DFAB HOUSE – Digital Fabrication and Living

DFAB HOUSE is the world's first residential building that has not only been digitally planned, but has also been built predominantly digitally using robots and 3D printers. The construction technologies used have been developed by ETH Zurich researchers in collaboration with industrial partners over the past four years.

DFAB HOUSE is a three-storey "house" and is located on the uppermost of three platforms at NEST. For the construction, researchers at ETH Zurich, in collaboration with industrial partners, have for the first time transferred several novel digital construction technologies from the laboratory into real applications as part of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) "Digital Fabrication". The eight participating ETH professorships were looking for ways to make building more sustainable and efficient through the use of digital technologies and at the same time create new design possibilities. The residents of DFAB HOUSE will find an intelligent home. A committed consortium of companies has developed DFAB HOUSE into a smart home – and will continue to use it as a platform for implementing and further developing new digital solutions in a real-life living environment in the coming years.



Here you find all publications concerning DFAB HOUSE.

A longitudinal study about the changes of the ceiling and wall elements of DFAB HOUSE can be found here

The innovation objects in the unit DFAB HOUSE
Mesh Mould: formwork-free on-site fabrication of a structurally optimised concrete wall

The new building technology Mesh Mould combines the two conventionally separated functions of formwork and reinforcement: Using a robot, a digitally generated model of a steel mesh is fabricated in high precision and then filled with concrete. Thanks to the close mesh design and the specific concrete mixture, the liquid concrete does not pour out. The steel mesh thus assumes and combines the two functions of formwork and reinforcement. Mesh Mould thereby allows to build standard building elements as well as structurally optimized, curved and non-standardised geometries with minimum waste, less material and energy, and considerably lower production costs.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, Noe-Schaltechnik, Schlatter Industries, Stahl Gerlafingen

The In situ Fabricator: robotic on-site fabrication

The In situ Fabricator is a mobile robot designed for the on-site fabrication of building elements. Thanks to its integrated navigation and sensor system, the mobile robot is able to orient itself on constantly changing construction sites and can position itself and move autonomously. Since the industrial robotic arm can be equipped with different tools, the robot is able to perform different tasks on construction sites that are dangerous, unhealthy or too complicated for humans. On NEST, the robot will manufacture the finely woven steel mesh for a load-bearing wall which will be constructed using the novel building technology Mesh Mould.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich

Smart Slab: additive prefabrication of functionally integrated ceiling slabs

Using a 3D-sandprinter, high-resolution, form-giving ceiling slabs are prefabricated. The individual elements are then being filled with ultra-high performance, fiber-reinforced concrete, and fitted with anchors for subsequent pre-stressing on the consruction site. Thanks to the printer’s high resolution, different functions such as building technology, lighting and acoustics can be already integrated in the building elements. In addition, the technology’s freedom of form allows to structurally optimise the multifunctional ceiling slabs. This way, considerable quantities of material can be saved in comparison to standard ceiling elements.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, Bürgin Creations, Christenguss, Fischer Rista, Frutiger, Georg Ackermann, Gom International, Rudolf Glauser, Stahlton, voxeljet.

Smart Dynamic Casting: prefabrication of non-standardised concrete elements using a robotic slip forming process

Smart Dynamic Casting is a continuous robotic slip forming technique which enables to prefabricate load-bearing concrete structures with variable cross-sections without any formwork. The automated process consists in the fact that a 40 centimetres long formwork segment is continuously filled with concrete and constantly pulled upwards. Specific additives ensure that once having left the formwork segment, the concrete is only hydrated to the extent that it carries itself and the weight of the overlying concrete, whilst simultaneously still allowing for the concrete to be reshaped. Within the scope of the NEST Unit, the technique will be used to prefabricate the façade elements of the basement.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, Pemat, Zühlke Engineering

Spatial Timber Assemblies: bespoke robotic prefabrication of timber construction elements

The three-dimensional robotic prefabrication of highly integrated timber construction elements expands the geometric design possibilities of prefabrication and minimises the effort involved in installing individual elements whilst addi-tionally facilitating the integration of technology. Within the scope of the NEST unit, a panelled timber frame structure will be constructed in which technical installations such as photovoltaic panels, thermal collectors or shading systems will already be integrated during the robotic prefabrication process.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, best wood SCHNEIDER, ERNE Holzbau.

Translucent leightweight façade

Spatial Timber Assemblies enables the fabrication of structures with a high stiffness in all directions with no requirement for additional reinforcement plates. DFAB HOUSE researchers used this liberty in material selection to develop an integrated high-tech façade solution. The innovative translucent façade system combines the excellent thermal insulation and translucency of aerogel granules with the lightness and geometric flexibility of a membrane system. The result of this patented technology is a slender high-performance façade with a novel aesthetic.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, AGITEC AG, Cabot Aerogel GmbH, seele cover GmbH

Digital living

What is it like to live in a learning digital home? In DFAB HOUSE, digitalSTROM is working with partners to develop new products, systems, services and applications – and the residents immediately put them to the test. digitalSTROM is a Smart Home platform that orchestrates all elements in a house, independent of the manufacturer: analogue technology, IP devices, audio and multimedia applications, building technology, sensors and various services with each other or with the Internet. The integration of artificial intelligence opens up new possibilities for the sustainable use of our resources such as energy and water. And our home becomes more comfortable, secure and beautiful.

Partners: digitalSTROM, ABB, Nussbaum, Schenker Storen, Schibli, Securiton, V-ZUG

Intelligent, energy-efficient and hygienic water distribution

Lukewarm, stagnant water in the pipes of conventional distribution systems increases the risk of Legionella colonization. The 3Eflow system installed at DFAB HOUSE evacuates the distribution pipes after use, preventing bacterial growth while reducing energy and water consumption by as much as 40%. 3Eflow functions by a machine learning smart control to accurately monitor water consumption. Researchers at Eawag, in collaboration with Empa, are investigating the impact of the 3Eflow system on the water hygiene and the energy flow in the distribution network.

Partners: 3Eflow, Eawag, Empa

Heat recovery from shower water

Joulia heat exchange systems partially recover the energy of wastewater in two of the showers at DFAB HOUSE. This is achieved by pre-heating the incoming cold water by about 15°C with the waste energy of the used shower water. As a result, up to 40% less hot water has to be supplied at the mixing valve. Highly precise flow and temperature measurements are conducted by Empa and Eawag to compare the actual energy savings in operation with values obtained from laboratory tests.

Partners: Joulia, Eawag, Empa