Courses / 2014b Fall / Let it Flow (Travis - Zeyu - Willian - Johana)

Let it Flow:

A Self-reliant Terrace Garden

Travis Croom, Tyger Wen, Willian Rathman, Johana Guerra


Formed in the Fall 2014, Let it Flow has taken the initiative to create a more sustainable future for IES. With the intent of increasing awareness of sustainability among IES students, we intend on creating a garden that will be filtrated through the use of our rainwater collector. By spending a relatively small amount of money on the materials needed, we have outlined a plan to grow five pepper plants in the future. Although this is a small amount, these pepper plants have the ability to go a long way by educating students on ways to create a more sustainable lifestyle. Our hopes are that this plan will carry over to future IES students due to the fact that it is simple to execute and requires little amounts of both work and time.

1. What is the Action?

(from the rain water project last semester: This action will continue the action proposed last semester for creating a garden in the currently-used terrace attached to the IES center. The garden will include plants that provide for the best sustainability: either plants that fix CO2 at the fastest rate, or that provide raw materials for human consumption or use. These can include herbs, spices, fruits and/or vegetables. Flowers and grass are also possibilities, if within time/money/effort constraints.

From the water collection project last semester: My action for IES is to harvest rainfall to collect rain water outside on the terrace for the terrace garden (soon to be built). By harvesting the rainfall, resources will be saved by cutting down on the need for water as well as the energy used when watering gardens and agriculture. The rainwater will be harvested by creating a gutter system to funnel the rain into a plastic bucket. The plastic bucket will have a spigot so water can be gathered from it and used for the garden.)

1.1. Similar Actions from Previous Semesters

This action is very similar to the previous student project “Rain water collection” from 2010 spring semester. The Rain water collection project is to collect rain water outside of the terrace for the terrace garden that was going to be built in IES. It’s main purpose is to create a sustainable method to gather water. Besides the same goal to create a sustainble way to utilize the rainwater, we are combining the “Terrace Garden” project from 2010 spring semester with the “Rain water collection” so we can actually create a system that’s sustainable not just an individual project. The Terrace Garden project is to utilize the currently-unused terrace in IES. Its goal is to cultivate plants that provide for the best sustainability: either plants that fix CO2 at fastest rate, or that provide raw materials for human consumption.

Rainwater Collection System
Terrace Garden

1.2. Why did this or a similar action not succeed in previous semesters?

After analyzing those two projects from previous semester we found several aspects that caused the projects hard to implement or even to failure. First of all for the rain water collection, one of the major reason of the difficulty of implementing is that it cost a lot of money to create the project. For example, the rain collector itself cost 50 euros, moreover the whole project will cost around 90 euros. Besides the expense of the project, it also seems very hard to implement too, with all the pipes and tools that need to be installed. The expensive price and the difficulty of installing the project hinder the students and IES to take action. As for the Terrace Garden project, one of the aspect it can be improved is also on the price of the seeds. For example, it cost more than 15 euros to buy the seeds and soils plant all the plants. Our group is going use the seeds that are free or the ones that from the vegetables and fruits we eat daily. Another aspects is that takes a very long time to grow the fruits and vegetables the project suggested. Some can’t even harvest after 2 years and this makes students lose interest in cultivating those plants. Therefore, our group is going to improve from those aspects of the two projects. We will lower the cost as much as we can, and also we will plant fruit that can harvest faster so students will have more interests.

1.3. SWOT Analysis

  • can collect water without human interference
  • semi self-sufficient
  • soaker hoses ensure that it is never overwatered
  • reduced dependence on municipal water supply
  • simple construction and easy maintenance
  • Dependence upon unpredictable precipitation
  • When there is no rain the garden suffers, especially in the dry season
  • Regular maintenance
  • Potential high initial investment cost
  • Storage capacity limits supply
  • Abundance of rainwater being put to good use whereas it would otherwise go out to sea
  • educating students on the importance of saving water
  • increasing storage capacity
  • produce from the garden could be possibly sold at the market or donated to a charity food kitchen
  • deterioration of materials, as seen in the initial iteration of this project. The rain collector failed at some point after two years
  • the possibility of becoming clogged with leaves or other material that flows down with the collected water and reducing efficiency/flow

  • What can you do to get rid of these Weaknesses?

