PhD researcher “Intelligent material localisation for circular construction”
ETH Zurich
Zürich, Switzerland  
vor 3 Tg.
source : Academic Media Group International AB

PhD researcher Intelligent material localisation for circular construction

The Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture at ETH Zurich is looking for two PhD students to address digitalization for a circular built environment.

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, multi-variant 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.

By offering a viable automated circular design and construction management strategy towards the goal of carbon-free buildings by 2050, as set by the Climate Agreement, this project is in line with EU's strong ambition to create a new European Bauhaus to help Europe move towards circularity and digitialization.

Project background

This PhD student will develop a digital inventory-making method for AEC stakeholders in order to scan existing buildings prior to their demolition and identify, locate, and sort building materials.

This newly developed method will be used to carefully disassemble the building materials, store them, and reuse them in new construction and foster urban mining.

Image-driven data intelligence will be used to inventory materials available for reuse. To do so, sensing and scanning tools (camera-equiped drones, virtural reality equipment, etc.

and Building Information Modeling (BIM) will be used. Disrupting the current state of the construction sector's material supply, this project will develop a data-driven, intelligent process towards a digital "de"fabrication design approach.

Job description

In order to define an automated circular design procedure, scientific methods from different fields need to be combined, through inter- and intradepartmental as well as national and international collaboration.

We offer working within a research group at ETH Zurich, with excellent computational and lab facilities, and in close collaboration with other labs in- and outside ETH, nationally and internationally.

Sensing and scanning as well as virtual representation will play a crucial role. Computational design tools, augmented with machine learning, will be developed.

Collaboration routes with industry have already been established in the Circular Engineering for Architecture Lab. It is expected that the PhD student extends this industry-academia network and works closely with industry and applies findings to real-time construction sites through research-by-design.

Collaboration with start-ups such as are also encouraged.

Your profile

We welcome highly motivated and curious applicants (preferably holding a MSc completed before September 2021) in disciplines related to civil and environmental engineering, architecture, construction, material science, computer science, 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. Speaking German is an added value

The ideal candidate should be able to work in a team, take initiative, be results-oriented, organized, and creative. Software engineering skills (especially coding, e.

g. Python), BIM experience (e.g. Revit) or computational design software experience (e.g. Rhino / Grashopper) are required.

Experience in the AEC sector (especially in practice), interest / experience in machine learning, and in digital fabrication will be an advantage.

ETH Zurich

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.


We start screening applications from May 15, 2021 .

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 position paper to show how you will address the topic (max 1000 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 an non-English-speaking institution
  • A digital copy (PDF) of the master’s thesis
  • Name, phone number and e-mail address / contact details of two referees
  • Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

    We seek to start on October 1, 2021 or by agreement.

    For further questions please contact Mrs. Corina Niescher (corina.niescher ( 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 on line (

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