Winter School: Structural Materials for the Post-Oil Era

  Example of mycelium-based material Copyright: © TraKo RWTH Aachen Example of mycelium-based material

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 Summer 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. As an appointed member of 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 Summer 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

This program is especially tailored for undergraduate students. 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.

Implementation Period: 2 Weeks from 15.08. to 31.08. (KW33, KW34). As mentioned before, the summer school is planned on a mixed synchronous (9:00-13:00) and asynchronous (flexible) modality. The latter, offer students flexibility to manage their time and produce the material for the final review.

Synchronous (ca. 9:00-13:00)



Experimental materials: bioplastics + hands-on tutorial


Hands-on workshop: Material cooking


Hands-on workshop: Prototyping and data collection


Final review

Asynchronous (flexible)

A total of 10 videos + RAW


*RAW: Acronym for Reading and Writing, which refers to writing a short review of the lessons learned of each lecture.

Language: English

Workload: ca. 90 Teaching Units

Number of Participants: 6 to 30

Contact: Dana Saez, M.Sc.


Examples for sustainable materials