Introduction

Robots are used across a range of fields from food preparation to assisting in surgery. They are ideal for work in dangerous areas and to repetitively lift heavy loads, removing health and safety concerns that would normally be applied to human workers. Other advantages of using robots include high levels of precision and a 24 hour working ability, resulting in higher productivity and an enhanced quality of work when compared to human counterparts.

This skill set has attracted interest from the demolition industry. Demolition is generally a destructive process, producing large amounts of waste materials. However, attitudes are changing due to resource depletion, the materials stored in buildings are viewed as being valuable and the potential for reuse is being explored. Deconstruction of buildings minimises damage to components, facilitating future reuse. However, there are potential health and safety concerns for humans to be closely involved in the deconstruction process. As an alternative, the industry is considering the use of robots. Steel frames have been identified as ideal for deconstruction and future reuse. This project explores the use of robots to deconstruct steel frames.

Task

Your team has been hired by a demolition contractor to develop a conceptual design of a robot or series of robots that could be used to deconstruct steel frames on site. You should develop a deconstruction plan for a typical steel frame, exhibiting the use of the robots, to persuade the deconstruction industry that using robots could be viable.

In order to further demonstrate the feasibility of your strategy you should explore the potential impact on deconstruction times and costs. You must show that your solution will not damage steel sections as this would significantly impact upon their resale value.

The contractor is also interested if alternative methods of steel construction and connection types would facilitate robot deconstruction and enable future reuse of more elements. This should be explored during the course of your project.

Considerations

Could deconstruction robots replace labourers, or would people still be required on site? Take into account how the two might interact and consider any health and safety measures that should be implemented.

Consider the height of the structures for which your solution is developed. Will your strategy target buildings up to a certain height or it could be suitable over a range of heights.

Ideally, robots could work through the night, reducing deconstruction times. However, local authorities might restrict on site hours to reduce complaints about noise at night, particularly in residential areas. Could this be overcome using robots? How might you convince local authorities that robot use will reduce noise and lighting levels at night? Furthermore, how can you ensure your robots can work in all weather conditions?

Are there any disadvantages to using robots on site? Consider how these could be overcome to convince the deconstruction industry of their value.

The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is becoming more common and will be compulsory for all new build public sector projects from 2016. BIM requires designers to produce a set of 3D models for every project, for example, an architectural model, a structural model and a services model. These are then linked together to provide a whole building solution. How might BIM technology affect the use of robots in the deconstruction process?