Structural materials for the post-oil era


Wahlmodul für Bachelor- und Masterstudenten


Winter school

Poster Summer school 2022 © Dana Saez

Topic Description and Motivation

According to a report of the DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council), the construction industry is responsible for: 30% of global CO² emissions, 40% of energy consumption in Europe, and 30% of resource consumption worldwide. Furthermore, 80-90% of these resources are used in buildings’ load-bearing structures. That is why we as architects and engineers can reduce this impact by applying our know-how in smart designs. These solutions should not only apply to mass-reduction-optimization but also, to materials’ smart selection.

This Winter School aims to introduce the current state of research in the world of building materials, how they can be implemented in structural systems, and possible optimization strategies. The lectures introduce fundamental theoretical knowledge in statics of renewable materials and evaluation techniques, which are complemented by ‘Hands-on workshops’, where students apply their acquired knowledge in practical projects.

The lectures are conducted by the Chair for Structures and Structural Design (Lehrstuhl Tragkonstruktionen, ‘Trako’) leaded by Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Trautz. Trako is part of the Faculty of Architecture of RWTH and is an international and interdisciplinary group of young Structural Engineers and Architects. Its research focuses on lightweight structures, traditional natural materials as wood, vernacular natural materials as bamboo, and experimental bio-materials like the Mycelium-based. Many research projects are conducted in collaboration with other institutes at RWTH such as Ibac (Institut für Bauforschung, Fak.3). Furthermore, the chair is supported by external partners from both, the industry and academy fields. That is why this program also offers guest jury members from renowned german Universities, as well as European universities.

Academic Content

The curriculum is divided into two modalities, one the synchronous and the other the asynchronous. However, both include exchange and participation activities to encourage the students to exchange their knowledge and debate about the lessons learned. In this Winter School edition, we decided to focus on the synchronous part, where we propose a series of workshops to manufacture a series of material specimens for prototyping and subsequent data collection and analysis. In the asynchronous part, we prepared a series of videos with different topics, including a general overview of the circularity of structural materials; The importance of lightness in the built environment; Sustainable strategies for structural planning: reducing the carbon footprint, avoiding entropy, and waste; Natural Materials: organic and inorganic; Growing materials; Recycling Materials; Enhancing vernacular materials with contemporary technology; Mechanical proof of load-bearing capacity; Natural Growth and Design as a Process and Model for Innovative Technical Solutions.

Applicants profile

Although, the program was originally tailored for undergraduate students from the Honors College, we decided to open the application to all architecture students as a ‘Wahlmodule’ in Bachelor or Master degree. Due to the international nature of the event, all courses are going to be guided in English.  That is why the applicants need proficient knowledge of the English language. The topic is addressed to students of Architecture, Structural and Civil Engineering, Materials Science, Biology, or a related field. Furthermore, students with other engineering backgrounds, like mechanical, automotive, or aerospace, interested in the subject are very welcome to join the program.

Language: English

Computes as a ‚Wahlmodul‘ for Bachelor or Master: 3CPs

Number of Participants: 6 to 30

Implementation Period: from 24.11. to 15.12. (KW46, KW47). As mentioned before, the winter school is planned on a mixed synchronous (in presence) and asynchronous (online & booking slots) modality. The latter, offers students flexibility to manage their time and produce the material for the final review.


20.11.2023: Kick-off (Asynchronous online), students will receive an email with instructions on that day

24.11.2023: Hands-on Tutorial (Synchronous face-to-face), 1st meeting, Schinkelstr. 4 (Elektrische Maschinen), Room E2 (1250|143), 12:30 - 14:00

27.-29.11.2023: Hands-on workshop: cooking your material (Synchronous face-to-face), Schinkelstr. 9 (Werkstätten Studentisches Arbeiten), 1.OG, Booking slots will be available on Moodle from the 24.11. on

29.11-01.12.2023: Material experimentation: Pick-up slots (Synchronous face-to-face), Schinkelstr. 9 (Werkstätten Studentisches Arbeiten), 1.OG, Booking slots will be available on Moodle from the 24.11. on

08.12.2023: Q&A: Materials characterization (Synchronous online), ZOOM Link in moodle room, 9:00 - 10:30

15.12.2023: Final review (Synchronous face-to-face), last meeting, Schinkelstr. 4 (Elektrische Maschinen), Room E2 (1250|143), 12:30 - 15:00

Application for Architecutre Students: RWTHOnline

Contact: Dana Saez M.Sc.


More information:  Sommer school 2021