HiLo is a research & innovation unit in the domains of lightweight concrete construction and smart, adaptive building systems, planned as an innovative office space for the NEST building on the Empa campus. As part of a future living and working lab, it introduces five key innovations:

  1. an integrated, funicular floor system (BRG);
  2. an integrated, thin-shell roof (BRG);
  3. a lightweight formwork system for shell construction (BRG);
  4. an adaptive solar façade (A/SASL); and
  5. an automated, occupant-centred building system (A/S).



NEST – a flagship project of Empa and Eawag, in collaboration with the ETH Domain – is a dynamic, modular research and demonstration platform for advanced and innovative building technologies in the heart of the Empa-Eawag campus in Dübendorf, Switzerland, due to be completed in 2019. NEST consists of a central backbone and a basic grid to accommodate exchangeable living and office modules, like HiLo, allowing novel materials and components and innovative systems to be tested, demonstrated and optimized under real-world conditions.


As partners of NEST, the Institute of Technology in Architecture at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), represented by the Assistant Professorship of Building Structure (BLOCK Research Group / BRG) and the Professorship of Architecture & Building Systems (A/S), has joined forces with Supermanoeuvre (sM) as design architects, and Zwarts & Jansma Architects (ZJA) as partners for the thin-shell roof.



HiLo boasts an intensive and integrated engagement with innovations in material, structural and environmental technologies. The project is not a mere showcasing of its constituent technologies, rather, a demonstration of the architectural potentials and effects such technologies afford. It is an apparatus for the direct, in-situ monitoring and testing of these innovations throughout its lifetime. Results and knowledge gained from design, construction and operation are disseminated through scientific publication.

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