Centre for Research and Applied Technology





CReaATe is a Technology Station that is to be developed aiming to investigate effective methods for achieving technological transfer to emerging enterprises in the construction industry. The Technology Station also aims to actively participate in the transformation of the role of the University in its setting and the creation of strong partnerships with locally-based, small, medium and micro enterprises and in the process investigate experiential learning in the teaching of architecture, construction and planning as well as exploring alternative development strategies.

Knowledge gaps in the construction sector will be identified and services will be offered to existing enterprises in the sector as well as assistance in the development of new enterprises where there is a market need. CReaATe will support these businesses in the process of becoming efficient, competent, competitive and financially viable. The construction industry lacks support for smaller enterprises and the encouragement of entrepreneurship. This would give CReaATe a unique advantage. There are a number of problems in terms of products, processes, technologies and skills evident in practice and these can be specifically targeted by the Centre.

CReaATe has as its core business areas, research, training, development work and consulting. Products and services to be offered are varied and relate to the range of skills available in the different Built Environment Departments as well as the capacity available among our collaborators.


A wide knowledge base exists at universities, which would be extremely beneficial to small scale enterprises in the field of construction. At the same time, universities would be able to enrich their Research and Development capacity.

Many of the lecturers are already involved in community projects in some form or the other and have offered support to local industry. These efforts need to be streamlined and better organised and this can be done through the establishment of a centre that offers technical support and training to these emerging businesses and the community, who want to be involved in the field of design and construction.

The contacts built with communities by the FADA, Architecture Department have added much value to teaching and have assisted the Department to bring an aspect of realism to student projects. It has proved to be a process of mutual learning. Community members have contributed in project criticisms and our students have made presentations to various stakeholders in those communities.

CReaATe will be a formalisation and development of a process that is already in motion by offering relevant support and for transforming the role of the University to offer an actual service in the development of local industry. In the process, teaching and research programmes will be made more relevant and greatly enriched.

There is an urgent need to re-direct professional efforts towards the needs of the poor rather than the ideals of the middle class. One way of supporting this is by the development of small-scale industries that are more aligned to the needs and affordability levels in poor settings. Taking locally available skills as a starting point for a design process needs to be tested, in a sense reinforcing the idea that technological innovation has to adapt to local capacities and not vice-versa. 



CReaATe aims to investigate effective methods for achieving technological transfer to small, medium and micro enterprises in the construction industry. One approach to these will be the adoption of a participatory development mechanism.

The Technology Station also aims to actively participate in the transformation of the role of the University in its setting and the creation of strong partnerships with locally-based, small, medium and micro enterprises and in the process investigate experiential learning in the teaching of architecture, construction and planning and the implementation of alternative development strategies.


To identifying knowledge gaps in the construction sector through offering services to locally-based small, medium and micro enterprises in the sector and supporting them in the process of becoming efficient, competent, competitive and financially viable.


Developing the research programme of the School of the Built Environment through the exploration of participatory development mechanisms, action research and experiential learning.

The skills that CReaATe will be able to transfer are:

  • Interpreting drawings and constructing domestic scale details – e.g. doors, windows, lintels, trusses etc.
  • Pricing and estimating, i.e. the building-up of rates for pricing tender documents
  • Principles of the law of contract, i.e. basic knowledge of the JBCC suite of contract documents
  • The complete procurement process, i.e. tender procedures. Contract and project management of contracts – basic principles
  • The development of already existing construction systems in many SA townships in the form of lightweight structures, the re use of industrial waste and the development of viable modular systems
  • Design: architecture, landscape architecture and interior design including product design
  • Materials and construction: tectonics the art of making, the culture of making
  • Building science: services, thermal performance, stability, safety and accessibility
  • Exterior spatial planning and design for sustainable human settlements


In investigating the above, it is anticipated that the topic would interface with various other disciplines such as management, economics, entrepreneurship, education, politics and environment issues.

It is intended that building sites and real settings be used for technological exchange through experiential learning: The city becomes a laboratory for testing out ideas related to construction materials, techniques, development interventions, etc. The possible effectiveness of an approach to development using participatory techniques can then be investigated and meaningful partnerships between university and surrounding communities can be achieved. Alternative methods of teaching architecture through experiential learning, and in architectural research through the adoption of action research principles will be aimed for.

