Section 3a - Design Concept Development

Use the boundary map and contour map as your starting point to focus on the following:


Without water, there is no life. Conserving, pacifying, and controlling water is the lifeblood of our design work, and even where water is not a dire concern it deserves due consideration and care.

Water can be caught on hard surfaces, we can direct runoff water, waterlogged and saturated soils may need adjustment, sudden or seasonal floods may be an issue. Our aim is to recognise the treatment of water which will best serve the site, and provide the highest (and least wasteful) use of this valuable resource.

Looking at your contour map, identify the following:

  • The longest contour in linear feet on site.

  • The highest contour in elevation on the site.

Between these two extremes, there will be a contour which is sufficiently elevated, and sufficiently long to provide the best position to begin influencing water on site. What contour elevation is this? This would be the ideal position for your primary swale (if appropriate for the site).

It is worth noting that on some sites multiple portions of the site will require this assessment because of a dividing ridge or other feature prevents a single contour from addressing the whole area. Start with the most relevant area first (probably the one that affects your zone 1) to record here.

Record those contours/elevations here:

Longest Contour: 101 meters - 22 meters elevation.

Highest Contour: 48 meters long - 28 meters elevation.

Best Contour: 93 meters long - 26 meters elevation.

Is a (or are several) swale(s) appropriate on this site? (Yes or No)


If yes, provide the results of your calculations for the following:

Catchment area that the primary swale will need to control.

3903 square meters.

Total volume that this swale will be able to hold (based on width and depth) before discharge begins.

60 meters long, 3 meters long, 3.5 meters deep. 630 cubic meters.

The required discharge rates during extreme rain events.

0.133 mm x 3903 square meters = 477 cubic meters/24 hour period. 5 liters per second.

The size of the spillway(s) needed to handle the worst case scenario precipitation event for your site.

2 meters wide, 10 centimeters deep.

If yes, describe the following:

Will this single swale be the only one in your design or will there be more?


How will your swales interact and interface with each other? This is to accompany what you will illustrate on your map.

The three swales are parallel. The top swale will be much deeper, with the potential to hold enough water to become a fish raising canal. The two lower swales will be shallow and designed for growing trees.

How will your discharge from your swale(s) be handled, where will it go? If there is more than one, these details should be describe for each.

The top swale will discharge to the middle swale. This will happen over the paved surface until the flowing water meets a speedbump placed on the pavement to lead sheet flow to the middle swale.

The middle swale's discharge will be directed to the pavement again where it will sheet flow to another speedbump that leads the water to the lowest swale.

The lowest swale will discharge on level ground to the south which eventually slopes into the western ditch.

If no swales are intended in your design, do consider: except for the smallest sites some control of water is nearly always needed: How are you planning to address this in the design? Paint us a clear and descriptive picture of the details.

Are there ponds, dams, or other bodies of water on site or designated by the design? (Yes or No) This includes what is there and what the design wishes to place there.


If Yes, Describe the following:

Location on the site.

This is the swale near the eastern boundary, nearly the full length of the boundary. A deeper hole will be used to test the water carrying capacity of the soil. If it can hold water, the depth of the swale will be increased along its whole length and be used as a fish raising canal.

Total volume held for each.

~1,000 cubic meters

Required discharge rates during extreme rain events for each

5 liters per second.

Required spillway size to handle extreme rain events for each

2 meters wide x 10 cm deep.

How will each body of water fit into your site water plan?

Connections and interactions between different water elements is a key facet of design.

Understanding the connections between these elements will at this stage enhance your explanation of water flows around your site when you create the W.A.S. map, and when you are writing about this as the FDE form requests later.

The single potential body of water at the top swale will capture all the flow shown in the catchment area from the property to the east. This will be the water that has the least chance of contamination from any fuel spills or leaks that occurred at this site when it used to be a gas station. The main connection to the next swale is only through the spillway.

Describe the potable rainwater catchment opportunities which are presented on the site and the systems the design includes to take advantage of these.

The existing building is in need of a roof replacement. A sheet metal roof is scheduled to be installed in the spring. The roof covers 220 square meters, giving the potential to capture 250,000 liters of rainwater per year.

To start, 4-5,000 liter water tanks will be placed inside the existing building, two at each eastern corner. A gutter system will route the water to the interior of the building to each pair of these tanks.

