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Futuristic DFAB HOUSE is digitally built with robots and 3D printers

The homes of the future could be built with robots — that is the narrative that DFAB HOUSE, an experimental “house” in Switzerland’s municipality of Dübendorf, hopes to promote. Set atop Empa and Eawag’s modular research and innovation building NEST, the three-story structure completed last year serves as a testing ground and showroom for cutting-edge smart home technology and robotic construction. Built largely with digital means, the inhabitable “home” is also smart in terms of energy consumption; it includes rooftop solar panels that supply, on average, one-and-a-half times as much electricity as the structure needs as well as heat exchangers that harvest hot wastewater from showers.

Researchers from eight professorships at ETH Zurich collaborated with industrial partners to not only digitally plan DFAB HOUSE but also make it habitable for academic guests and visiting scholars of Empa and Eawag. The innovative construction has created an otherworldly interior landscape — defined by curvaceous walls and a wavy concrete ceiling cast in 3D-printed formwork — that Empa likens to the Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s Alien film sets.

The ground floor, which houses the common areas, is built mainly of concrete, while the two upper residential floors are characterized by wooden frames fabricated by construction robots. In addition to a home automation system that coordinates all energy consumption, guest residents also benefit from an intelligent multistage burglar protection system, automated glare and shading options and networked intelligent household appliances that even include a smart hot water kettle.

“The architectural potential of digital fabrication technologies is immense,” said Matthias Kohler, ETH Professor of Architecture and Digital Fabrication. “Unfortunately, these technologies are still scarcely used on construction sites. With the DFAB HOUSE, we are able to test new technologies hand in hand with industry and thus accelerate the transfer from research to practice.”


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