Update #6 (March 23 – April 5)

As the school semester is coming to a close, we have been busy wrapping up our project.  Major tasks completed during the past two weeks include installing pop bottles on the food wall at Ray-Cam and holding our poster presentation at the Civil Engineering Design Studio.

Bottle Installation

On Sunday March 24th, we helped attach bottles to the food wall at Ray-Cam.  The food wall has already been built and is just awaiting the installation of bottles.  We cut the 125 bottles that we collected and used heat guns to secure them into place on the caged wall.  The pictures below show the current progress of the food wall.

Vertical Food Wall at Ray-Cam.

Attaching bottles to the vertical wall.

Poster Presentation

Monday March 25 was the day of our poster presentation.  We found that many people were drawn to our poster and were curious about our project.  We had the chance to speak to a few professors and other guests.  The miniature gardens attracted a lot of attention and attracted many people to our group.  We tried to promote high density gardening, which was the main idea behind the vertical food wall.  By giving people some insight on gardening efficiently and sustainably, we hope that high density gardening will become a trend that many will follow.

Our group poster and mini-gardens on presentation day.

Project Summary

It has been three months since we first started the project.  During this time, we experienced a lot of changes throughout the course of the project and also made many achievements along the way.  Our achievements, contributions, and hardships are described as follows:

Achievements and Contributions

Our team has made four major project achievements: creating a plant list, collecting 2L bottles,  helping build the food wall, and designing miniature gardens.

One of our firsts tasks was to create a plant list that would suit Vancouver’s weather and the community’s taste.  We came up with a long list of fruits and vegetables that would allow for each specific growing season to ensure a constant supply of food for the community.

Another major task for our team was to collect 2L pop bottles for the vertical food wall.  By asking everyone we knew and holding two bottle collection drives at UBC, we were able to collect a portion of the needed bottles for the food wall.  In addition we collected donations, which are going to be used to purchase the remaining bottles.  Having collected numerous bottles, we helped Ray-Cam install them on the food wall.

Finally, we were asked to promote high density gardening.  We came up with a few designs that encourage gardening in efficient and sustainable ways.  All of the miniature gardens that we designed and built were made from recyclable materials.  These miniature gardens display the convenience of growing vertically in small places such as apartments.  Furthermore, by educating guests about this during our poster presentation, we hope to induce some interest in the community for their plants in their households.

Hardships and Lessons Learned

The major hardship that our group experienced during this project was the unclear scope.  Our team unfortunately had a change in scope several times.  This decreased time for project implementation, which led to a few compromises.  The main compromises were made in the bottle collections and food wall construction, which were both very time dependent tasks.

Through this experience, we have learned the importance of effective communication.  Email was the primary medium of communication, which often led to inefficiency due to late replies.  Other times, unintentional emails were sent to our team, which caused lots of confusion.  The message to take out of this is that emails can be used as a convenient way to communicate between others, but professionalism should still be maintained.  Other forms of contact included telephone calls.  We generally found this to be best way to communicate, but we always had to be wary of when we made phone calls to ensure that we did not interrupt other people’s busy schedule.

As for project management, we believe that we have done a decent job given the tight time constraints.  We made sure that we met at least once every week to keep everybody updated on the project.  By holding these weekly meetings, we were able to discuss our upcoming plans of action to accommodate the tight schedule.  Goals were set and documented by the end of every meeting to help keep us on track.  By doing this, we made sure that time was not wasted and that we remained efficient.

During project implementation, we did our best to stick to our original goals.  However, we encountered challenges, which led to minor changes.  Most changes that were made had a positive impact on the project as previous goals and tasks were no longer feasible.  By making these quick changes, we found that our results became more concrete and beneficial to the overall project.

We will definitely take this great learning experience into consideration for our future projects.  The main things that we learned from the Vertical Food Wall project was that communication must be effective and professional, and that we should always be willing to adapt to changes throughout the project.

The Vertical Food Wall team would like to express our gratitude to Dr. Susan Nesbit for providing us with such a great opportunity to help out the community.  We hope to use our engineering knowledge to aid the public in the near future!

Thank you for reading!