To hedge against the weaknesses that were listed in our SWOT analysis we can purchase cheaper plants to help subsidize our high initial investment costs. To ensure that the garden does not suffer during periods of drought, we can expand the carrying capacity of our rain collector to store larger quantities of rain. Although our sustainable action will require regular maintenance, we are certain that we can find passionate volunteers in both the student body and the IES staff to help in the upkeep. This can be accomplished through raising awareness of our project around IES.

  • Why couldn't you design anything to avoid them?

Our garden requires a plant regardless of cost. It is important to have sturdy materials that will last rather than cheap materials that will require constant attention and regular replacement. Thus, the initial cost is necessary and will prove beneficial in the long run. The regular maintenance of the garden and rain collector is unavoidable.

  • What can you do to prevent yourself/your project from the potential effect of these threats?

We can significantly decrease the amount of maintenance the garden will require through researching which plants are capable of surviving in the conditions presented in this climate. The threat of deterioration of the materials can be addressed by obtaining high quality materials that will require less upkeep.

1.4. Feedback Loops

The reinforcing loop in this case would be that with more rainwater collected, the more the plants will grow. This is plant growth is what we want to promote because they can continue to be sustained after we leave.
The balancing loop in for this project is that with the increase of the plants, there will be a CO2 decrease and energy usage decreases as well since the rainwater is the source of water and not from a hose or the city’s water.

1.5. Advertising

The project must be advertised particularly by the terrace since this is the site of action, some laminated flyers can be placed around the first floor where many students are in between classes to eat and chat. The flyers can also be taped on bulletin boards on every floor and doors as well.

2. Why this Action makes things more sustainable?

The reason why this action is improving the sustainability of IES Abroad Barcelona is because it diminishes the need for the center to depend on unnatural water resources. Water is valued highly in the mediterranean basin. Water must be used in a moderate way however plants need their water for survival. Instead of detering the act of planting more because of this, there must be other alternatives for getting water to these plants. A rainwater collector is perfect because it does not take use any of the city’s water. But the overall point to take away is that plants are necessary. And for a city like environment such as Barcelona, it is difficult to have natural greenery. This is why many locals keep plants on the little balconies they have, IES must allow students to have access to a “green part” of the building. The loops previously explained have the logic explained: more rainwater leads to more plants which causes a decrease in CO2 and energy consumption. The long term effects should be a continuation of this action, to inspire future students to value the importance of this small yet sensible action.

2.1. Potential Costs

Assuming that there are an average of 12 students per sustainability class, the initial cost per student would be minimal.
14 euros per semester / 12 students = 1.20 euros per student per semester

Rain will need to be transferred from the rain collector to water the plants every other day. This will require 5 minutes per week.
5 minutes x 14 weeks = 70 minutes per semester
70 minutes / 12 students = 6 minutes per student per semester
The time required per student per semester would be significantly lessened if we could attract the interest of IES staff members or other students within IES.

3. Prototype (or Proof of Concept)

We have implemented our project “Let it flow” two weeks before the report. Except some minor difficulty in the middle of the implementation, we found our project very feasible and practical. First of all, in order to reduce the multiplier effect, our group decided to purchase all our materials in a local store. We found a convenience store beside IES (turn left when you walk out of the building, and turn left again at the corner of Starbucks, go straight for 10 meters and the shop is across the street) on Carrer de Pau Claris. This local shop does not only sell the pot we needed for the project but also the soil and rain collecting container at a very cheap price. We bought the pot and wire at the price of 1 euro. Since we did not have time to grow pepper seeds before the end of the semester. We replaced the pepper seeds with an actual plant.
Then we set our rain collector in the terrace and also the plant. After two days of raining in Barcelona. We collect almost one liter of rainwater. Then on thursday after the class we went to water the plant with the rain water. However we found our plant was on the ground, the hypothesis was the wind blew the plant off the fence or some students accidently moved it. Therefore, the next day we went the store to buy the wire (the same convenience store) in order to fix the plant and pot on the fence. When we went to water the plant on the second thursday, everything went according to plan.

