Digital and Mechatronic Technologies Applied to the Survey of Brownfields

Digital and Mechatronic Technologies Applied to the Survey of Brownfields

Assunta Pelliccio (University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Italy), Erika Ottaviano (University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Italy) and Pierluigi Rea (University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8379-2.ch027


The brownfields are amongst the most relevant historical evidences of the socio-economic heritage of populations. The rehabilitation of these sites, often aimed at inserting them in a newly conceived connective tissue of the cities, requires complete and accurate knowledge of their historical and architectural value: the former use of spaces, constructive technologies, environmental conditions and present deterioration must be investigated. The width and complexity of these architectural/urban areas requires complex survey methodologies. These analyses take advantage from digital mechatronic tools such as hybrid rover equipped with sensors to provide information on the damage of structures, degradation of plaster and in general on the state of the materials forming the different parts of the brownfield. This Chapter analyze a procedure combining traditional survey with mobile robot technology, aimed at recovering the geometrical and architectural features of these complex sites. The mechatronic survey is schematized as composed by main five tasks, which are described in the Chapter.
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The analysis and representation of architectural complex phenomena which due to their size span from the architectural to the urban scale, require a multidisciplinary approach: their survey, carried out to support the decision-making of administrators, should be able to provide a global knowledge, including a qualitative and quantitative description of the countless number of physical variables, but also of the economic and social characterizing factors.

The brownfields represent a remarkable example of such complex sites. Due to the dimensions of the occupied areas, these former industrial sites are larger than the typical architectural manufacts such as buildings, smaller in comparison with the urban environment. The industrial sites have become brownfields after a gradual abandonment due to various reasons, often including the considerable costs for the modernization of equipment and the more restrictive rules in terms of control of the environment and limitation of emission of contaminants.

In Europe, the abandonment of these places reached its apex in the seventies of the last century, firstly occurring in great centers deputed to the production of iron and steel, and then extending to other production system such as paper mills, woolen mills, felt mills etc.

There are many different definitions of brownfields in the literature. In the European context, a working group named CLARINET defines brownfields as “sites formerly destined to some use, now derelict or underused, having real or perceived problems with contamination of the environment. They are mainly located in developed urban areas and require works to bring them back to a beneficial use” Clarinet (2002). Looking at the degree of contamination, three different types of abandoned industrial areas can be distinguished:

  • Uncontaminated area - when contamination detected in the environmental is lower than the threshold for the concentration of contaminants or lower than the values of the threshold concentration of risk;

  • Contaminated area - when the values of the threshold concentrations of risk are exceeded;

  • Potentially contaminated area - where one or more concentration values of pollutants in relevant environmental matrices are higher than the values of the threshold concentration of contamination, in waiting to carry out operations for the characterization and analysis of health and environmental risks.

In Italy the term brownfield is typically given to abandoned industrial area where the pollution level violates the environmental regulation, and for which a remediation project is prescribed or undertaken. Sometimes, these sites may fall in those areas where standard reclamation activities cannot be applied (e.g. close to sensitive buildings or infrastructures).

Indeed the brownfields represent real urban “voids” together with a source of degradation. Their recovery is considered an unavoidable and delicate step to improve the environmental sustainability of the city. As a confirmation, the recovery of these sites is considered an important factor for improving the environmental sustainability indices (ESI) of different countries, as described in Pelliccio and Giovinco (2014) and the European Union has declared the recovery of these areas among the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy.

Therefore, the complexity of these architectural/urban sites necessitates a complete survey able to provide a sufficiently complete and schematic knowledge able to drive the development of guidelines for the recovery of the sites.

Generally these sites are mainly located in densely urbanized or vulnerable areas such as riversides and sea shoreline and often occupy areas of many hectares. These sites have often grown with time, both in terms of areas and volumes, depending on the needs of the production and finally they have become ''architectures assembles” combining different types of geometries, structures and building technologies consistent with the construction periods. Often the access to the original buildings, mostly in the basement floor, is impeded as spaces are filled with former industrial debris, waste materials and unsold products (Figure1).