The various outcomes of the centre will be evaluated based on the following parameters: development of existing entrepreneurship, effectiveness of networks and partnerships, success of projects on the ground, teaching/learning processes and research outputs.

CReaATe will also engage with the following activities:

  • The documentation of information on unique characteristics and dynamics of the surrounding areas in terms of construction activities.
  • Detailed survey of existing small-scale, local industry.
  • The establishment of long-term formal and informal agreements with potential partners.
  • The establishment of functioning communication systems with partners.
  • The implementation of pilot projects in testing out concepts.
  • Training and CPD courses.

The Centre will actively engage in attracting business from local industry.

Deciding how and where to intervene will be a structured process. It is believed that designed and emergent systems are equally important and it is strongly believed that any approach that does not acknowledge the presence of the ‘informal’ as a legitimate power, energy and form of expression is doomed to fail. It is acknowledged that emergent systems could become catalysts for more structured future developments.

With changing approaches and policies, architectural graduates need to be equipped with the skills to operate within dynamic social and political settings. Participatory approaches in design can only be explored through real-life projects. By working in the field, using a workshop approach, future professionals may develop sensitivity to context that will hopefully challenge an obsolete top-down approach to decision making in the built environment. The aim is for responsive, contextual approaches that may ultimately lead to questioning the very definition of professionalism.

While this theory is in no way new, the mechanisms for making these approaches reality in education and practice still elude professionals and governments. While conventional planned approaches are easier to conceive and implement, this does not guarantee their success. Through experimental, action research it is hoped that the skills needed for operating in a changing professional environment can be achieved.


Lecturers are expected to distribute their time between teaching, research, practice and community work. CReaATe will become a vehicle by which lecturers may be able to perform these functions more efficiently.

Practice or creative productivity can also be promoted as an alternative that can be peer-reviewed and accepted as valid research output.

Skills transfer internally will also be encouraged as well as with local communities and businesses. Existing partnerships with local and international institutes will also be reinforced. 


The intention is to operate with an adaptive strategy through continuous appraisal of process and flexibility through changing the approach as new information becomes available and new partnerships created – Continuously testing ideas among peers through writing and presentations at scientific forums.

The host institution is the Department of Architecture, University of Johannesburg. The Centre would concentrate on the following:

  1. Generating primary data and developing new knowledge
  2. Embracing research based activities
  3. Addressing issues of contemporary social responsibility
  4. Provide training that would enhance operating efficiencies within community-based projects

In order to clarify the responsibilities and duties of all parties involved, as well as focusing the efforts, it was deemed necessary to categorize the stream into:

  1. Research
  2. Training
  3. Services (Consulting)

The following is a proposed management structure:







The three areas of activity of the Centre are training and research as well as the provision of professional services to emerging businesses and Continuous Professional Development (CPD). A director will be appointed who reports to the Dean and the Vice Principal. A leader for the training and professional services streams will report to the director. A rotating chair for research will be appointed. An assistant chair will be appointed in a more permanent position. The three streams of training, professional services and research will be supported by the various partners. This relationship will be clearly coordinated through formal agreements between the Department of Architecture and its partners. The involvement of the partners will be on a project basis. Senior members of staff for the Architecture Department as well as the partnering departments will be appointed on a needs basis to certain jobs in the provision of professional consultations and services to emerging construction businesses, this being one of the core functions of CReaATe.

The leader of training and professional services as well as the chair of research will both be serviced by a support staff, which consists of secretarial services, a technical assistant. All financial administration will be outsourced. 


The keywords in terms of the potential impact of CReaATe are participatory development, cultural and technological transfer, professional practice, action research, university/community partnerships and city as laboratory.

 A key concept to this research will be the intimate understanding of the setting and the identification of potential catalysts in the form of people and projects:

  • Catalysts: Individuals as institutions and champions
  • Catalysts: Small projects as vehicles for collaboration, development and learning

The planning of interventions based on the identification of catalysts should have an impact on many aspects including all partners involved, academics and the communities who are the key beneficiaries as well as collaborators. 


A number of projects will be run under the banner of CReaTAe and each project will have its own plan of action that will be in line with the aims and objective of CReaATe. The projects will be on research, training and professional services.