"co-operate" – Research campus to be expanded

The joint Empa and Eawag campus in Dübendorf will soon be expanded, with bulldozers moving in at the beginning of May. The new buildings will enhance comfort, attractiveness and safety for staff and guests  and offer more space for research and innovation! What's more, innovations from Empa's and Eawag's labs will be applied in the process, for instance in the fields of energy generation and storage as well as in wastewater treatment. The project also bears a telling name: co-operate because that's what it's all about at Empa.

"The Place where Innovation starts"  to live up to Empa's motto, the research institute needs a modern infrastructure and a productive environment. Further development of the research campus in Dübendorf is crucial to staying at the forefront of research. The new Empa Eawag research campus "co-operate" describes this development; it is now being implemented in several steps. The first phase has already begun in February 2021 and  if everything goes as planned  will be implemented by mid-2024.

A modern appearance

By then, a new, ultra-modern laboratory building will have been built, along with a multifunctional building and a parking facility. In a further stage, the existing laboratory building from the early 1960s will then be renovated step by step, avoiding major interruptions to day-to-day business. The new laboratory building will offer around 30 new laboratory rooms and 29 offices in a compact building with high structural dynamic requirements, as well as multifunctional areas on the first floor. The building volume is just under 40,000 cubic meters.

The new multifunctional building is being built on the site of the bitumen pavilion and the service building, right at the entrance to the campus. It will provide 1,000 square meters of office space, and there will be a restaurant area with a loggia facing the campus square. The multi-storey parking lot with over 260 parking spaces will house the Empa fleet with garage and car wash, and in the future a retail area as an onsite store for campus and neighborhood use. However, this is dependent on necessary zoning changes or a special use plan, which still has to be developed together with the city of Dübendorf. The volume of the multifunctional building and parking garage is just under 60,000 cubic meters. The new buildings will be Minergie-P-Eco certified.

The campus is becoming greener

Ten project proposals were received in a two-stage overall performance competition, and three finally made it to the final selection until the winning project was chosen at the end of 2019. It will be realized in the first stage by Implenia with SAM Architekten and Andreas Geser Landschaftsarchitekten.

In order to make the research campus virtually car-free, the parking spaces distributed throughout the campus will be gradually eliminated and eventually relocated to the new parking garage. Of course, visitors will also be able to park there. In accordance with the parking regulations of the city of Dübendorf, a total of more than 100 additional parking spaces will be available after completion of the parking garage.

The entire campus area will also be increasingly landscaped, for example with a green belt linking the two research institutes Empa and Eawag. This will make the research campus more inviting and safer, especially for pedestrians. A campus square is being created around NEST, providing an attractive outdoor recreation area for staff and guests.

Innovations from Empa's labs on their way to practical application

Developments and innovations from Empa's laboratories will also be used in the new campus, especially in the fields of energy and buildings. In the future, research will therefore not only be carried out in, but also on and with the new buildings. For example, a field of 144 geothermal probes reaching down to a depth of 100 meters will store the waste heat from the buildings. In winter, this heat will be extracted from the ground again and raised by a heat pump to be used for heating.

But that's not all: Empa's "Urban Energy Systems" department has revised the originally proposed operating concept so that a new type of experimental high-temperature ground probe field is being built instead of the "conventional" low-temperature ground probe field. The waste heat from the chillers will be fed into the ground via the borehole heat exchangers in summer. The seasonal geothermal energy storage is thus "charged". In winter, the energy is extracted from the ground again for heating; the seasonal geothermal energy store is "discharged". This seasonal cycle is then repeated again and again. As part of a research project, this innovation is being studied in depth to learn how it affects the campus' energy supply, operations and security of supply. In addition, thanks to special separation toilets, urine is collected in the new laboratory building and piped to Eawag's Water Hub in NEST. In the laboratory there, it is processed into plant fertilizer.


This is how the entrance to the Empa and Eawag research campus will look from the main road. Illustration: SAM Architekten / Filippo Bolognese Images

Meeting, office and experimental areas will be combined under one roof in the new laboratory building. Illustration: SAM Architekten / Filippo Bolognese Images
The new facades at the central campus square  the new laboratory building on the left, the multifunctional building in the back  reflect the dynamics of the existing NEST building. Illustration: SAM Architekten / Filippo Bolognese Images
Vlatko Biljaka
Project Manager
Empa, Real Estate Services
Phone +41 58 765 60 16

Editor / Media Contact
Rémy Nideröst
Empa, Communication
Phone +41 58 765 45 98

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