Update #2 (January 25 – January 31)

In the past week, we were able to get a hold of our client, Sabine Tanasiuk, from Ray-Cam Community Centre.  Our first official meeting took place on January 31.  Sabine was very helpful in clearing up the specifics of the project, which helped us further develop our scope.  Several aspects of the project were addressed in our meeting such as the community background, the purpose of the project, and the goals to be reached.

As the Downtown Eastside has been the poorest community in Canada for the past 25 years, people have been struggling to support their families with the rising food prices.  This is exactly why Sabine was interested in developing a community based vertical food wall that would serve as a low-cost and sustainable food source.  Sabine mentioned that the food wall should be easily accessible by everyone (including kids), and that it should have fruits and vegetables growing all year round.

The scope of this project includes designing an economical vertical structure that can hold a variety of potted plants. The project will be purely design-based, and will include the following:

  • detailed design drawings
  • materials list
  • fruits and vegetables to be planted
  • cost estimates

In addition, Sabine has suggested that we work with the community in planting seedlings in preparation for the food wall.  To embrace sustainability, plastic bottles will be used to hold the seedlings.  Helen pointed out that we could collect bottles from UBC students as there will be a lot laying around after long weekends.  We will plan this in the weeks to come.

Prior to the meeting, our team came up with a list of constraints, which primarily consist of time related issues.  They include:

  • 2 months to deadline
  • midterms
  • other course work
  • reading break (teammates will be absent during this time)
  • Co-op interviews

During our meeting, Sabine took us out to the project site, which was located beside the gymnasium’s exterior wall.  The figure below depicts the location of where the food wall will be placed.

The gymnasium’s exterior wall.

After inspecting the project site, a few more constraints have been raised.  They include the following:

  • cleared vent area
  • distanced away from the wall
  • sloped ground
  • underground utilities

The time constraints unfortunately restrain us from taking part in the construction of the final product, but we will do the best we can in designing the food wall.  The site constraints on the other hand, will be accounted for in our design.  To better understand the the nature of vertical food walls and gardens, we will be meeting with the My Arms Wide Open Foundation in the next couple of weeks.  They have had previous experiences with similar projects and will be able to guide us through the design of our vertical food wall for Ray-Cam.  In the meantime, we will study previous drawings provided to us by My Arms Wide Open and come up with specific questions we would like to ask them during our meeting.

Things to get started on within the coming weeks:

  • research the types of plants that are indigenous to Vancouver
  • call BC One Call to inquire about underground utilities at the project site
  • preliminary designs for the vertical food wall
  • delegation of the above tasks

We are super excited to get going with the actual design!

Taking a look at the project site with Sabine.



Update #1 (January 15 – January 24)

Our CBEL team consists of Megan Le, Cristina Oliveira, Jasmine Lam, Christopher Durin Ajoi, Peyman Safaei and Samuel Woo.  We are all currently enrolled in the second-year Civil Engineering program and are very excited about the Vertical Food Wall Project for Ray-Cam Community Centre.  Upon our first meeting on Monday January 21st, we have assigned the following roles to each team member:

Megan – Client/Mentor Liaison

Cristina – Documenter

Jasmine – Secretary

Christopher – TBA

Peyman – TBA

Samuel – Blogger

From left to right: Megan, Christopher, Cristina, Jasmine, Peyman, Samuel.

Helen Brennek, our team mentor, is a post-graduate Mechanical Engineering student that has been closely involved with Engineers Without Borders.  Her diverse community experiences will definitely help guide us though our project from start to finish.

Our project is aimed towards designing a vertical food wall at Ray-Cam Community Centre.  The main goal behind the project is to develop a sustainable food source for Vancouver’s Downtown  Eastside community.  Our group will be responsible for working together with community youth to design and plan a vertical food wall.  The food wall is to be maintained by the collective efforts of the youth to provide the rest of the community with fresh fruits and vegetables.  We expect our project to be completed by mid-March, which is when we will be presenting our final design to our client.

Ray-Cam Community Centre started out in 1979 as a Social Recreation Centre and Food Co-operative in the Vancouver Downtown Eastside.  Ray-Cam has now developed into a community run service centre where the old and the young gather for recreational and social activities.  In addition, Ray-Cam offers pre-school and day-care services for children as well as personal and family support.  Ray-Cam is set out to “support and assist in the positive growth of individuals, family and community life” (Ray-Cam).

The Downtown Eastside community is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver and is a struggling community that has dealt with many obstacles from past to present.  The area is known for drug use, crime, homelessness, housing issues and unemployment (City of Vancouver).  As the Downtown Eastside continues to face these challenges, community groups such as Ray-Cam are driven to provide opportunities and services for the struggling members of the community.  The Vertical Food Wall will act as a stepping stone to helping the community develop a sustainable and viable source of food.

In the next two weeks, we will contact Ray-Cam and organize a meeting time to discuss the project in more detail.  We will inquire about the various items that need to be clarified develop a project scope.  Additionally, we intend to explore the local community during our visit to the centre to get a better grasp on the context of our work.  We cannot wait until the project starts to unravel!



Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan. City of Vancouver. Retrieved January 23, 2013, from http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/dtes-local-area-plan.aspx.

Ray-Cam Community Centre. Raycam.org. Retrieved January 22, 2013, from http://www.raycam.org.