Conceptual and master planning: Idea generation and refinement
When the vision and assessment states are processed through cataloguing, we then use numerous tools of idea generation and refinement to get to the final design stage. The vision and assessment stage produce a lot of information to digest and build a context for what, why, where, and how you are designing. To move into idea generation we further process that information holistically as to produce concepts of design.
The first step I use is a SWOT analysis as it rehashes the information analytically into a quadrant grid of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. On a piece of paper, you write out these four sections created by dividing the paper in four with a cross. This allows you to ping back and forth because they are all interrelated. For example a strength might be good hillside sun exposure but that may create a threat of fire. A weakness might be a lack of water or erosion but creates an opportunity of earthworks or water catchment. This step shouldn’t take too long but will enhance the design later on. One needs to leverage strengths, admit weaknesses, create opportunities, and mitigate or nullify threats. If you understand these well, the elements needed to do the step below will more naturally flow.
To further see the full picture and incorporate the knowledge of a SWOT analysis, we use mind mapping next to tie functions and elements together. The principles of permaculture show that we need to integrate functions and elements to produce sound designs through the creation of redundancy. Thus in this step we layout a large piece of paper or use mind mapping software (lots of open source ones free for download) beginning with the functions. I now list them in my design guidelines as the following:
Building Soil Fertility – BSF
Appropriate Energy Production – AEP
Integrated Infrastructure Development – IID
Quality Access Development – QAD
Regenerative Food Production – RFP
Cottage Industry Development – CID
Holistic Animal Husbandry – HAH
Water Cycle Completion – WCC
Domestic Water Use – DWU
Creative Biodiversity Promotion – CBP
Efficient Waste Cycling – EWC
Beneficial Social Interaction – BSI
Each one of these functions becomes a bubble in the mind map and lines radiate outwardly to other bubbles (elements). Certain elements, as they should, will be connected to several functions since the principle of each element should perform many functions states this redundancy. When you are going through you can check for this redundancy by adding arrows to cross check. And you can check that your functions are fully supported by at least three elements as the principles also dictate. As you move through this mind mapping, the elements needed to produce a robust design will become more apparent. Then with these elements you need to arrange them in the landscape which is the next phase, schematic design. Remember to connect inputs and outputs through the idea of a functional analysis and creating functional interconnections.
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