Depending on the design of the sunroom, the glasshouse, and hoop houses, more tanks may be added in the near future. These will be piped to collect extra water from the roof of the existing building and potentially water flowing on the new structures.

What portion of household water needs will this system supply?

These tanks should capture enough water to serve the needs on this site.

When the system overflows, how is this addressed by the design?

Overflows will be led to the top swale/canal.

When this system is exhausted what alternatives does the design include?

There is an existing drilled well on the site piped into the existing building.


Often, access on the site is inherited and not always ideally placed. Sometimes this can be mitigated by addressing the existing problem the right way, other times major intervention may be needed to put things right. As a great amount of time spent on site will be spent coming and going, efficiency and proper placement of access pays great dividends in time, especially over the life of a system we hope to measure in decades if not longer.

Describe proposed new access on site.

List the access that is being added as part of the design.

No new hard ground access is currently needed as part of this design.

The existing access will be slightly modified with speedbumps that will channel water flow to the two lower swales.

Wet access will be on the 60 meter long canal on the eastern boundary.

Explain the benefits and purpose of each in the larger context of the site.

How does the new access address issues with the old?

The speedbumps will capture most of the hard surface runoff and direct it to the swales.

Describe the existing access on site.

List the access that is present.

Existing access is provided by the large paved area that covers 2,775 square meters of the property, or approximately 42% of the property.

Explain the good, and the bad, about each in terms of the design.

The existing access is bad in that it is expensive to remove or modify to allow more area of the land to be used to raise plants in soil.

The existing access is good in that most of it is hard surface runoff that will be directed to the lower swales.

It is also good in that most of the work that will be done on this site will be to propagate seedlings for other permaculture properties. Most of this work will occur on benches in hoophouses, in pots on the ground, the sunroom, and potentially a permanent greenhouse. The hard surface provided by the pavement will make working in these facilities much easier.

Identify which issues can be fully fixed, partly fixed, or may need a complete reinstallation to fix.

For now, there will be no modification of the existing pavement accessway. As stated previously, the hard surface runoff will be directed to the lower swales with simple speedbumps.

Provide examples of how the access (new and existing) in the design will harmonise with the water plans.

List examples as appropriate

Hard surface runoff is directed to the swales from most of the pavement.

Explain the positive interactions and connections between the two.

Collecting all of the runoff is easily accomplished with these new speedbumps.

Describe your experience fitting the water elements into the design constrained by the existing access and creating new access that harmonised with the larger water plan. (1-2 paragraphs)

There wasn't much to think about. The gentle slope on the site which is dominated by such a large paved area didn't leave too many options. Collecting the water is pretty straightforward to put it to work in the top swale/canal and the two lower tree growing swales.

Collecting water on the roof is also simple when the new metal roof, gutters, and tanks get installed. Putting the tanks inside the building keeps them from freezing in the winter and also provides an energy/temperature buffer by being a large mass of water inside the building.


Like access, many sites start with a structure or two present already. We look at structures third in the W.A.S. process to ensure the imperative water considerations and important access considerations are given due precedence. Siting your house on the best dam site, or placing a road in an area where water needs to be able to pass easily can generate much more complicated and expensive "solutions" to problems that could have been avoided.

Are there existing structures on the site? (Yes or No)


If yes, Describe the existing structures on the site.

Location on site

The existing building is relatively close to the eastern boundary, equidistant from the northern and southern boundaries.

Their type (and use)

The building is an old Texaco service station that housed a service garage and a restaurant. It is constructed of steel, glass, and concrete blocks on a concrete slab.

Currently used for storage, the building will be modified to be a plant propagation production area with a section opened up to be a small classroom/meeting room for permaculture courses/meetings.


The roofline is generally east/west (70 degrees). The building is almost square. The road facing portion of the building aligns with a 340 degree compass heading.

Explain the good and bad of each in the larger context of the design.

The longer slope of the roof unfortunately slopes to the north. This lessens the opportunity to mount solar panels on the roof.

There is also a great percentage of glass windows on the western and northern walls. There are no windows on the southern wall or eastern wall. You can tell that this buildling was built by a petroleum company. They didn't care how much energy the building used and didn't design it to save any.

Where the building is located doesn't seem to be good or bad. This property isn't big enough to have any keypoints, but if considered in the larger scope, the building seems to be just downhill from the keypoint on the adjoining property.

Describe proposed new structures on the site.

