Doctoral researcher position in “Continuous environmental impact assessment in design”

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 and Empa.

Project background

This doctoral research position on digitalization for a circular built environment is located at the Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture (CEA) and co-supervised by the Block Research Group (BRG) 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 in the built environment through automated materials reuse can tackle challenges such as the scarcity of resources, waste treatment, and the climate crisis. 

Job description

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

  • How can digital collaboration enable more sustainable, circular design and construction of digitally fabricated buildings?
  • How can a continuous environmental impact analysis be introduced into an integrated design-to-construction process and implemented computationally?
  • 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?

Digital fabrication stakeholders need to continuously understand the environmental impact of their decisions. Digital fabrication approaches offer the opportunity to make early design-stage evaluations of non-standard fabrication methods, something that is not currently available using current standards for life cycle assessment (LCA) and building information modeling (BIM). The tasks include:

  • Apply an early design-stage evaluation of environmental impact for the digital timber prototype.
  • Use COMPAS to model life cycle impacts as an additional constraint, so designers receive live feedback on environmental performance.
  • Analyse accuracy of early-stage data and industry averages (material specifications, sources, quantities).
  • Synthesise fundamental environmental impact / circularity indicators through market research interviews.
  • Export the parameters of the final design into an industry-standard BIM so that information can be stored and shared throughout the lifecycle of the building.

Your profile

We welcome highly motivated and curious applicants in disciplines related to civil and environmental engineering, architecture, computer science, construction, or similar subjects and with a strong interest in applying circular economy principles to the AEC sector. Fluency in spoken and written English is a requirement. Speaking German is an added value. The ideal candidate should be able to work in a team, take initiative, be results-oriented, organised, and creative. Software engineering skills (especially coding, e.g., Python), BIM experience (e.g., Revit), or computational design skills (e.g., Rhino/Grasshopper) are an added value. A MSc., MArch or similar recognized master’s degree is required for admission to ETH.

Your workplace

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.

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);
  • Portfolio and/or samples of scientific writing (papers, master thesis, etc.);
  • 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;
  • Name, phone number, and email address / contact details of two referees;
  • Optional: 2-minute video explaining how you would address the posed research questions is an added value.

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 (corina.niescher@hr.ethz.ch) (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 (https://ibi.ethz.ch/en/). More information about the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) within the department of Architecture (D-ARCH) is available online (https://ita.arch.ethz.ch/en).

This position is linked to another position at the CEA: https://www.jobs.ethz.ch/job/view/JOPG_ethz_mTdTqobWWhVOG2TWiI

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.