DDB projects are part of a program where students from the Georgia Institute of Technology design and build structures and buildings in collaboration with two German Universities (RWTH Aachen University and PBSA Düsseldorf) and local architects (Carin Smuts, CS studio) under involvement of the local community. Starting from the first design sketches and models to detailed design plans students experience all phases of a construction project. Detail design, calculating quantities, scheduling, financing/sponsoring and cost control are part of the task. During the construction phase students as well as unskilled local workers learn how to deal with different construction materials and their specific application as well as the entire building process from constructing foundations to the cladding of a building. Through teamwork and selective prefabrication of building components in the Digital Fabrication Lab at Georgia Tech the project can be built within a short time span.
The students learn to develop a strong awareness for built environment in another culture and the adequateness of applied construction methods. This includes understanding architecture as social practice and realizing it with all consequences. The research linked to this program studies the appropriate use of indigenous materials in an industrial application process. Within the Digital Building Lab at Georgia Tech different methods and standards for alternative building materials based on an empirical as well as scientific research approach have been tested. For an adequate design in a foreign culture, sub-saharan climate conditions and a poor community the implementation of the right materials and construction methods is essential. Which materials are locally available? Is it possible to use non-industrial materials that need a lot of manual labor? Which possibilities are given for re-use, recycling and up-cycling? Can a strong design let a ‘poor’ material become ‘rich’? Which potentials are contained in the material - constructively, energetically, and aesthetically? How can the selective use of high-performance materials improve an indigenous construction?