Structure A - Sunroom-Greenhouse

Location on site - South wall of existing building.

Type (and use) - To bring winter heat to the building, for extending growing season for some foods, for starting transplants for outdoor garden.

Aspect/Orientation - Roof angles toward the south. Sunroom stretches from east to west on southern wall of building.

Structure B - Biochar Production Shed

Location on site - Near Northeast corner, near pond.

Their type (and use) - A 4 walled, roofless shed to block wind while producing biochar using the flame cap technique.

Aspect/Orientation - Door faces west. Square structure.

Structure C - Biochar Feedstock Storage Bin

Location on site - Along northern boundary, near biochar production shed.

Their type (and use) - A basket style structure to hold chunks of wood created by passing branches through a branch logger.

Aspect/Orientation - East-northeast.

Structure D - Hoophouses

Location onsite - to the West of the main building.

Their type (and use) - Three hoophouses to be used for the propagation of food forest tree and bush seedlings.

Aspect/Orientation - The two hoophouses adjacent to the building are oriented at 70 degrees along their peak. The third hoophouse is oriented at 340 degrees along its peak.

Structure E - Outdoor cuttings sand bed.

Location onsite - North and adjacent to both the main building and most northerly hoophouse.

Their type (and use) - A raised bed of sand used for propagating cuttings. Requires a series of timer controlled misting equipment.

Aspect/Orientation - 70 degrees.

Structure F - Water directing speed bumps.

Location onsite - On pavement sloped toward swales.

Their type (and use) - Bumps on pavement to direct hard surface runoff

Aspect/Orientation - Lowest elevation near swales, sloping up to extent of pavement.

Structure G - Sheet Mulch Raised Bed Garden

Location onsite - Adjacent to sunroom and southern hoophouse. On pavement.

Their type (and use) - Food for personal use.

Aspect/Orientation - 70 degrees.

Structure H - Rabbit Shelter

Location onsite - Adjacent to the Southeast corner of main building.

Their type (and use) - Appropriate rabbit hutches in shelter along with supplies and feed. To turn surplus greens and vegetation into meat and manure by raising rabbits.

Aspect/Orientation - Opening oriented towards morning sun.

Explain the benefits and purpose of each in the larger context of the design.

The property is designed to serve as a permaculture demonstration and supply site that produces food forest seedlings by the thousands in a complex that demonstrates some permaculture design techniques.

Potable water collection from the metal roof directed to interior water tanks which also serve as climate buffers for the interior is one permaculture style integration.

The short canal shows what's possible on a longer canal with bank grown species that feed the water species and the water of the canal itself serving as a transportation corridor medium while functioning as an aquaculture production system and an emergency store of water for drought resistance and fire suppression.

The swales will hopefully demonstrate their ability to accelerate the growth of trees and other food forest plants as they put water where it's needed for abundant growth.

The biochar production facilities utilise the abundant feedstock of branches that are available in the region. They utilise what many consider to be a waste product and transform waste into recalcitrant carbon that can be used as a nearly permanent soil amendment. Later on, heat produced during biochar production will be capture and put to beneficial uses in other parts of the system.

The sandbed is in a somewhat shaded position to allow for the rooting of thousands of cuttings for many species suitable for permaculture planting. Shade is preferred for rooting cuttings in sand. It's placed directly on the pavement which utilises some of this potentially wasted space without modifying its existence.

The hoophouses provide a somewhat controlled environment working/propagation space for seedling production for species that require some season extension and protection from pests as they mature.

A courtyard created by the placement of the hoophouses provides an outdoor area that is somewhat protected from the wind to propagate plants that are delicate when younger, but are starting to be stronger and need some hardening off before transplanting.

The sunroom and raised garden area are adjacent to each other to concentrate the focus for growing plants to be consumed by the owner's family.

As well, the rabbit shelter is in the same general area as the raised garden and sunroom to keep those production areas in a tighter focus area.

All in all, most of the work and production occurs in a tightly spaced area where no one component is very far away from any other component.

Provide examples of how the structures (new and existing) in the design fit within the context of the water and access to the benefit of the design.

List examples as appropriate

The new metal roof on the existing building will provide a great deal of rainwater for the potable rainwater storage system. As for water necessary for biochar production, sandbed cutting irrigation, hoophouse irrigation, and potted plant irrigation, it is expected that the canal can be used as a resource.

Explain the positive interactions and connections between them.

