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From Design Inception Through Project Completion: Constructing a Secure Homestead in Swaziland, Africa

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Architectural Division Technical Session 2

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Beth Huffman Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

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Beth Huffman is a lecturer at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in the interior design department. She is a licensed architect with specialties in sustainability and construction. Beth's classroom pedagogy is focused on the practices of design/ build. She often encourages students to build a portion of their projects at full scale, in order to understand construction connections and details.

Beth has her Master's of Science degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology and her Bachelor's of Architecture degree from Ball State University. Additionally, she continues to practice architecture through her own company, Muse Design. She enjoys the synergistic relationship between her role as a professor and her role as an architect, and believes that this hybrid provides real world practicality into the classroom on a daily basis.

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Kelsey Lee Reker


Mary Ann Frank Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

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Senior Lecturer, Interior Design

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This paper documents the year-long scholastic and experiential journey of a multi-disciplinary, student design team from schematic design through construction administration. The student team worked in tandem with an Architectural Technology professor from IUPUI designing and building a sustainable safe shelter in Swaziland, Africa. This experience gave students exposure to the design process from project programming through construction completion, and this paper will focus on describing and documenting both the student and professor experiences for the project’s entirety. The student’s perspective will focus on personal involvement and perceived academic outcomes from the project exposure, while the professor’s perspective will focus on the learning outcomes from the student team involved in the process.

The students spent the first semester in the classroom researching cultural context and refining the project scope to implement best architectural practices for Swaziland. Special attention was paid to culturally appropriate building solutions, cost efficiency, and sustainable technologies. Students worked individually and in teams to research vernacular architecture in rural Swaziland, and cultural context to better understand appropriate design methods for this area of the world. Additionally, students interviewed the community partner, who has a presence both locally and globally, to better understand the needs of the shelter’s future occupants. Next, the students created individual design solutions for the safe shelter project. Student designs included three dimensional digital renderings and physical, scaled, professional models of the proposed shelter. At the completion of the design project, the design professor and the community partner chose which student design solution best addressed the issues of cost efficiency, cultural relevance, project program, and sustainable building methods. Upon selecting the chosen design, the student team worked collaboratively critiquing and refining the chosen design.

During the summer, the professor and the students traveled to Swaziland for two weeks to build the shelter previously designed by the students, and chosen by the community partner. While abroad, students worked alongside local villagers to clear the land, excavate the earth, acquire building materials and construct the shelter. Students worked arduously for two weeks in Swaziland with many challenges, both materially and culturally.

The student team worked together to troubleshoot numerous issues that arose during the construction process. From site and location challenges, to resource and material scarcity, students worked collectively to problem solve and implement design solutions daily. Upon completion of the international service learning trip, the student team had successfully completed the proposed safe shelter.

Huffman, B., & Reker, K. L., & Frank, M. A. (2016, June), From Design Inception Through Project Completion: Constructing a Secure Homestead in Swaziland, Africa Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26967

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