon going to be a reality? In order to achieve the ambitious net zero target by 2050, we as a society need to rethink the standards and procedures we are living by. One of the most impactful sectors is the construction industry. Through the use of advanced technologies, buildings could soon serve as carbon sinks and thus help to ensure that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere no longer increases, or at best even decreases. A set of innovations from the Empa laboratories that are strongly CO2-reduced and even CO2-negative, are therefore going to be installed and tested in a real environment – inside a new unit at NEST, the innovation building of Empa and Eawag.

STEP2: A new NEST unit is taking shape

Construction is underway, once again, at the research and innovation building NEST. The new unit goes by the name of STEP2. Over the past three years, project partners from various disciplines have developed innovations with high market potential, which will be implemented in a real-world construction project for the very first time.

Together to the recyclable house

Stahlton Bauteile AG and zirkulit AG have formed a strategic partnership – initiated by their collaboration in the latest NEST unit, STEP2. The goal is to jointly realize circular concrete buildings. The two companies demostrate with the novel STEP2 slab what resource saving, innovative solutions they can create when they combine their expertise.

Selected success stories

"NEST provides the ideal environment to further develop our innovation"

As part of the HiLo project at NEST, researchers from the Chair of Architecture and Building Systems at ETH Zurich have developed an innovative adaptive solar façade that simultaneously optimizes electricity production and energy savings. Demonstrators of the façade were tested at the HiLo unit. With the founding of the ETH Zurich spin-off "Zurich Soft Robotics", the product is now to be brought to the market under the name "Solskin".

"At NEST, the MESH technology has achieved the breakthrough"

The innovative MESH technology uses robots to produce a 3D grid structure that simultaneously forms the reinforcement and formwork. This enables the production of complex, customized concrete structures. The ETH researchers used their process for the first time on the construction site during the construction of the NEST unit DFAB HOUSE showing They now reached another milestone on the way to market maturity: the founding of the ETH spin-off MESH AG.


"Thanks to our participation in the NEST project, we can now be part of the change"

In the Sprint project, partners from research and industry worked together from the very beginning to build a new NEST unit in the shortest possible time, largely with reused materials. In this interview, Maike Stroetmann from Bouygues Energies & Services talks about the challenges of the project for her and her team and the knowledge they gained in the process.


NEST live

Live from the construction site of the STEP2 unit.

Quick Access

Read the latest Empa Quarterly!