In its early days, the Central Institute for Forest Research – WSL's predecessor institution – devoted itself primarily to questions relating to silviculture. In the 1950s, under the name of the Federal Institute for Forest Research (EAFV), it significantly expanded its research spectrum and the staff doubled from a dozen to over 30. As a result, the premises, which are distributed in private houses near the ETH, become too scarce.
In 1958, the EAFV erected a new building on land belonging to the municipalities of Birmensdorf and Uitikon and established an experimental tree nursery. The waterlogged soil proves to be suboptimal for tree cultivation, and so in the 1990s cultivation was extensified and the site was certified as a nature park. The campus was enlarged and expanded several times, most recently with the addition of the National Plant Protection Laboratory in 2014. In 2016, the old office and laboratory building was extensively renovated in line with the Energy Strategy 2050. It is now the first modernised administrative building in the Zurich area to meet the requirements of both the Minergie-P-ECO and Minergie-A-ECO building standards.