Dübendorf ZH - The NEST research building of Empa and Eawag in Dübendorf in the Greater Zurich Area has gained a new module. The HiLo unit will be used to test resource-efficient concrete structures. Holcim Schweiz is an industrial partner involved in developing the floor construction.

On the uppermost level of the NEST research building of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology within the ETH Domain (Eawag), researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) have erected the new HiLo unit. According to a press release from Empa, the module illustrating “nearly a decade of formative ETH research” was opened on October 6. A prominent feature of HiLo is a concrete roof with a double curve.

NEST tests resource-efficient concrete structures
The HiLo unit is enthroned on the top platform of the NEST research and innovation building on the Empa campus in Dübendorf, Switzerland. Photo: Roman Keller

The latest technologies were used to create this, and researchers at the ETH also drew from the knowledge of medieval cathedral builders in constructing self-supporting structures. The “novel, lightweight funicular floor system” that has been created also has the NEST module’s ventilation, cooling and low-temperature heating integrated into it.

Holcim Switzerland is an industry partner involved in developing the floor construction. Holcim’s resource-efficient EvopactPLUS concrete was used for the building, as the concrete manufacturer based in Zug explains in its own press release on HiLo. In it, Holcim Switzerland Project Engineer Kerstin Wassmann is quoted, saying: “The lightweight floor construction in the HiLo unit is characterized by a curved, pressure-stable, ribbed structure that was created using 50 percent less material than conventional concrete floors.”

However, with HiLo it is not just lightweight design that ETH researchers want to test. The new NEST module is additionally equipped with self-learning building technology. When combined with its users, automated learning should show possibilities of “how comfortable interior conditions can be achieved with as little energy and emissions as possible,” according to the press release from Empa.

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