Sustainable Built Environment  
Structures & Infrastructures
Buildings & Cities
Advanced Light Weight Structures

Buildings and Cities
The building sector accounts for a large part of the energy use and CO2 emissions and there is a high potential of energy saving and emission reduction. Further, existing buildings are the least energy efficient, the largest energy consumers by far and represent the largest share of the building stock. With the global trend towards urbanization, the urban climate modifies also altering the micro-climate in streets, squares and courtyards. This change of the urban micro-climate directly affects the energy performance of buildings and of building components, like solar collectors and photovoltaic cells. It also affects the urban comfort and health of the people residing in the urban space by pollutant dispersion.
Strategic research at EMPA aims at generating new building materials and technologies for low energy and low emission buildings, with a special focus on the retrofit of existing buildings into low energy buildings. We want to proceed towards a strategic holistic approach for buildings and the built environment ranging from smart building materials and buildings, to smarts streets, smart districts and smart cities. Objective is to deliver, implement and optimize building and urban concepts that have the technical, economic and societal potential to drastically reduce building energy consumption and decrease of related CO2 emissions, both in relation to new buildings and to the renovation of existing buildings.


Different heat-air-moisture flows at the street canyon determine the urban microclimate, the energy and durability performance of buildings and building components, the urban comfort and health related to pollutant dispersion. EMPA in collaboration with ETHZ operates an atmospheric wind tunnel for time resolved flow analysis in the urban environment.


Empa is developing and testing technologies for the house of the future. Self is designed to be a self sufficient space unit, which is independent from external energy and water supply. It serves two persons for independent living and working, the whole year and throughout Europe.


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