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Concrete Eating Robots Could Recycle Entire Buildings

The Ero concept could aid in building a new structure directly out of an old one.

Dave Pinter
Dave Pinter on July 23, 2013. @DavePinter

The cost of demolishing an existing old building can sometimes rival what is spent on building a new structure. Today, there is an established industry of building recyclers that reprocess concrete, metal, glass and wood for use in new ways. But it is a complicated, time consuming and messy job sometimes involving hazardous materials. Designer Omer Haciomeroglu saw the problem and set out to develop a solution that was more efficient, cleaner and safer for workers. ERO is a Concrete Deconstruction Robot concept designed to disassemble reinforced concrete structures and enable the building materials to be re-used for new pre-fabricated concrete buildings.

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Today, operators manually control different sized demolition machines to smash and crash the concrete structure into dusty bits within the demolition location. All of these machines consume a lot of energy to operate. Water has to be sprayed constantly over the pulverized surfaces with fire hoses to prevent harmful dust from spreading around. After the work is done, big machines come and scoop the rebar and concrete mixture and transfer them to the recycle stations outside the city. There, the waste needs to be separated manually.

The challenge with this project was to start separating materials during de-construction. Concrete is usually reinforced with a metal mesh inside. Today’s techniques tend to pulverize with brute force which creates a lot of dust and uses a lot of energy. Outcome of the operation creates a mixed mound of waste material which needs to be separated in order to be re-used or sold as second grade metal, or as a filling material.

Depending on the size of the structure to be recycled, Haciomeroglu imagines a fleet of ERO robots deployed within. Their first task is to scan the environment and develop a coordinated efficient work route.

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Once the ground concrete is spun separated from the water, it can be used to cast new building blocks potentially on site allowing a new structure to be made directly from the old.

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Ero won the 2013 International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) in the Student Designs category from the Industrial Designers Society on America.

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Omer Haciomeroglu

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