The research and innovation unit HiLo demonstrates the possibilities of lightweight construction in an impressive way. Novel constructional solutions made of ultra-light concrete shells are to be used for the two-story penthouse, which academic guests will use as accommodation and workspace.

Two research groups from ETH Zurich are responsible for HiLo: the BLOCK Research Group (BRG) from the Institute of Technology in Architecture and the Assistant Professorship of Building Architecture and Sustainable Building Technologies (SuAT). Both teams develop their ideas with foreign partners, the companies Supermanoeuvre from Sydney and Zwarts & Jansma ZJA Architekten from Amsterdam. In HiLo, the researchers and architects combine ultra-lightweight construction in the field of flooring and roofing, and adaptive building technology based on the example of a solar façade. HiLo is designed as an energy-plus building and should produce 50 percent more electricity than it actually needs. It is due to open its doors in 2018.

The Innovative Objects in the HiLo Unit
Lightweight Roof Construction

At around 70 mm thickness, the HiLo roof is extremely light and thin. The large surface area of the concrete shell is used for heat transfer using a hydronic low-temperature heating and cooling system. The roof is also fitted with high-efficiency thin-film photovoltaic cells to increase the solar energy yield.

Partner: ETH Zurich

Lightweight Floor Construction

Thanks to a vaulted rib structure, the lightweight construction uses more than 70 per cent less material compared to conventional concrete flooring. The floor elements can be prefabricated in modules and simply installed on site. The hollow spaces enable the efficient integration of ventilation, cooling and low-temperature heating.

Partner: ETH Zurich

Lightweight Construction Shell

The lightweight roof construction will make use of a reusable shell made from a cable-net and formwork system. The system allows the realization of the double-curved roof shell without the high labour and resource costs typically associated with this construction. The formwork system offers a large degree of control over the shape, such that it can be optimized for various criteria.

Partner: ETH Zurich

Adaptive Solar Façade

The Adaptive Solar Façade (ASF) is a dynamic façade of thin-film photovoltaic modules with soft, pneumatic actuators for solar tracking and daylight control. The elements provide solar energy generation and shading, and control the transparency of the façade. The elements can rotate to respond to changes in the outside environment and the requirements from inside. The modules are controlled based on sensors as well as on input by the persons inside the building. Adaptive learning algorithms facilitate the continuous improvement of the behavior and thus the adaptation of the modules to their users and environment.

Partner: ETH Zurich