Design-Build: A Campus Mother's Room

Presented by: Laura Morthland, Chad Schwartz, Jenny Huang

The pedagogy of design-build is not uniform, nor is the understanding universal, but involves “…integrative approaches to architecture…” with making (experimental, prototypical, full scale) as a fundamental aspect of the design process (Edman & Weddle, 2002, p. 174). In a 2014 article on interior design education, author M.T. Konkel presented initial classifications for “build-to-learn” experiences; explaining the roots come from architectural and engineering pedagogy along with experiential learning theory. “The tradition of build-to-learn introduces students to the notion that design ideas are often improved when…brought…into the physical reality of material” (p. 1). In contrast, industry understands “design-build” as a project delivery method whereby a “…single contract with the project owner [is used] to provide design and construction services” (DBIA, 2016, para 1). Konkel’s article positions “build-to-learn” experiences and “design-build” methodology as distinct from the construction industry classification. “While…programs may address the professional practice of design-build…design-build studio often refers to students engaged in hands-on experiential learning” (2014, p. 2). The content presented in this poster builds upon Konkel’s initial research question, “How are design educators employing build-to-learn strategies in interior design curricula?” (p. 5). The project highlights a design-build experience (design and construction via a single source) involving multiple disciplines, professional consultants and a complex client make-up. The work spans two regular term semesters (spring 2016 and fall 2016) at a public research university. The design-build team includes three faculty members from allied disciplines (architecture, interior design and construction management) along with two students each from the respective disciplines. The first 16 week class focused on design ideas and construction budget estimates to be utilized for a grant proposal seeking project funding. The nine member student/faculty team engaged in client consultation and presentation meetings with staff from Non-Traditional Student Services (originator of the initial design request) as well as administrative staff and leadership from the campus library (proposed build site). Additionally, because the project was conceived at the out-set as a possible “design-build” process, coordination with university architectural staff and union contractors was conducted in order to ensure university aesthetic alignment, code compliance and “good faith” relationships. The grant proposal was accepted and fully funded at the close of the spring 2016 term. A second 16 week class has begun this fall in order to finalize design details, complete a full construction document set, order materials and furniture and build full scale “mock-ups” to analyze design, materiality and construction technique. The ultimate goal is a fully constructed “Mothers Room” within the campus library open to the public in the spring of 2017. The poster presentation will encompass images showcasing ideation, schematic and design development phases and build progress. One of the “full scale” mock-up constructions (approximately 3’ by 3’) will also be present as an example of design intent, materiality and construction technique.


  • Design-build Institute of America [DBIA]. (2016). What is design-build? Retrieved from:
  • Edman, J. & Weddle, R. (2002). Designing, building, learning. Journal of Architectural Education. 55(3), 39-44.
  • Konkel, M.T. (2014). Build-to-learn: An examination of pedagogical practices in interior design education. Journal of Interior Design. 39(2), 1-16.
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