Mine The Scrap Software

Mine the Scrap is a data driven process that designs new structures algorithmically generated from existing scrap. Using computer vision and construction automation, the project address’s the pressing need to convert waste into resource.

The project transforms irregular, non-uniform stocks of construction scrap into new forms, finding beauty and intricacy in neglected waste. Instead of pulverizing and chemically aggregating these disparate scraps in energy-intensive processes, Mine the Scrap finds the unique best use of each piece in a new structure through a process of scanning and classification. Combining the logic of the quilt with customized shape and pattern detection, Mine the Scrap scans the material and generates an inventory of different forms.

Exhibition Venues : ARS Electronica: Human Factor - Endless Prototyping



Certain Measures


Small office for design science that brings novel projects and strategies to life through a hypothesis-driven approach and training in architecture, mathematics, computer science, and history.


• Tobias Nolte
• Andrew Witt
• Mike Degen


• Design visual language for project collateral. 
• Design interface allowing designers to use scrap to build objects
• Shoot video for onboarding and product demonstration


• Concept, Strategy, & Research
• Lead UX, UI, & Visual Design
•  Lead Video Storyboarding, Video Filming, Animation.


• Pen & Paper
• Illustrator
• InDesign
• Photoshop
• Sketch
• Premiere Pro
• After Effects
• Rhino 3D



Identifying the needs of the business


Waste In The Building Industry 

After a series of different brainstorms and discussions, the client wanted to focus on waste and it’s potential in the construction and building industry. The team and I spent time researching the potential and value and found astonishing figures and alarming data. Some of the notable research included that the EPA estimates demolished buildings contribute 1 Billion feet of usable lumber per year. It also states that 58% of that timber would end up in the landfill. It became clear very quickly to us that this was a big problem to tackle with huge potential and impact.

Construction Waste in US

35 % ( or 136 million tons ) of waste generated each year from buildings, construction and demolition.

Big Scrap Potential

1 billion feet of usable lumber per year from demolished buildings.

Timber Landfill Percentages

58% of timber ends up being thrown away and going to the landfill.


Develop an interface that  targets the design community and reusing waste.

Understand existing technology that we can utilize in the software.

Storyboard and shoot video showing basic onboarding and demonstration of product.



Identifying the needs of our users.


Targeted Users : The Experiemental Designer

Since we were building software to allow designers to build with scrap, we knew that we could not target professionals as thier materials require a high level of requirements and restrictions. Therefore, we targeted designers with a creative and avant garde spirit who would generate experiemental structures from the software.

Flipping Their Design Process

Our users typical mentality and process when is designing is to create an object and then ship materials from all over in order to build it. A main goal was that we wanted to create  inverse this  work flow and instead of making a design and saying “What do I need to construct this?”, you say “These are the materials I have, what can I build with it ?”


Envisioning How Our Users Design Process Would Change 

Inversing the design process required us to further indentify the steps necessary for our users to utilize the software. This user journey breaks down the new steps that they will go through in order to successfully create a structure from our product.


Digging Further Into Each Step Of The Process

Once the process steps were identified, further research, experiementation, and development were required to study elements such as scanning possibilities, structure typologies,and optimization methods. The research was documented and made into a report.

01  Collecting

02  Scanning

03 Structure

04 Optimizing

05 Fabricating

06 Assembly


Make The Product Accessible & Allow For Control During Design Process

After concluding our user research, two big insights and concerns dominated our results and synthesis. The first was to make sure that the product was accessible to our user group. Since they were amatuer designers, they typically had low resources, budget, and space. The second was that our users were very cautious about an algorithm or software assisting their design so the product needed to be transparent and afford control to the user at all times during the process.

“Well, I dont really have too much space or a budget and this sounds like it could get expensive.”

- Student

“ I’m just worried that this process will take away from my design and instead provide a random and misinformed output.”

- Designer


How can we provide a solution that is accessible to amatuer designers and allows them to utilize scrap but maintain control and authorship of their designs ?



Solving the needs of the business & user through utility, ease of use, and pleasure.


Stick & Sheet

Our original algorithm focused on designing structures that could only be stick and sheet or flat. Upon discussing with our users, they felt it could be limiting and supress their control as well as designs/creativity.

Catmull Clark & Planarization

To address this, the algorithm was adjusted to catmull clark and planarization in order to allow for a much more dynamic range of shapes as well as object forms.


Applying Technology To Scrap

Since we needed to address the users needs of being accessible, we focused on reuse instead of recycling in order to avoid complex machinery, extreme energy uses, and limited designs. We concluded that applying certain technology allowed us to keep product accessible as well as maintain the shapes complexity as is and use less energy since we didn't need to compress into square boards.

Simple Scanning Setup

By utilizing computer vision, it allowed our users to only need a webcam in order to get started with the software. The allows the workstation be be small, affordable, and mobile. Perfect for our users needs.


Information Architecture & Flow

Based on the user journey, the key steps required for the product and our users were scan, design, and build. The navigation and flow were designed based on this to move the user through each step in a linear and ordered process. 

Interface Mockup 1

Interface Mockup 2

Interface Mockup 3



A quick prototype demonstating the scanning section.


A quick prototype demonstating the design section.


A quick prototype demonstating the building section.


Interface Feedback From Our Users

The initial interface was tested among our users and designers. The biggest takeaway was that our interface was too controlling, ordered, and linear. Design is iterative and many of the tools our users utilize on a daily basis allow for constant change and flexibility. The navigation and architecture needed to reflect something closer to the tools our users were familiar designing with.


Updated & Current Interface

After studying other interfaces and iterating on the design, the current interface integrates all the feedback from testing and allows for our users to design and makes changes in an iterative and flexible way that they are familiar with.

Panel Properties

The panel properties and tools are always located on the left side giving out users the ability to constanly change and adjust as their design adapts to the scrap.

Visual Window

One of the most useful parts of the interface is the scanning and model view. Constant vision and model feedback allowed for the ability to scan as needed, monitor and manipulated the design, and make iterative constant changes until the user was satisfied.


The database panel acted as a collection of all the scanned pieces as well as a display of relevant Scrap statistics. They also would be sorted and highlighted based on their use in the model and allow for their utilization to be manipulated.


Onboarding & Product Demonstration

Video Still 01

Initial model design and scanning.

Video Still 02

Mid scanning process showing scrap as well as model adaptation to scanned pieces and user control.

Video still 03

Showing the model complete as well as all of the textures and colors of the scrap pieces.


Model A

Model B

Model C



Monitoring to make sure goals & needs are being met as well as opportunities for improvement.


Haus der Kulturen der Welt · Berlin

The project was entered into a competition that called for ideas on the future of design. Mine the Scrap won its category and was selected to be on display. Since the requirements and experience was different, it called for rethinking how one whould experience the project in an exhibition rather than utilize it. The exhibition was succesful and has gone on to be shown at Ars electronica Berlin as well as the Centre Pompidou in Paris. You can see the case study of the project here.


Applied Innovation Category.

Zumtobel Award, Finalist.

The Zumtobel Group Award honours contemporary realised or conceptual works of exceptional innovative content, design, technology and construction. Submissions must make a significant contribution to greater humanity and sustainability in the built environment.

The Applied Innovations category is dedicated to outstanding innovations (components/systems) and smart technological solutions to be applied in the built environment, as well as prototypical building solutions.
Architecture Category

Forecast Forum. Winner

An international competition for ideas with participants from design, architecture, photography, curation, and more.
Mentor: Jurgen Meyer H


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Detail Magazine - Germany