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Computer system designs structures based on available reclaimed wood

Computer system designs struct...
The technology has already been used to build a geodesic dome
The technology has already been used to build a geodesic dome
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The technology has already been used to build a geodesic dome
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The technology has already been used to build a geodesic dome
Nails and other foreign objects are removed from the reclaimed wood
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Nails and other foreign objects are removed from the reclaimed wood
The dome is made entirely of reclaimed materials
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The dome is made entirely of reclaimed materials
Each piece of wood is marked with a unique QR code
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Each piece of wood is marked with a unique QR code
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It's a sad fact that even though our forests are disappearing at an alarming rate, new wooden structures are typically made of all-new wood. A special computer system could help change that, by facilitating the use of wood reclaimed from existing buildings.

Currently in development at the ETH Zurich research institute, the system is initially used to create an inventory of all the pieces of wood that the users were able to harvest from a building or other structure slated for demolition. That wood could also consist of pieces left over from construction projects.

Once the dimensions of all the pieces have been recorded, the user specifies the sort and size of structure that they wish to build. The system responds by generating a design for the structure, the geometry and dimensions of which are based on the reclaimed wood that's available. Each piece of wood has a unique QR code laser-burned onto it, so it can be easily selected and assigned to a specific part of the structure

In a proof-of-concept demonstration of the technology, an ETH team led by Asst. Prof. Catherine De Wolf started by disassembling an entire floor of an old parking garage in Geneva which was soon to be demolished. The pieces of wood were then individually measured, nails and other foreign objects were removed from them, their data was entered into the system, and their QR codes were applied.

Each piece of wood is marked with a unique QR code
Each piece of wood is marked with a unique QR code

Following a design created by the system based on the wood available, the team proceeded to build a wooden-strut geodesic dome. It is made entirely of reclaimed materials, and can be seen in the video below.

Down the road, De Wolf envisions a system in which an online digital platform provides information on the materials used in existing buildings. Architects could consult that platform, basing their designs on materials which were soon to become available as buildings were torn down.

Readers might also be interested in an experimental MIT system, which selects salvaged sections of trees for use in building projects.

Diese Kuppel besteht aus Abfall

Source: ETH Zurich

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7 comments
7 comments
paul314
People have been using salvaged timbers informally pretty much forever (or downcycling wider/thicker pieces as flooring or sheathing). But doing it in a principled way might open up a lot more possibilities. (In my wood stash, waiting for reuse, are some plywood and 2x4s that I first pressed into service about 1982.)
aksdad
Interesting concept in search of a problem. "Our" forests are not disappearing. They are increasing. There is more forest cover in the U.S. now than a century ago and 70% of our lumber is domestically grown. Trees are a renewable resource after all. Almost all the rest comes from Canada, which also replants their harvested trees. That's just good economic sense. Third World countries, however, are reducing their forests because because they are where we were a hundred years ago in their economic growth, transitioning from subsistence economies to industrial ones. Eventually they too will probably regrow their forests.
EH
This is an inspiring proof of concept for a "remanufactory", which would take in old machines and durable goods and disassemble, refurbish and re-purpose their parts, sometimes remanufacturing items, sometimes using parts as spares or for other purposes entirely, as when designers specify or adapt old parts in new designs. Robotic systems "programmed by example" would automate the disassembly, documentation, reverse-engineering, testing, storage and retrieval of parts, as well as even providing the capability of identifying parts which could be adapted to other uses and performing modifications. Giant highly-organized warehouses would take the place of junkyards and much landfill space; the cost of buildings goes with the square of their dimensions but the volume grows with the cube, so bigger is better. Parts can be conserved for decades or longer until needed.

This ties into Dani Eder's work on "seed factories", quasi-self-reproducing industrial ecologies.
Username
The problem with systems using reclaimed material is that the material needs to be reclaimed in the first place. And at this point it isn't. I've seen many old buildings, old houses being torn down. I've never seen one being disassembled. Unless the process gets regulated, no one will want to incur the costs.
Lamar Havard
'aksdad' has it...In the United States, which contains 8 percent of the world's forests, there are more trees than there were 100 years ago. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Sorry Greenies.
ARF!
cool, but turn it into an accessable phone app for the little-numbered people so they can use it to build themselves a stable dwelling for hearth and home.
Nelson Hyde Chick
aksdad & Lamar Havard, a hundred one year old trees is not the same as one hundred-year-old tree.