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NEST Unit Installed

One working day, two cranes and a well attuned team: on 21 November 2017, the woodworkers from the Austrian company Kaufmann Zimmerei und Tischlerei placed the seven prefabricated modules of the new “Urban Mining & Recycling” unit with utmost precision between the projecting platforms of NEST, the research and innovation building of Empa and Eawag in Dübendorf. The interior finishing will be implemented in the next weeks. The apartment will be ready in the spring of 2018 and will accommodate two tenants.

The NEST unit “Urban Mining & Recycling” is simultaneously an apartment, a material storage, and a material lab. The unit is based on the idea that all resources required to construct a building must be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable. Werner Sobek, director of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design of the University of Stuttgart and owner of the Werner Sobek Group, together with Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel of the Chair of Sustainable Construction at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), are responsible for the design. The general contractor of the project is Kaufmann Zimmerei und Tischlerei. The seven modules that form the new unit were prefabricated in their factory in the Reuthe, Austria.

The structure as well as large parts of the facade are made of untreated wood. The innovation lies in the connections and the material-oriented use: all connections of the system subjected to tension and compression can be easily undone. Adhesive connections had been omitted in favor of plug and screw connections. The wood being used is applied in such a way that an otherwise standard coating is not necessary, thus making purely type-sorted recycling or purely biological composting possible.

The facade consists of aluminum and copper. Both metals can be melted and recycled according to type. Inside, various serially-processed building products had been used, the different materials of which can be recycled in a type-sorted manner and without residue. Among other things, grown wall panels consisting of mushroom-based mycelium, innovative recycling stones, recycled insulation materials, as well as borrowed floor coverings are also being used in the unit. Through the use of such new “material leasing concepts“, the construction of this unit also calls into question the existing economic concepts prevalent in the construction industry. During a second construction phase, the unit will then also address research questions regarding the sustainable use of energy through a retrofittable solar heating system.

The “Urban Mining & Recycling” unit will be connected to the NEST backbone and the interior will be completed in the coming weeks. The official opening of the unit will take place in early February 2018. Shortly thereafter, the first two tenants will move into the new residential unit and subject the materials to a practical test.