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Zane Middle School triangle of life

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Triangle of Life Final Design


The client is Zane Middle School, located in Eureka, California. Zane Middle School is a “STEAM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) school, and features sustainable projects such as a recycling program and a rainwater catchment system. For this project, Trevor Hammons and Ron Perry from Zane Middle School asked that a patch of land nicknamed “the Triangle of Death” be converted into a hub of activity for the students.


Team Triangle of Life, Amani Adams, Kelly Fuentes,Nancy Charco, Joseph Caminiti, was presented with a triangular piece of land located by the main office of Zane Middle School. This land contained old weed mat, weeds, dead plants, and a mix of dirt and bark. The land was unusable in this state and students cut across the land which prevented plants from growing.

Original Landscape
Triangle of Death  
Triangle of Death  

Problem statement and criteria[edit]

Criteria are standards that are based on a scaled system rather than a yes or no answer. Constraints are specific limitations on each of the criterion. These were determined by multiple meetings with the client and group brainstorming sessions. The final design is based around the following criteria and constraints.


Criteria Importance Constraints
Functionality 10 Faculty, students, and visitors must be able to utilize the path without causing unnecessary foot traffic.
Low Maintenance 10 The maintenance staff needs to approve the final solution. The final design must not add any extra work for the maintenance staff. Therefore, the uses of hardy, evergreen plants that thrive in the local climate and require little care, are a priority.
Sustainability 9 Strive to use recycled materials that have low impact on the environment.
Aesthetics 9 The final solution must be unique and appealing to the public because the design is a main focal point on the Zane Middle School’s campus.
Safety 8 No material utilized in the final design can cause harm or be used to cause potential harm. The plants need to be approved and avoid poisonous, hardwood branches that may cause potential harm.
Durability 7 The final design must withstand the day to day wear and tear and weather conditions.
Cost 5 The cost for all materials total below the $400 budget.

Description of final project[edit]

A solution of an aseptically pleasing, durable and maintainable site was implemented at Zane Middle School. There are six pathways that are laid out to avoid utility boxes, sprinkler systems, and pillars that are located in the area. The pathways emit out radially from the center to the edges of the triangle.The pathways are made out of urbanite, and are packed together with recycled concrete mix. A circular area, made of urbanite, is centered in the middle of the triangle to provide students with a social gathering area. Urbanite is implemented to reduce the amount of CO2 that enters the atmosphere, because the production of new concrete creates CO2 emissions. The open areas contain weed mat to prevent a rise in maintenance costs, evergreen plants to maintain an aesthetically pleasing landscape, and redwood mulch to match existing landscapes.

Triangle of Life Design
AutoCAD drawing of Triangle of Life  
Final design of Triangle of Life  


The projects costs consist of the cost to maintain the area, the hours of work invested in the project, and the cost of materials both in retail and the amount spent.

Time invested in project


Task Cost (Hours/Month)
Weeding plants 2
Cutting back plants and clean area 2
Total 4

Retail vs. Actual Cost[edit]

Material Retail Cost ($) Our Cost ($)
Urbanite 15 Donated
Recycled Sand 20 Donated
Plants 75 Donated
Gardening Material 50 25
Edging 120 60
Weed Mat 60 Donated
Test Material 100 30
Total Cost 440 115

Testing Results[edit]

The initial design did not contain enough urbanite to pack the pathways together, so the steps were loose and were not visually appealing. After speaking with the client, it was decided that more urbanite must be put in place to ensure the safety of the students and create an aesthetically pleasing landscape.

Once more urbanite was added, the pathways held together much better and they withstood a week of foot traffic without any damage. The plants seemed to be thriving and the students had not kicked up any of the redwood mulch. Faculty stated that they use the pathways often and that students seem to respect the area and have not tried to destroy it.


How to build[edit]

How To Build Triangle of Life
Image Steps
Step 1 Observe and plan out what to do on area before starting.
Step 2 Clear out area of weed tarp, weeds, dirt, and other waste material.
Step 3 Mark out areas for walkways and center circle.
Step 4 Dig out marked areas of dirt to desired specifications.
Step 5 Put in place urbanite for centerpiece and walkways. Make sure the urbanite pieces are level to prevent users from tripping.
Step 6 Put in sand/gravel mix in between the pieces to compact the pieces together. Test to make sure walkways are level, stable, and durable.
Step 7 Place down weed mat.
Step 8 Add redwood mulch or desired landscape material to cover the weed mat.
IMG 0232.JPG.jpeg
Step 9 Plant desired plants and flowers.

Discussion and Next Steps[edit]

After many weeks of use, the pathways may pack down more and settle, creating gaps between the tops of the concrete pieces and the recycled concrete mix. This can cause a potential tripping hazard, so more filler must be put in place if this occurs. The current filler is the recycled concrete mix from Alve's Inc.

In the initial design for the Triangle of life, there were plans to put in benches made from upcycled materials along the walkways on the side of the triangle with the highest awning. Due to time constraints, benches were not implemented. Benches are highly recommended to students or the community members for future projects.

If the plants begin to wither, it may be because the redwood mulch is soaking up the water and preventing it from reaching the plants. If this happens, mound the redwood mulch around the plants and leave a gap between the plants and redwood mulch to allow water to reach the roots of the plants.


Team Triangle of Life[edit]

Team Triangle of Life (from left to right): Amani Adams, Kelly Fuentes, Nancy Charco, Joseph Caminiti