Great ideas and inventions are often born at the crossroads between research fields. This may be why interdisciplinarity has become such a buzzword in recent years. But actually going beyond the slogan and successfully growing a culture of interdisciplinarity is a tough challenge that requires actively seeking the best candidates for faculty positions, identifying potential synergies, and setting the stage for the sometimes serendipitous encounters that it takes to successfully build bridges between otherwise distinct fields.

At ENAC, EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, we see the physical proximity between the three disciplines we bring together as one of our key strengths. To ensure that we go beyond a pious wish for interdisciplinarity, we have set up the Affinity Map, a digital platform that mines data from across the faculty to monitor the collaborative networks between our researchers in teaching and research.

2015 was a dynamic year at ENAC, with the opening of eight faculty positions and two new sponsored chairs. As the School grows, it is striving to establish itself as positive workplace for both men and women by proactively promoting gender equality in the ranks of its faculty.

To foster the dialogue between all three disciplines present at ENAC, one of the new chairs will focus on the relationship between humans and their environment in cities, while we strengthened

our pole in geo-engineering with two newly hired tenure track professors who will focus on challenges ranging from safe nuclear waste storage to the sustainable production of geothermal energy.

A dedicated industrial liaisons officer joined ENAC to further facilitate and encourage outreach and innovation by helping researchers identify promising technologies and provide assistance drafting patents, raising funds, and getting start-ups off the ground. And in 2015, the dialogue between researchers and the Swiss Post led to an exciting initiative to launch a network of driverless buses in the Swiss city of Sion.

Our students are also invited to participate in this interdisciplinary dialogue, which we actively encourage throughout the teaching curriculum, through initiatives such as EPFL’s qualification in late 2015 for the Solar Decathlon Challenge, an international competition that challenges student-driven teams to build a fully-function solar housing unit. In 2017, students from EPFL and partner institutions in Fribourg and Geneva will travel to Denver, Colorado, in the USA, where they will present their full-scale solar housing prototype.

I hope you enjoy reading our 2015 annual report. In the name of our entire faculty, I invite you to keep in touch by visiting us on campus or following us on social media.

Sincerely, Marilyne Andersen




Claudia Binder is an internationally acclaimed researcher who has developed an independent global approach to urban ecosystems. She integrates sociological topics, thus expanding urban spaces into socio-ecological systems. Her work is practice-based and involves political and other players in order to tackle current topics such as energy transition and urban consolidation. Claudia Binder’s main research focus superbly complements the existing activities of EPFL. With her appointment, the Federal Institute is strengthening research into a topic which is of central importance to society.

Corentin Fivet has wide-ranging experience in the development and application of graphically supported planning software. This allows construction aspects to be incorporated into planning right from the start, while at the same time greatly reducing the material intensity of the constructions. Corentin Fivet will work closely with the professorship held by Paolo Tombesi (see below). These two appointments strengthen EPFL’s activities in the fields of technology, construction and sustainable architecture at the Fribourg site.

Dimitrios Lignos has made a name for himself internationally through large-scale experiments in the field of structural engineering. His results make it possible to calculate the fracture behaviour and breaking points of metallic structures under high-stress conditions. These discoveries have practical applications in the construction of high-rise tower blocks, for example. Dimitrios Lignos closely combines science and practice in a way which benefits EPFL. His conceptual orientation will permit wide-ranging synergies with other researchers at the Federal Institute.

At EPFL, Marie Violay will develop an innovative scientific project in the field of deep geothermal energy. The project revolves around the development of knowledge and expertise in underground energy extraction with a rigorous scientific approach based on the thermo-hydro-mechanical coupling of physical processes. This is a unique scientific direction in rock mechanics. She places continuum mechanics at the center of the analysis of rock behavior by including environmental conditions inherent to this type of problem: high mechanical stress (hundreds of mega-pascal), elevated temperatures (hundreds of degrees Celsius), and multiphase conditions of fluids found in pores. In addition, Marie Violay approaches this issue from an experimental angle. This approach is the most difficult, but it also carries the greatest potential for scientific impact.

Paolo Tombesi is an internationally renowned academic who focuses on the relationship between the intellectual dimension of architecture and socio-technical aspects of physical construction. He adopts a comprehensive approach which considers the relevant planning and implementation processes as well as all the construction elements. Paolo Tombesi will work closely with the professorship held by Corentin Fivet (see above). These two appointments strengthen EPFL’s activities in the fields of technology, construction and sustainable architecture at the Fribourg site.