3.1. "Cradle to Cradle" Design

The design for this action consists of rainwater, soil, plastic pots/containers and the wire. The rainwaterr will least to a reduce in groundwater used by the city. The buckets would only need to be purchased one time because of their quality, they can be reused every time/year that the action is implemented that way students will not need to over buy and over use these materials. The reusing of the buckets proves a point in the action. The soil in this action will demonstrate a recycling part of the project. This is because the soil can be used again and again. However, for the redesigning portion of the action, we agreed that perhaps there is such a way to replace the plastic buckets with another means of storing water whenever someone can create a more sustainable idea. The plastic can be considered harmful because this material does not lead to waste = food as should many objects and materials shoud be to avoid the consumption of toxins released into the ecosystem.

3.2. Flyers

The flyers to advertise this action can be printed on recycled paper where one side might already have been used. Also by laminating the flyers, its life can be extended longer so that it cannot be easily damaged. If the flyers will no longer be of use for this action, then IES can continue to use them for any unexpected purposes. Perhaps they would like to use them as table protectors for hot food being placed on their table e.g. pizza boxes from de-stress days.

3.3. Incentives

Additional incentives we can give in order to promote that people participate in our action is by possibly holding a contest at the end of the semester to see who’s plant grew the best, they can potentially win a prize that the group executing the action can decide on. This encourages students to have a “green thumb.

3.4. Relationship with the Other Initiatives Being Implemented

Let it Flow is highly correlated with concurrent initiatives to create a more sustainable lifestyle around Barcelona. The “Sustainability Club” could begin working again by rallying behind this project to create a rain collector and garden outside of IES. As a whole, all of the issues being implemented are dedicated to sustainability. However, a benefit of these initiatives are the wide range of goals that cater to a diverse group of interests. This project could serve as a catalyst to begin the “Sustainability Club” again by garnering peoples’ interests in these different initiatives.

3.5. How will this action be sustained when you are not here?

This action will be sustained when we are not here by recruiting the help of IES staff members. Pilar Gracia, field trip coordinator, has graciously offered to help us by sustaining our water collector/garden when we leave. These actions will also be promoted through the use of flyers to advertise our cause for a more sustainable IES future.

3.6. Comparison to Similar Actions from Previous Semesters

There are two obvious similarities to previous semesters in that we are essentially copying the rain water collection bin as well as the terrace garden. The difference between those implementation and our proposal is that they will be done in conjunction with each other hand in hand. In earlier implementation is seems obvious that when you have a garden you need a reliable source of water and when you are doing a water collection system you need to put that water to use and keep it from being stagnant. The combination of these two projects seems to make the most sense since they can both benifit from each other with was lacking in previous semesters.

4. Time-sheet / Chronogram

4.1. Who will do what

In this project we all divided work equally and completed it as a whole. When it comes to actually implementing the idea there will need to be outside input, preferably from other IES students since knowledge of these programs throughout IES is crucial to the programs success and longevity.

4.2. What has been done this semester?

This semester there we have only completed the planning phases of this operation, while these ideas have been done separately in previous semesters we believe that it is vital for these actions to be conduction in conjunction with one another.

4.3. What needs to be done to repeat the action in the future?

The sustainability class can assign students to take care of and plant the new plants. Also our IES staff of our project Pilar Gracia will supervise the plant and the rain collector.

5. Document Format

None available

6. Bibliography

"Growing Peppers From Seed." The Pepper Seed. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://thepepperseed.com/growing-peppers/growing-peppers-from-seed/>.
"How to Grow Pepper From Fresh Seeds of a Red Pepper Plant. The Environmental Friendly Way!" YouTube. YouTube. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBsrgBZESOQ>.
Rosenthal, Elisabeth. "In Spain, Water Is a New Battleground." The New York Times. The New York Times, 2 June 2008. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/world/europe/03dry.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.
"Water Scarcity." — European Environment Agency (EEA). Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/featured-articles/water-scarcity>.

"Creative Commons"
Pictures used for this action were our own.

6.2. Students Involved in this Action

Travis Croom, Johana Guerra, Zeyu Wen, William Rathman

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Page last modified on Sunday 14 of December, 2014 23:37:28