While the NEST Backbone at The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Dübendorf is nearing completion, our team at the NCCR Digital Fabrication is beginning to develop its vision for the Digital Fabrication Nest unit. As an official launch for the project, the project leaders of the Empa Nest were invited to a session of presentations by investigators and researchers at the NCCR Digital Fabrication in the beginning of December.

NEST is a modular building. It simulates a neighbourhood composed of stacked units condensed into a single structure. Each unit represents an autonomous building with its own unique research and development focus. The units serve as an apparatus for testing and demonstrating a wide and changing set of research questions under real-life conditions with the ultimate goal of accelerating the speed of innovation in the design and construction sectors. The vision for NEST is that it be an interdisciplinary platform in which research, business and the public sector can work together to exchange ideas, test new innovations, and showcase results so that novel construction technologies can be viably accelerated into use.

In collaboration with EMPA, the NCCR Digital Fabrication has now selected its “site” for the Digital Fabrication Nest unit and is working on scaling up current research to be implemented in this real-world construction project.

The project is ambitious, but the challenges are many.

First conceptual design studies have started, concentrating on the integration of the research projects into a functional building design and developing the architecture language of Digital Fabrication. The design of the unit will focus on testing and demonstrating innovative building processes resulting from the interdisciplinary research activities of the NCCR. It will help create a unique opportunity for technology transfer and industry engagement.

The NCCR Digital Fabrication Nest unit will be a multi-story live-work space for academic visitors to EMPA. It will be built with digital construction methods, equally focusing on the two grand challenges of Digital Fabrication, on-site robotic construction and bespoke prefabrication. As the first largely digitally fabricated building, the unit will exemplify the architectural qualities and advantages of Digital Fabrication in a synergetic approach and explore its impact on sustainability and efficiency, manifesting the potential of Digital Fabrication to improve the way we design and build.

More information about NEST can be found on https://nest.empa.ch.

The modular concept of NEST (left, image: EMPA) and the site of the Digital Fabrication unit (right)

Conceptual rendering of NEST (image: EMPA)