Update #5 (March 9 – March 22)

The past few weeks have been fairly busy.  A lot has been completed, including the collection of bottles, building the mini-gardens, and putting together the poster presentation.  Each task is discussed in their respective sections below:

Bottle Collection

To promote the bottle drive, we posted additional posters around campus to spread the word on our project.  In addition, we made a class announcement in one of our Civil Engineering classes to remind our classmates of the bottle drives happening in Kaiser and Gage.

Bottle drive at Kaiser.

On the day of our first bottle drive at Kaiser, we did not receive many bottles.  As we found that continuing to just collect bottles was not going to satisfy our goal, we quickly decided to collect bottles as well as donations in return for a cookie.  More people were inclined to give donations as very few of them were in possession of 2L pop bottles.  This continued on to our bottle drive at Gage.  More people were informed of this event and many people showed up with bottles and donations.  We received a lot of support from our classmates as well as other students around campus.  In addition to collecting bottles through the bottle drive, we also collected a huge amount of bottles from our family and friends.

Drawing the template on the collected bottles at the Gage booth.

Our bottle collection was a huge success!  In total, we collected 125 bottles and $100 in donations (equivalent to 500 bottles)!  As requested, we drew the template on each bottle.  All of the bottles and donations were delivered to Ray-Cam and Warren was very impressed with our contributions to the food wall.  The remaining bottles will be purchased to meet the final count of 2500.

Delivering bottles at Ray-Cam.

The wall is currently being built and is awaiting the installation of bottles.  Warren has asked us to participate in attaching the bottles to the food wall.  We are going to help out on the morning of March  24.


Besides the bottle drive, we were busy at work with our own miniature garden designs.  Each design is described below:

Tennis Ball Garden

Old tennis balls can be cut and attached to suction cups, which can then be used as small plant holders.  They can easily be stuck on windows or placed on counter tops.

Coffee Cup Garden

Coffee cups can be used to hang plants upside down in various places.  This takes up very little space as they are hung in open areas, which allows for easy access.

Light Bulb Garden

Light bulbs have little use once they have burned out.  However, they can be used as very vases for small plants after the light bulb filament is removed.

Beer Can Garden

Besides recycling, cans could be constructed into unique structures that hold small plants.  They can be arranged in numerous fashions and can be placed in various places.

Poster Presentation

Our group is currently working on the poster for the presentation.  All the text has been printed out and we are just in need of posting everything onto the poster board.  We will be meeting before the presentation on Monday to put the finishing touches on the poster and our presentation.

Working on the poster.

We are very excited about reaching the end of our project!

Update #4 (February 17 – March 8)

In the past three weeks, our team has  taken action for the Vertical Food Wall Project.  From Reading Break up until now, we have been fairly busy with the plant list for the food wall, the organization of bottle collecting events, and the design of miniature garden structures.

During Reading Break, we each came up with our own individual plant list, which was then compiled into one master list.  The compiled list was emailed to Judy for review.  A few of the included plants are listed below in their respective seasons:

  • Spring/Summer:  Cabbage, cucumber, broccoli, bok choy
  • Winter Thriving:  Lettuce, Kai-Lan, parsnips, brussel sprouts, kale

The three main tasks left to complete are the collection of 2L bottles, design and construction of miniature gardens, and the final poster presentation.  The progress of each are described below:

Bottle Collection

We have contacted various local businesses and residences about our bottle collection but have been denied by many.  However, we managed to book a stand in the Kaiser atrium on March 13 from 11 AM to 2 PM to help spread the word of the food wall and collect pop bottles from students and staff.  We will have multiple shifts for manning the booth to accommodate our busy schedules.  In addition, we have contacted Gage residence to see if we can hold a bottle collection booth for one night.  We have yet to receive confirmation of this event, but the target date is March 14 from 3 PM to 6 PM.  For these two events, we plan on baking cookies and exchanging them for 2L pop bottles.  Hopefully this will give people an incentive to bring in their empty bottles.

We have put together a couple of posters to put around campus, mainly in the engineering buildings.  One of our posters are shown below.  In addition to these, we are going to advertise our project in our classes to raise awareness of this project to encourage people to collect and donate their bottles.  We have set up two boxes in the Civil Design Studio and are planning to implement more boxes around the buildings for convenience.

