SELF was a living lab developed by Empa in order to investigate the limits of energy-efficient buildings. It was the result of a collaboration between Empa and Zurich University of the Arts. Designed by two industrial designers, Sandro Macchi and Björn Olsson, it was intended as an independent living and working unit for two people able to autosupply itself with the required energy and water from the atmosphere. Forefront advanced technologies were applied for optimized energy efficiency, water saving and solar energy harvesting.

The installed solar power panels provided energy for heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, light and electric appliances. All appliances were WiFi-controllable and monitored in respect to operation and energy consumption. Surplus solar energy was stored as hydrogen to cover seasonal discrepancies. Hydrogen was used as fuel for the cooker by direct catalytic oxidation in a novel Empa-developed stove and for reconversion to electricity by a fuel cell.

Rain water was collected and filtered to use as drinking water. Waste water from sink, shower and dish washer was collected, filtered and reused as technical water for all purposes apart from drinking.

SELF served as a lab for the continuous development and testing of innovative energy technologies on a systems scale. From 2014 to 2015 it was completely technically revised and upgraded.

A Swiss TV team (SRF Einstein) visited SELF. "Geht es auch ohne Strom" (in German).