PhD student in data for circular buildings

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

Empa is the research institute for materials science and technology of the ETH Domain and conducts cutting-edge research for the benefit of industry and the well-being of society.
The Urban Energy Systems Laboratory at Empa develops models and concepts for innovative building and decentralized energy system technologies based on renewable energy, including prototypes and demonstration plants. 
The Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture (CEA) at ETH Zurich develops research on matching supply and demand of reused materials in the built environment through digitalization for circularity. 
Together, we are exploring digital innovation such as LiDAR scanning tools, Geographic Information System (GIS), satellite imaging, and Google data to feed the creation of platforms for material and resource passports. This will enable to evaluate at an urban scale which buildings will be demolished or retrofitted and could become material mines in the future. In order to create a decision-making tool that helps with the optimal energy transformations and material flows within a city, we analyse trade-offs simultaneously. To strengthen our scientific team, we are looking for a PhD student in data for circular buildings.

Job description

You will work on developing a computational design method for direct feedback on both embodied and operational impacts of design-decisions concerning the reuse of building materials. Combining tools from computer science and environmental architecture, you will look at optimization methods for finding the perfect fit for waste materials in an urban context, in order to lower waste generation, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource depletion. To do so, you will need to collaborate closely with industry in order to assess the condition of existing building materials using digital, non-destructive assessment tools. You will publish in scientific journals and conferences and present at public events for the general public.

We are offering a multifaceted and challenging position in a modern research environment with excellent infrastructure. You will also be connected to different labs at Empa and ETH Zurich, in order to carry out highly interdisciplinary work.

Your profile

We are seeking a highly motivated and dedicated candidate with a degree in civil and environmental engineering, architecture, computer science or similar. Candidates should have profound and interdisciplinary knowledge in energy, environmental impact, design optimization, and building technology. Programming experience in Python or similar languages are preferred. The candidate should be interested to work closely with industry and research partners in the construction sector. Candidates should have excellent written and spoken language skills in English (and ideally also German).

Your workplace

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your application, comprising a letter of motivation, a CV including also the list of publications, two references with contact details, diploma copies, a 700-words position paper and also a max. 3-minute video summarizing your ideas for the position. 

Please submit your application online and upload all documents (only "pdf" files and "mp4" for the video) through the following link: The position paper and video can be uploaded under "additional documents". You may also upload a PDF with a link to the video (YouTube or Vimeo streaming link only!). Any other way of applying (i.e. email) will not be considered. Deadline is January 31th 2022.

For further information about the position please contact Dr Kristina Orehounig, or Prof. Dr Catherine De Wolf, and visit our websites and Empa-Video.