Center for Virtual Engineering ZVE


With its ultramodern laboratories and office facilities, the ZVE is an excellent research facility for Fraunhofer IAO scientists while also providing a platform for researching, developing and testing various innovations, such as virtual reality technologies and new work-environment concepts.

Fraunhofer researchers are working on the visions and solutions of tomorrow in the following laboratories:

Digital Engineering Lab
Integrated development and design of products and production systems
Employing a holistic and integrative approach to map and study the entire product creation chain, from the original idea to the point of sale.

Immersive Participation Lab
Testing and developing the prototypes of products and buildings in virtual worlds
Work and presentation environments based on 3-D visualization techniques allowing scenarios to be demonstrated in highly authentic detail and in real time.

Visual Technologies Lab
Ergonomic and energy-efficient deployment of innovative illumination and display systems
Development of concepts and solutions based on LED and OLED technologies with the aim of leveraging their potential to improve ergonomic quality and energy efficiency in real-life applications.

Mobility Innovation Lab
Research into the future mobility of people, goods and information
Infrastructure and planning tools for the development of mobility solutions for the future in an urban context.

Urban Living Lab
Utilization scenarios and sample applications for innovative services in »Morgenstadt« (the city of tomorrow)
Focusing on tomorrow’s interactive urban landscapes, with research projects dedicated to the design of banks, hotels, care facilities, offices and other buildings.

Workspace Innovation Lab
Research, development and design of multilocal working environments
A »lived-in« laboratory for studying the issues, concepts and products that will define the future of office and knowledge work.

House of knowledge work

Fraunhofer IAO poured its scientific know-how in the fields of virtual engineering and workspace innovation into every aspect of the design and creation of its Center for Virtual Engineering ZVE. Combining a digitized planning and construction process with 3D visualization in virtual reality means that complex building structures can be parameterized, and the planning of alternate variants made simpler. The use of virtual reality also enables building components to be manufactured with semi-automated systems.

Better planning thanks to virtual reality

Virtual reality can be used to help people better visualize products in three-dimensions, making them more tangible. Simulation makes it possible to verify at the earliest stages of development whether or not new systems will work, and whether they can be manufactured as planned. Planning certainty is further improved by being able to tour the virtual building mock-up and to visualize simulation and planning data pertaining to the building itself.

During the planning of the ZVE it was also possible to analyze simulations of acoustic, thermal, and lighting conditions based on 3D models. The results were then factored into further steps in the planning process. This meant that planning errors could be largely avoided.

Building the ZVE has enabled Fraunhofer IAO to use its own building to demonstrate the possibilities offered by virtual engineering. Researchers and engineers at the ZVE are carrying out interdisciplinary work on these technologies and methods, and support companies during the introduction and development of digital product creation. Virtual engineering helps to strengthen companies’ competitive position in the race for innovation, quality and costs, and to secure their global market success.

Building innovation for energy efficiency and sustainability

The energy concept for the site is a geothermal plant with several 170-meter-long probes that extract renewable energy from the earth’s interior. The plant is complemented by heat exchangers and thermally activated ceilings for cooling and base load heating. Alongside water-filled pipes, the ceilings also contain air-filled plastic spheres. Less concrete is required to build these hollow block ceilings, reducing the static load and allowing the ceiling to span greater distances without further obstructive supports.

Gebäudetechnik ZVE

ZVE building services technology

The innovative building automation system also controls heating and cooling, air ventilation, and light. The tank for the sprinkler system is used to store waste heat energy coming from the building, for example from the computer rooms or the high-performance projectors in the virtual reality laboratories. An energy measurement and monitoring system analyzes how effective these various measures are.

Work environments

The office and lab spaces in the ZVE are spread over four floors around an open atrium. This attractive vertical axis with carefully positioned connecting stairways closely interlinks workspaces located on different floors, greatly reducing the vertical barriers to communication that often exist in conventional building designs.

Consequently, the ZVE does not strictly separate laboratory from office space. The primary domains of knowledge work - laboratory, office and group discussion– are spatially interlinked. This shortens physical distances and optimizes communication within the project and structural organization teams. The building supports interlinked, non-territorial working practices. One’s place of work is not a specified office or laboratory. It is chosen according to current working relationships and resource requirements, and can change several times during the course of one day, depending on the demands typical of multi-project work today.

Moreover, the variable height of office and lab spaces opens up reciprocal views of work being conducted on several floors. This promotes the development of innovative solutions across functions and disciplines. The center of the building maximizes the speed at which information and knowledge is exchanged, benefiting both the development of a concept and its efficient completion as a project. The farther away occupants are from the open core, the quieter it gets in the individual areas of the building, facilitating concentrated work in a quiet atmosphere.

Office workspaces

Use of office workspace becomes more flexible with each floor as you go higher. The two lower floors primarily house workspaces for technology developers, who frequently have to set up elaborate tests directly at their workstations. Here they have ready access to infrastructure that meets these different, frequently changing workspace requirements.

The work in the two upper stories is characterized by the variety of projects undertaken there, which can involve a flexible and ever-changing roster of different experts. Only specific functional groups, such as team assistants, are allocated fixed workstations.

The innovation platform supports different work situations, from enabling individuals or small groups to withdraw to quiet areas, to facilitating individual work in a vibrant co-working atmosphere alongside others.