Describe your approach to fitting the structures into the context imposed by your Water and Access plans (1-2 paragraphs)

Biochar production does require water to quench the coals when a batch is completed. Water for this purpose will be collected from the canal. The water used in the quench will be allowed to flow along the hard surface to the speedbumps where it will be directed to the swales. This water will be somewhat enriched with biochar particles which will increase the quality of soil in and along the swales.

Potable water tanks will serve those who utilise the building for drinking, cleaning, and perhaps bathing. The potable water tanks will also be accessed to provide water for raising rabbits. If surplus potable water is indicated by weather forecasts, the tanks will be drawn down and directed to the hoophouses, sunroom, and raised bed gardens for irrigation.

WAS Maps Guidelines

Files should be in JPEG format and ideally less than 4MB in size.

Water Map

This should clearly illustrate and legibly label the water elements within the design. As part of making this map a useful tool, for some sites addressing portions of the site may be a superior presentation compared to a single map only. A single site map, scaled to handle the whole site can be used to provide the "key" to where each more detailed sub-map fits into the larger whole, and each sub-map can be at a different scale appropriate to the area and details being covered.

It is also worth noting that a water map like we are asking for can depict any "flow" paths very easily so that one need not imagine where a drop of water will go. Starting at the top of your site one could follow the flow of water all the way from source to sink because you have included on the map indicators for where water enters, leaves, or flows through the different water elements in the design.

Be sure to include any:

  • Bodies of water.

  • Water harvesting systems

  • Water storage or control systems

  • Water discharge, diversion, and dissipation systems

  • Earthworks or other installations whose purpose covers any of the above.

Do not include:

  • Contour data

  • Site design details which have their own dedicated map

  • Anything that makes it harder to read, find, or see, the details required for this map as described above.

This map is the place where you may include extra details about the water interactions and systems within the design that will not appear on other maps.

Access Map

This image should clearly illustrate and legibly label the access elements within the design.

As part of making this map a useful tool, for some sites addressing portions of the site with additional maps (detail drawings) which allow for the appropriate amount of detail may be a superior presentation compared to a single map only. A single site map, scaled to handle the whole site can be used to provide the "key" to where each more detailed sub-map fits into the larger whole, and each sub-map can be at a different scale appropriate to the area and details being covered.

It may be useful to indicate existing access and new access differently on the map as well for easy differentiation.

Be sure to include any:

  • Roads

  • Tracks

  • Paths

  • Laneways

  • Driveways

  • Earthworks or other installations whose purpose serves any of the above.

  • Temporary, seasonal, or "equipment only" access, if applicable.

Do not include:

Contour data

This map is the place where you may include extra details about the access, access interactions, or access systems within the design that will not appear on other maps.

Structure Map

This image should clearly illustrate and legibly label the structure elements within the design.

As part of making this map a useful tool, clear labels and legends are a must. If necessary, a separate page with an ideally sized and detailed legend is preferable to trying to fit too much information in too little space on a single page.

Be sure to include any:

  • Homes

  • Outbuildings

  • Fences

  • Gates

  • Greenhouses

  • Temporary structures

Do not include:

  • Contour data

This map is the place where you may include extra details about the structures, and structure interactions within the design that will not appear on other maps.

This map is the place to include extra details about these elements and interactions within the design that may not appear on other maps.

W.A.S. Map

This image should combine, summarise, and elegantly present only relevant details from each about the Water, Access, and Structure maps you have already prepared. As such, it is a place to balance the most important details from those 3 maps in a way that creates a tool to explain where each of the aspects of the mainframe interact with each other. When explaining the design to a client, or going over the design with a colleague, this map is likely where you would start, switching to a more specific map only when delving into more specifics is necessary.

Be sure to favour the inclusion of details that make it clear how the different aspects of our three mainframe design legs harmonise with each other and promote our goals for the site.

For example on this map:

  • Should show major access, and not show intricate micropaths through the garden.

  • Should show bodies of water and main supply lines or flows, and not show every irrigation pipe in the greenhouse.

  • Should show clearly the zone 0 structure, and major structures likely to be of use but not show every utility shed or lean-to on the site.

The better you strike the balance between details on this combined map, the more useful it will be in conversations with your clients and in moving forward with your design.

This map is the place to depict the high notes and interactions between the mainframe design points, even if that excludes some details that will appear on other maps.

Continue to Section 3b