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Collaborative Design of Prefabricated Façade Systems

Where research and industry meet to bring individual expression and cost-efficiency to our built environment.


CoDeFa is a joined research project between Institute Integrative Design|Masterstudio, FHNW and ERNE AG Holzbau, co-financed by Innosuisse.

The primary goal of this research is to improve our built environment on a larger scale by providing efficiency of manufacturing facade elements, without sacrificing design freedom. We believe that the convergence of the design and manufacturing as well as constant feedback between the disciplines can help to unlock the true potentials of technological innovation. Through collaborative work between woodwork engineers, experienced designers, robotics specialists and software developers we establish a novel approach to designing and producing prefabricated façade systems that are individualized, well-crafted yet cost-efficient.

Codefa nominated to Design Preis Schweiz!

How we work: Digital Craftsmanship

To enhance creativity and design freedom  among architects, we stream our research investigations into three main directions: custom parametric modelling instruments, flexible robotic fabrication and most importantly a collaborative design process between various stakeholders.  The digital design and fabrication tools are developed in parallel and are informed with technical limitations and material properties of wood. As such, this solution brings a new value to the industrial setup, a digital craftsmanship, where the creative needs and technical feasibility meet a stable ground forming continuous design-to-fabrication process.

Digital Tools

In order to provide more transparency, shorten the design–to–production process and provide creative freedom for architects, we develop a set of custom parametric tools of varied functions. These are playful instruments that boost architects’ creativity, help them to visualize their ideas, estimate costs as well as rationalization tools for engineers to facilitate the facade planning phase and ensure continuous digital workflow.

Robotic Fabrication

We analyse and improve existing industrial production processes of ERNE AG Holzbau as well as establish new automated production methods to support architects during the creation of their individual ideas. Through collaborative work between researchers and ERNE’s engineers, we established innovative 2-robot fabrication processes for complex façade assembly as well as a set of individual supporting production processes.

Collaborative Design

Understanding architects’ expectations towards facade systems are crucial in our investigations. We ground our research on the concept of collaborative customization, in which the needs of the customers inform the manufacturing process. We explore different modes of exchange between architects and the construction company and adjust accordingly the offer of the industrial partner.


to design and fabricate unique facade systems

Wood facades: Learning from the past

Wooden facades have a long history in Switzerland. Their form and aesthetics steam from centuries of trials and errors, which led to optimized systems regarding available resources, production feasibility and performance in the local climate. In our research we are learning from the old masters. Together with carpenters, wood engineers, robotic specialists and architects we are looking for the new interpretations of historic wood façades – shingles, board-on-board and beam-based facades. With the help of new design and production technologies we creatively expand its aesthetic expression, while keeping original logic and performance.


Beam facades

Mixed facades

Demonstrator: Office Saig

The demonstrator of the project, four outstanding facades on the modular office building in Stein, Switzerland was accomplished in November 2020. The front and back beam-based facades create architectural frame for the shingle and multi-layered facades on the sides. These 3 types not only reinterpret the most common Swiss traditional façade solutions, but also explore to the maximum the constructed fabrication toolbox, as each type represent different fabrication logic and challenges.

Working with architects: a collaborative process

One of our main goals is providing architects the possibility to customize the prefabricated façade systems through collaborative design process with the manufacturer. Early interdisciplinary exchange is crucial to create outstanding façade systems within a reasonable price range. That is why, each project starts with a workshop between manufacturer, engineers and architects, where digital design tool is adjusted to the vision of our partners. At the same time, the tool playfully expands design variety, ensures that the developed system is within the available production possibilities and evaluates its price. In the next step, we build the mockup with the robotic infrastructure of ERNE AG Holzbau to further improve the design until it meets architects’ expectations.

Online questionnaire

If you’re an architect, you’re very welcome to support our research with your knowledge! Please fill out the online questionnaire. We want to know your experience and expectations towards working with the prefabricated facade systems, dedicated design tools, importance of fabrication methods and collaboration with the construction company. 


CODEFA featured at Designboom architectural blog    read more



CODEFA featured on Archello architectural blog    read more



expert talk @ Herzog & de Meuron Digital Technologies Group

12.2020, Basel


CODEFA paper presented at ACADIA conference    read more



article @ HochParterre by Köbi Gantenbein.    read here

01.2021, Zurich


exhibition during Swiss Innovation Forum, represented by SDA. read more

10.2020, Bern


mention in the article in the FHNW publication              

2020, Basel


CODEFA nominated to Design Preis Schweiz    read more



talk @ Baumuster Centrale with ERNE AG Holzbau and SSA Architects. watch now

01.2021, Zurich


event with architects @ ERNE AG Holzbau                  

10.2020, Stein


CODEFA Among Digital Top 10 2021| Real Estate    read more



Related projects

precedent: acoustic wall. read more

2019, Olten


Guedel box @ ERNE AG Holzbau

12.2020, Stein


exhibition mockup. read more here and here

01.2021, Schweizer Baumuster-Centrale Zürich


Lehrfonds teaching course. read more

2020, Integrative Design, HGK FHNW, Basel



The project was initiated by Edyta Augustynowicz in 2018 as a joined research between University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, FHNW and ERNE AG Holzbau. Our team is highly interdisciplinary and consists of researchers, experienced computational designers, woodwork engineers, robotics specialists and software developers. 

Edyta Augustynowicz

Project Lead
edyta.augustynowicz (at)

Maria Smigielska

maria.smigielska (at)

Daniel Nikles

MA of Arts FHNW in Design
daniel.nikles (at)

Thomas Wehrle

Project Manager
thomas.wehrle (at)

Prof. Heinz Wagner

Head (ret.) Institute Integrative Design|Masterstudio, FHNW
heinz.wagner (at)

Dr. Ralf Michel

Co-Lead a.i. Institute Integrative Design|Masterstudio, FHNW
ralf.michel  (at)

Project Partners


HGK | FHNW – Basel

Institute Integrative Design | Master Studio Design

Freilager Platz 1, 4002 Basel, Switzerland