Doctoral researcher position in Digital ’defabrication’

WorkplaceZürich, Zurich region, Switzerland

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) on Digital Fabrication , funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), aims to revolutionise architecture through the seamless combination of digital technologies and physical building processes. Over 60 researchers from six different academic disciplines collaborate to develop ground-breaking technologies for tomorrow’s construction. Their research allows Switzerland to take a leading position within the global field of digital fabrication. Initiated at ETH Zurich, it is partnered with EPF Lausanne, the Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the Bern University of Applied Sciences,Empa, and TU Delft.

Project background

This doctoral researcher position on digitalization for a circular built environment is based at the Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture (CEA) and will be supervised in collaboration with the Chair of Innovative and Industrial Construction (IC) and the Chair of Construction Heritage and Preservation at ETH Zurich. We intend to foster the exploration and adoption of digital technologies as well as the shift towards a circular paradigm in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector. Buildings are complex problems addressed by numerous stakeholders. Automating reuse of materials in the built environment will connect actors across the value chain. Circular economy principles applied to the built environment through automated materials reuse can tackle challenges such as the scarcity of resources, waste treatment, and the climate crisis.

Job description

This research will respond to the following research questions, related to environmental responsibility:

  • How can digital collaboration contribute to the sustainable, circular design and construction of digitally fabricated buildings?
  • How can digital fabrication connect to circular economy principles, so that the end-of-life of digitally fabricated buildings can be linked to new design through repairability and disassembly?
  • What are effective data exchange strategies to capture process and material data created during the digital fabrication process, and to maintain this data across the lifecycle of the building?
  • How can values and challenges associated with preservation, building culture and heritage be integrated into advanced disassembly and circular construction processes?

Digital fabrication stakeholders need to explore digital disassembly for fostering circular construction. As current digital fabrication projects age, they will likely require complete replacement of elements due to lack of repair strategies, documentation and knowledge. This doctoral research will reimagine the connection between the end-of-life of one building with the start-of-life of another digital fabrication project in addition to related preservation strategies. The tasks include:

  • Analyse the ageing of existing digital fabrication prototypes and conventional buildings, formulate strategies for prolonging life span of components, the value of assets, and the ease of disassembly for reuse with the help of digital documentation and ‘defabrication’.
  • List and test digital innovation tools on an industry-led prototype (robotic defabrication, virtual reality and 3D scanning for material identification).
  • Create a strategy for digital fabrication circularity
  • Define the principles of design for digital defabrication

New data models known as Material Passports (MPs) are needed to store the quantitative and qualitative documentation of materials, products, and systems. The long-term preservation and efficient repair of computationally designed and manufactured buildings requires solid documentation and knowledge transfer. This will be addressed in both doctoral positions.

Your profile

We welcome highly motivated and curious applicants in disciplines related to computer science, civil and environmental engineering, architecture, construction, or similar subjects and with a strong interest in the AEC sector as well as in applying circular economy principles to (building) materials. Fluency in spoken and written English is a requirement. The ideal candidate should be able to work in a team, take initiative, be results-oriented, organised, and creative. Experience in computer science, digital fabrication, BIM, or computational design are an added value.

A MSc., MArch or similar recognized master’s degree is required for admission to ETH.

We offer

The position is funded within the collaborative scope of NCCR DFAB. The network, support, and collaborations offered within the NCCR offer unique opportunities for research as well as impact in industry.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

Applicants are encouraged to apply, even if they do not meet all the above criteria. Applications are only accepted through the online portal and should contain the following documents (make sure your last name is on all the documents and in the file name):

  • Cover letter that describes the candidate’s motivation and research experience (max 1 page);
  • A full CV including a list of publications;
  • A short research statement to show how you will address the topic (max 800 words, excluding bibliography);
  • Academic transcripts/list of courses completed or on-going, including grades and ranking;
  • Proof of English language skills if degree obtained in a non-English-speaking institution;
  • A digital copy (PDF) of the master’s thesis;
  • Name, phone number, and email address / contact details of two referees;
  • A 2-minute video explaining how you would address the posed research questions.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For further questions please contact Mrs. Corina Niescher ( (please do not send applications). For further questions about the research please contact Dr. Meliha Honic ( (please do not send applications). More information about the Institute of Construction & Infrastructure Management (IBI) within the department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (D-BAUG) is available online ( ?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> ). More information about the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) within the department of Architecture (D-ARCH) is available online ( ?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> ).

Review of applications will be on an ongoing basis beginning June 30th, 2022, and continue until the position is filled. The starting date is anticipated in Autumn of 2022 or as mutually agreed upon by both parties.

Apply online now

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
In your application, please refer to and reference JobID 175686.

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