Assembling a canstructure sounds simple, but there’s more to the process than stacking canned goods to create a shape. One of our favorite annual community caring events is the Canstruction Kansas City competition organized by Harvesters Community Food Network. The competition each year is fierce, and our Kansas City canstruction team volunteers a lot of hours designing, planning and assembling the structures.
Our 2018 “Shreddin’ Hunger” entry took home ‘Best Use of Labels’ this year, and included 5,000+ cans of food. We sat down with a few of our canstruction team leads – Landon Chitty, Rachel Pierce and Melissa Morley – to get the scoop on what it takes to design an award-winning canstructure.
Conceptualizing and designing a canstructure is a time-intensive process. How did the design of the BRR team’s 2018 canstructure evolve throughout the process?
Landon: Once our team was established, a series of design meetings were held to discuss potential themes for the structure. Inspiration was pulled from current events, Kansas City icons and pop culture. After narrowing the options down, we met with a few members of our leadership team to determine what theme would gain the most interest.
How did the canstruction team land on the ‘Shreddin’ Hunger’ design for this year’s competition?
Rachel: After the Winter Olympics theme was decided, we started discussing structure options. Part of the criteria for canstruction is building within a 10’x10’x10’ space. This must be taken into consideration when deciding on a design to achieve a certain level of detail with cans. This year, the team agreed on the Winter Olympics snowboarder, and after brainstorming some snowboarding terms, we landed with ‘Shreddin’ Hunger’.
Leading up to the canstruction build day, what were some of the challenges that the canstructure design presented?
Melissa: Determining can sizes and label colors to achieve details, as well as creating templates/spacers (all 144 of them) to go between each level of cans. For this year’s structure, we used a combination of plywood and cardboard and painted/taped the edges after being cut out, which gave the structure a clean look.
What goes in to prepping for an event like this, and how do you stay sane during all the prep leading up to build day?
Landon: There is no substitute for making sure the team is as prepared as possible for build day. This includes designing the 3D model of the structure, extracting a set of plans for the extents of the templates and cans, and creating the templates for each level, which involves cutting out the templates, and painting/taping the edges to correspond with the can label colors.
Melissa: All 5,524 cans had to be ordered and coordinated with Harvesters for pickup/delivery, too. As far as maintaining your sanity, our best advice is to assemble a team of passionate people who are willing to step outside of the box, be hands-on, and put in the extra hours and effort.
Take it to build day … what are the first steps in turning the design into a canstructure?
Rachel: It all starts with a good cup of Joe, while the General CANtractor (see what we did there?) holds the pre-CANstruction meeting. The pre-structure meeting helps us establish the roles of the sub-CANtractors and lays out the plan of attack. (Sorry, had to get the puns in there.) Then, the first level of templates is laid out, and build-day is officially rolling! (hopefully, the cans are not…)
What are some of the stressful moments you may experience during build day?
Melissa: Even with all the preparation, you still come across unforeseen CANditions (OK, we’re officially done). In the case of ‘Shreddin Hunger’, we had to add columns to help support the legs and reposition the dented cans.
The build day is a lot of work, but people have a great time participating. What makes the canstruction build process a fun event?
Landon: It is a very rewarding teambuilding event to help the community. It is also great seeing all the design, hard work and preparation come to life as a giant CANstructure.
Our canstructure this year won ‘Best Use of Labels’. Was that something you guys took into consideration during the design process?
Landon: There are six awards handed out each year (Best Original Design, Most Cans, Best Use of Labels, Structural Ingenuity, Best Meal and People’s Choice), and each of them is taken into consideration during the design process. As for ‘Best Use of Labels’, the size of the can and color of the label, combined with a structure that has lots of contrasting colors, are most important.
Melissa: There was also a lot of time spent awkwardly standing in the canned food aisle, taking photos and determining the can with the desired label color at the most cost-effective price. We also tried squinting while selecting cans to emulate what the structure would look like as you’re walking through the mall.
Imagine yourself trying to recruit others to help with future canstruction events – what do you enjoy most about participating in canstruction that you think others would enjoy, too?
Rachel: It allows you to think outside of the box and put a creative spin on design/build. It’s a fun, light-hearted competition among local engineering and design firms that allows us to interact with others in the industry while helping the community.
The following video shows a time lapse of the canstruction assembly and an interview with our canstruction team.
Thank you to Landon, Rachel, and Melissa for sharing some of the behind-the-scenes details and coordination, and congratulations to our BRR-Kansas City canstruction team for their 2018 award-winning canstructure!