Figure 1.

_a_b. Paper mill of Ceprano (Italy). Underground sites inside it.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Survey: In Architecture is the science determining fully understanding the metrical, geometrical and historical aspects of an architectural work, penetrating the deepest and most hidden nature of an architectural organism, bringing to light the historical events of which it has been protagonist, original form and subsequent transformations over different eras, and providing us with full graphical imagery.

Mechatronic System: A Mechatronics system includes a combination of mechanical, electrical, telecommunications, control and computer science technologies. Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering. The word “Mechatronics” was originally “Japanese-English” word created by Mr. Tetsuro Mori, who was an engineer of Yaskawa Electric Corporation and the word “Mechatronics” was registered as Trademark by the company in Japan with the registration number of “46-32714” in 1971. However afterward, the company released the right of using the word to public, and the word “Mechatronics” didn't only stay in Japan, but also introduced as a native English word. Nowadays, the word is translated in each language and the word is considered as an essential term for industry.

Hybrid Robot: Hybrid mobile robots are automatic systems that use a combination of wheels (or tracks) and legs in different configurations to perform locomotion.

Brownfield: In urban planning, a brownfield site (or simply a brownfield) is land previously used or industrial purposes or some commercial uses. The land may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up. In the European context a working group, named CLARINET, defines brownfields like a “sites that have been affected by the former uses of the site and the surrounding land; are derelict or underused; have real or perceived contamination problems; are mainly in developed urban areas; require intervention to bring them back to beneficial use”. In general there are three different types of abandoned industrial area: uncontaminated area, contaminated area, potentially contaminated area. Land that is more severely contaminated and has high concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, such as a Superfundsite, does not fall under the brownfield classification. Actually the brownfileds represent urban “voids” and above all a source of degradation.

Thermography: The thermography is a technique for non-destructive analysis which is based on the acquisition of images in the infrared. Thermographic cameras detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum (roughly 9,000–14,000 nanometers or 9–14 µm) and produce images of that radiation, called thermograms. Since infrared radiation is emitted by all objects above absolute zero according to the black body radiation law, thermography makes it possible to see one's environment with or without visible illumination. The thermographic measurement is based on the measurement of infrared radiation (heat intensity) emitted by a body shot in natural light; it has been shown, in fact, a fundamental support for the knowledge also of structural aspect of architectural sites. This kind of measurement gives a thermal image of the object, or a map in “false color”, which represents the “thermal state” of the surfaces investigated because the process associates to each surface temperature in a different color.

Geographic Information System (GIS): GIS is a system that integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, storing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.

Mobile Robot: A mobile robot is an automatic system that is capable of locomotion. Mobile robots have the capability to move around in their environment and are not fixed to one physical location. Mobile robot may have wheels, tracks, legs or a combination of them.

Technical Representation: Technical drawing is the act and discipline of composing plans that visually communicate how something functions or is to be constructed. Technical drawing is essential for communicating ideas in industry and engineering also for a project of survey. To make the drawings easier to understand, people use familiar symbols, perspectives, units of measurement, notation systems, visual styles, and page layout. Together, such conventions constitute avisual language, and help to ensure that the drawing is unambiguous and relatively easy to understand.

Industrial Archeology: Industrial archeology is a branch of archeology that studies applying an interdisciplinary approach, all the evidence related to the industrialization process from its very beginning in order to learn more about the history of the past and present industry. These evidences are: the places of production processes and technologies, the archaeological traces generated by these means and machinery by which these processes are implemented, the products of these processes, all the written sources related to them, the iconographic sources, oral, etc.. The period studied industrial archeology is that from the second half of the 18th century to the present day. The industrial archeology relies on the application of many disciplines for its study, including: archeology, architecture, engineering, technology, planning.

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