Students design sustainable community garden space

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Huerta del Valle Community Garden serves local low and middle income people in the Ontario, greater Los Angeles region(Credit: Kirill Volchinskiy)

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Architecture students from California State Polytechnic University recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to support their local community garden. The team's innovative plans include the use of rammed earth construction, recycled shipping containers, and solar power.

The Huerta del Valle Community Garden serves low and middle income people in the Ontario, greater Los Angeles region. Locals pay US$10 per year to rent a plot of land measuring a 20 x 10 ft (6 x 3 m) in which they can grow their own vegetables. Another section of the site produces veggies to sell, with the money raised going toward running costs.

Currently, events and meetings held at the community garden take place in tents, but students Hana Lemseffer, Necils Lopez, and Kirill Volchinskiy spent a year designing several new amenities and buildings. These comprise an amphitheater, library and classroom, a shaded structure, and a shipping container-based kitchen and playhouse.

The amphitheater will be used for weekly meetings. Volchinskiy told Gizmag that its construction will involve excavation, with car tires used to retain the soil and make seating. The library and classroom, meanwhile, will make use of the same excavated soil with rammed earth walls, topped by a timber roof, covered in greenery.

"Rammed earth is a construction method which can yield compressive strengths comparable to those of concrete," explained Volchinskiy. "It's possible to reinforce the construction with a re-bar lattice cast into the foundation, making earthquake safe buildings. Typically 10 percent cement is mixed with soil and other aggregates are necessary to stabilize the earth. It creates a very hard wall, comparable to concrete in terms of touch."

The team also plans to build a shaded structure that will house tools and materials, and sport a solar panel array that produces electricity for the site, with the surplus being fed back into the grid.

The Kickstarter campaign was launched solely to fund the kitchen and playhouse structure. This will be constructed from two shipping containers modified into semi-outdoor spaces with ample ventilation. The containers will feature heavy canvas curtains to protect them from harsh sun and rain, and should be suitable for use in summer and winter during daylight hours, said Volchinskiy.

The students hope to raise $17,000 toward the scheme and in the future would like to explore the possibility of expanding to other derelict plots of land around LA.

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