The WHEN, the HOW and the WHERE gives us the basis of design and can be described thus:
The Design Process approached the design challenge from the perspective of a client -designer relationship. The process reviewed the steps from the initial design proposal, through to the delivery of the completed design, and placed heavy emphasis on the participation of the client (community) in all stages of the process.
Design Sequences are acronymic-lists of stages in a design challenge that focus the designer on taking a systematic approach to the design. The two most often used in permaculture design have distinctly different origins - BREDIM comes from industrial engineering, and SADI comes from landscape architecture. The individual words of BREDIM can be seen to right. SADI stands for Survey, Analysis, Design and Implementation. Both sequences are similar in that a site survey (SADI) would establish Boundaries and onsite Resources (BREDIM); Analysis (SADI) is similar to Evaluation (BREDIM); Implementation is common to both; and many people add in maintenance to make the sequence from landscape architecture more complete (i.e. SADI(M)).
We shall look in more detail at the first three stages in BREDIM because it is explicit about two important features of a site survey. Neither sequence explicitly encourages the involvement of the client in the design process, or involves a stage where the design brief is developed with the client. The engineering and landscape architect professions undoubtedly have their own methods for this, and we have seen some methods that permaculture designer’s use such as PASE, questionnaires, checklists, PMI, and the presentation of the conceptual design for feedback. We will see more of these methods (i.e. overleaf) but before we do, we will explore the usefulness of the design sequence.
BOUNDARIES – make a map It is likely that there is a published map somewhere that will provide you with a scale drawing of the basic shape of the site of your design challenge. Local central libraries keep a range of different scale maps from which you are allowed to make photocopies for home use (a scale of 1:1250 will show individual houses in urban areas: 1:2500 has field sizes/areas on it; 1:10,000 is the largest scale that covers the whole of the UK; 1:25,000 is available in shops and shows field boundaries and contour lines every 5m – the Pathfinder series). You may also have Land Registry documents that deal with ownership and in which you should find a map that sets out property boundaries. I used this source for a plan of my own garden (see the Land Registry map, 1:1250 scale and below).
It is rare to have a clean sheet to work with on most sites. If there are already permanent features on the site then you will need to be able to transfer those accurately to a basic plan of your site – this is the start of base mapping. The simplest way to do this to have two fixed points on your site from which you can start to take measurements. The corners of a house would do, or you may have to drive in two posts. The aim is to measure the distance to any of the permanent objects on your site from BOTH of those fixed points (i.e. to A, B and C from the two corners or posts). If you then locate and draw the house or posts on your plan, you can begin to triangulate the location of your fixed objects. Pick a scale that makes it easy (i.e. 1cm on your map could be one metre measured on the ground i.e. a scale of 1:100) and use a pair of compasses to draw an arc from each fixed point on your plan – the two arcs will overlap on the plan where your feature is. Do this for all the features and for anything significant on your boundaries. On larger sites, where long measurements are impractical, measure from feature to feature across the site, ensuring that there are at least two measurements to each feature, plus some cross measurements to fixed points on boundaries to tie-in features.
RESOURCES When you have completed your basic map, you should make copies of it and start to use them to fill in more detail about the location, and thus produce the base map (could be a series of themed plans). You will have all the boundaries and what they are made of, and who takes responsibility. You also need points of access such as roads, gates and paths; areas of frequent people use such as benches, banks, patios and gazebos; and the desire lines through the site where people tend naturally to walk, even if there isn’t a path there. There will also be potential resources you can identify such as water collection from roofs and other surfaces, waste products looking for a use, natural resources such rocks, stones and wood. Identify soil types, different habitats, and information on water drainage to find free-draining or boggy areas (see the checklist). In a people orientated design, you will need to do a skills audit alongside a listing of the physical material and equipment. Above all, you will be using all your skills and senses of observation.
EVALUATION This where you start to compare your base map information with the needs identified by PASE, questionnaires or other events. Use a simplified version of the base map to start to experiment with the developments you want to bring about. Get feedback from the site by also experimenting in real scale – use lengths of rope or hose pipe and various canes or sticks to map out ideas. Flat plans (2D) sometimes can’t get you inspired, so make simple 3D models so that you can do your evaluation by seeing the solutions. Be flexible, think about the design principles and make your mistakes on paper first. When you are satisfied with your evaluation of the desired elements, their relationships if any, and the use of resources on site, then turn it into a conceptual design - whether it is a bubble design, functional diagram, concept plan, or a design development sketch – and present it for feedback to the client.
Mark Fisher - Permaculture Design course handout notes