Bottle Collection Poster

As of now, we have collected 51 bottles.  The goal is to reach 2500 bottles by March 18, but as time is very limited, this goal is unrealistic at this point.  We have notified Sabine and Warren about this situation and have been told to just collect whatever we can.  One of our alternative solutions include collecting all types of bottles and trading them in for 2L bottles or raising money to help purchase the remaining bottles.


After researching various ways to plant fruits and vegetables, we came up with a few unique solutions that use common household items.  The idea behind these structures are to “Think Big, Grow Small.”  A few conceptual designs are provided below.  These designs are meant to be low cost and easy to construct.  We are planning to use various items like incandescent light bulbs, tennis balls and beer cans to create fun little gardens that can be placed in various places around the house.

Mini-Garden Concepts

Mini-Garden Concepts Cont’d.

We are planning to construct multiple mini-gardens.  The selected designs and the team member responsible for each are as follows:

  • Beer bottle pyramid- Christopher
  • Suction cup tennis ball  – Jasmine
  • Upside down coffee tin – Megan

Peyman, Christina and Samuel will assist in collecting materials and building the mini-gardens.  We will continue to develop more concepts as we stumble upon more interesting ways to grow plants.  The mini-gardens are going to be due on March 18 so that we have everything sorted out for the final presentation.  Once completed, the miniature gardens will be given to Sabine to showcase to the community.

Poster Presentation

The final poster project will be started on the week of March 18, when all the bottles are supposedly due.  This way, we will have more time to focus on making the poster and preparing for our presentation.  We will need to purchase a poster board and paste incorporate visuals that help describe our project.  Everyone will help out with the final poster as we are presenting on March 25.

We are so excited!  We cannot wait to see how this all turns out!


Update #3 (February 1 – February 16)

During the past two weeks, there was a major change in the scope of the project.  It appears that My Arms Wide Open has already set a design for the vertical food wall project at Ray-Cam.  Since we were informed of this, our team decided the need of another meeting with Sabine and My Arms Wide Open to discuss our project scope.

Prior to the meeting, our team came up with a list of questions to ask Sabine and My Arms Wide Open.  Basically, we were unsure of our responsibilities for the project as it seems that everything is set and ready to be implemented.

After meeting with Sabine and Judy from Strathcona 1890 (in charge of planting seedlings), we realized that many changes have been made.  Most importantly, the project will now be implemented in the North-East side of Ray-Cam Community Centre instead of the gymnasium wall.  Once all of our questions were answered, our newly assigned responsibilities were clear.  Our new scope is as follows:

  • Obtain as many 2L pop bottles as possible by the end of March (goal of 2500 bottles)
  • Research and choose specific types of plants to grow on the vertical wall and send a list to Judy by February 24
  • Design and build examples of different structures that can be used to grow plants in, which may be placed alongside the vertical food wall

The new project site on the North-East side of Ray-Cam.

We will not be taking part in the construction of the vertical wall as time does not permit us to do so.  However, we were given the above tasks to help further develop the wall and compliment it with other independent structures.

To collect 2L pop bottles, we are planning to fill most of our quota by asking students in UBC residence.  We will contact the residence advisers to see if a bottle drive would be possible after reading break (there should be a lot of bottles to be collected after the break as students may hold numerous parties).  In addition, Helen and Dr. Nesbit have graciously volunteered to help collect some bottles for us from their workplace.  As collecting 2500 bottles may be very hard with such a tight schedule, we will try our best to collect as many as we can.  Additional bottles will be obtained by My Arms Wide Open through recycling depots.

We are in charge of researching different types of plants that would fit into the Downtown Eastside community.  We will have to consider fruits, vegetables, and condiments that would suit different cultures.  Also, we will be taking into account different plants for different growing seasons.  During this reading break, we will compile a list of possible plants to be grown on the food wall and send it over to Judy, who will then plant seedlings.

The most exciting part about this change in scope is the designing and building of structures that can be used to grow plants in.  After discussing with Sabine and Judy, we came up with ideas using old shoes, clothes and other unconventional items to grow plants.  We also discussed different methods of watering the plants.  Again, during this reading break, we will collaborate on the design of one or two portable garden structures that could be used to compliment the vertical food wall.  We will definitely use our engineering skills to design unique and effective structures that will be an important part of the vertical food wall project.

Ideas from Vertical Vegetables & Fruits for our experimental gardening structures.

It is time to get busy with our project!



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.