Nikolas Geroliminis’s research focuses on urban transportation systems and traffic management operations. This includes noteworthy work on an accident management system that provides assistance to vehicles that have broken down and alleviates periods of peak congestion. He accomplished this through the rapid detection, confirmation and dissipation of incidents. Nikolas Geroliminis developed a model for locating vehicles in a state of emergency within congested urban networks subjected to considerable traffic uncertainty. This interdisciplinary research combines elements of applied mathematics, sophisticated stochastic modeling and large-scale data farms (“big data”) in real time. This results in improved understanding, on both the theoretical and applied levels, of the dynamics of traffic flow for the development of practical recommendations, particularly in urban planning. His research has had a significant impact both in international scientific journals and in the daily lives of Swiss drivers.

Brice Lecampion has contributed significantly to the field of hydraulic fracturing and the integrity of deep wells. His research topics are of crucial importance in the extraction of hydrocarbons, CO2 sequestration and geothermal energy. Lecampion developed a theoretical understanding of the initiation and propagation of multiple fractures in horizontal wells. Digital tools associated with these theories are now used in the industry to optimize drilling operations. Brice Lecampion is a leading expert internationally in the theoretical conceptualization of geoenergy problems. In his previous scientific activities, he was able to make numerous benchmark contributions and to file several patents on the process of hydraulic fracturing. Geomechanics, reverse analysis and fluid mechanics are among the disciplines he uses to provide solutions to complex geoenergy problems.

Christophe Van Gerrewey represents a young generation with their own new take on architecture and its historical foundations, renowned for his strong analytical capacity and intellectual rigor. His vision also references philosophy and literature. Christophe Van Gerrewey’s remit will be to convey to students the value of the theory of architecture as an important tool in architectural and urban design and discourse.


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After successfully running a fleet of autonomous vehicles on the EPFL thank to their fleet management platform, BestMile, a startup founded by two ENAC engineers has taken its technology into the real world. Started in spring 2016, two driverless shuttles serve the city of Sion, in Valais, Switzerland, in a partnership between BestMile, PostBus, and EPFL.




By completely rethinking the design of autonomous underwater vehicles, Hydromea is paving the way for a new class of applications for underwater environmental monitoring. The underwater drones developed by the spin-off from ENAC’s Distributed Intelligent Systems and Algorithms Laboratory are designed to work in swarms and sweep through undisturbed water and collect accurate snapshots of environmental quantities in a single pass.


Gamaya, a startup spawned by ENAC’s Geodetic Engineering Laboratory, provides agricultural professionals with unprecedented information to help them make better decisions to increase their harvest. Drone-mounted hyperspectral cameras with over 250 individual channels distinguish healthy and stressed crops, weeds, nutrient deficient crops, and can help limit the overuse of fertilizers, protecting crops and the environment.



The GazNat chair seeks to integrate and combine state-of-art research capacities to understand the challenging geo-mechanical behavior of geological CO2 injection and storage. The chair is sponsored by Petrosvibri SA.


The mission of the Kamprad Chair for Lake Science is to perform socially relevant and multidisciplinary research to ensure the sustainable use and conservation of natural water resources, both in Switzerland and internationally. It is funded by Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

The Chair ‘Innovations for a Sustainable Future’ was created as the result of a convergence of values between EPFL and Landolt & Cie LTD, Swiss private bank, to contribute to building a sustainable world for future generations by educating future leaders and developing cross-disciplinary research activities.

The Swiss Mobiliar Chair in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Living will draw on broad interdisciplinary expertise already present on campus, and develop new research avenues at the crossroads between architecture and design, civil engineering, social and environmental sciences. It will open in spring 2016.



Located in Fribourg, Switzerland, the smart living lab is an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional excellence center for the built environment of the future. With its partners, the University of Fribourg and the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, it aims to further knowledge related to the built environment of the future, both on a technical and on a societal level.

With the iBois laboratory, ENAC is involved in the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, initiated at ETH Zurich. The center focuses on research into digital design and manufacturing processes and their synthesis through the use of novel technologies.

ENAC is involved in the Future Cities Laboratory, a research programme established by ETH Zurich and Singapore’s National Research Foundation that aims to develop new knowledge, technologies, and approaches for a sustainable urban future with an Asian perspective.

ENAC is represented with two labs in the Swiss national research project “Active Interfaces,” which aims to develop a holistic strategy to accelerate the transposition of advanced BIPV adapted solutions into real innovative practices.

EPFL is involved in the Swiss Competence Centers for Energy Research program “Future Energy Efficient Buildings & Districts,” whose aim is to reduce the end-energy demand of the Swiss building stock by a factor of five during the next decades thanks to efficient, intelligent and interlinked buildings.