Redefining Construction: Our First CANstruction Boston Experience

Each Fall in Boston, architects, engineers, and construction firms redefine the word ‘construction’ by using an unexpected building material to help the Greater Boston community: canned goods.

At the annual Boston CANstruction event, tens of thousands of canned goods are used to create giant structures designed around a theme.  The best part?  All cans used in the event are donated to a local food bank.  For the past 6 years, CANstruction Boston has partnered with the Merrimack Valley Food Bank in Lowell, MA, a 501(c) nonprofit. 


To celebrate the event’s 20th year in the city, the 2015 design theme was ‘20 Years in Boston’.  Phase Zero Design participated for the first time this year, constructing “The Demolition of the Old Boston Garden”.  The iconic area was demolished 20 years ago in 1995, and represents a turning point in Boston’s history.  Throughout the process, the team learned a lot about designing something structurally sound using thousands of cans (not as easy as it looks from the Revit model).  But most importantly, they were reminded that Boston is an amazing city with talented people who can really make a difference. 

“CANstruction seemed like a fun opportunity to get myself and fellow co-workers involved with a community-based charitable organization,” stated Justin Alpert, Project Architect at Phase Zero Design and CANstruction team captain. 


“Over the months on the project, we came up with a concept, created a schematic model, further developed the idea doing mock-up trials, and then the build.  The time, thought, and effort we put into this, along with all of the fundraising and planning truly got us emotionally invested into the project as a whole.  We didn’t just take pride in what we as an office had accomplished, but what we as the Architecture/Construction community of Greater Boston were able to accomplish.”


While CANstruction has a competitive aspect and the winning design moves on to a national competition, Phase Zero Design’s team quickly realized that this was not the driving force behind all the effort and entries.  Representatives from the Merrimack Valley Food Bank spoke at the event awards, and shared a truly gratifying fact with the group.  They said that the cans from last year’s event were only JUST about to run out at the food bank, a full year later.  They projected that this year’s event would supply cans to last more than a year.  Talk about making an impact!  This year alone, the event raised approximately 85,500 cans to fight hunger in the Greater Boston community.  Phase Zero Design is so excited to be able to say that they made one of the largest contributions with 5,269 total cans, a feat they weren’t sure they could accomplish from the start!

“This was our first year participating, so we didn’t know what to expect,” said Jessica Hawley, Marketing Coordinator at Phase Zero Design.  “We wanted to donate as many cans as we could, so we set a pretty lofty goal for our first year: over 5,000 cans.”


Phase Zero Design reiterates that they could not have reached this goal without the help of their dedicated team and generous sponsors.  In the weeks leading up to the build, they received support from numerous local companies and clients eager to help. 

“Seeing all the local businesses that were willing to support our team and cause was so rewarding,” said Bre’Anna Romulus, Fundraising Chair.

Sponsors include The Pastene CompaniesNew England ConstructionJancon ExteriorsSebastian Eilert ArchitectureEngineering Design ServicesTopaz Engineering Supply, and Phase Zero Design.  The team sincerely thanks them for their generosity and support!  Phase Zero Design gives a special thank you to Pastene for donating a large number of cans at cost and eliminating hundreds of dollars in expenses.  Donations for Phase Zero Design’s fundraisers were given by the following companies: DAVIDsTEAMuse PaintbarJenny Boston BoutiqueMassage Envy, and Black Tie Spa for Men.  A friend of Phase Zero Design also donated Celtics Tickets for a fundraising raffle.  Additionally, the employees of Phase Zero Design selflessly made donations, and through social media got friends and families to join in to help support the cause.


“We couldn’t have participated in this event without the support of all of our sponsors.  On behalf of the entire team, I want to say one more time, a sincere ‘thank you’ for your donations!” continued Bre'Anna.

Moreover, Phase Zero Design’s CANstruction team pulled together and made it all possible.  The team is proud to have been able to achieve their goals, especially due to being new to the event, having a small group participate, and working with limited time.  The amount of hours it took to craft the design, the mock up, and many, many assembly lines loading and unloading palettes of cans into U-Haul trucks was truly a team effort!


The entire team agrees, it was incredible to step back and see what the event had accomplished.  Justin Alpert said it best: “The amount of hungry families in the country and in Massachusetts is astonishing. Knowing that there are families out there that will be able to feed their children dinner tonight because of us… is just amazing.”

See the 2015 CANstruction Boston entries on Architect Magazine and on CANstruction Boston's Facebook page.

Have you ever participated in CANstruction?  Share your experiences with us on Facebook!