The past two weeks have felt very productive. After our third site visit to The Root towards the end of our previous sprint, we decided on our final two layouts for our rainwater system. The next step was to start selecting the components needed in each of the systems, we went through the research we had already compiled, filled in some holes, and worked on selecting the right components. Remee finished a spreadsheet that allowed us to model how different parameters would affect the flow of water through our system. This was a big moment for her, since she had been working on the spreadsheet for a few weeks, and it provided us with the numbers we needed to actually specify components like pumps and piping. Xavier spent time learning about different plumbing components, and was able to come up with process and instrumentation diagrams, which show how the components of a system connect and function together. The progress this sprint has brought with it some added stress, and we noticed we were busier and more pressed for time. Despite this, it has been very satisfying to see our research and preliminary designs begin to solidify into final system layouts and selected components.

This week, we got to visit a pump system supplier and installer, WellMaster Pumps, who we reached out to a couple weeks ago. Sean, one of the lead engineers, showed us the different components they had at their shop, and it was great to get a more practical sense of things we had been researching. Sean also explained to us the importance of practical experience in design: knowing how something gets built or installed is very important because it helps you make a design that is both technically correct and practically feasible. Those two things are crucial for a design to work, but they don’t always come as a package.

Sean’s explanations also made us realize that there will inevitably be problems during construction that we didn’t design for. This realization was part of something bigger we were grappling with during the past two weeks: the limitations of design. We want what we deliver to our client to be as comprehensive as possible so that there would be no issues during construction, and this caused us to stress about making the designs very detailed. Xavier was anxious about this since there was still so much that we could learn that would help us improve our designs, from geotechnical engineering and plumbing to more powerful CAD software. However, after some discussions, we realized that we don’t have time to become experts in all these areas, and there is only so much refining we have time for. Our approach has been to learn what we can to make a good design, create it, and then change it based on feedback from experts like our mentors. This strategy has proven quite successful, and we usually end up having to change only a few aspects of the design. At the same time, we recognize that we can’t predict all the issues that will come up in the field. To make the best use of our time, we plan to make the best design we can, and supplement it with thorough documentation. This way, our reasoning will be clear to those building our design, and they can make cohesive changes to adapt it as needed.

The next few weeks are already looking different from the previous ones: we have to finish our design and documentation, but we also know that we will also, spend a lot of time preparing for the Year-End conference. It will require good time management and prioritization, and we are expecting it to be intense. But we think we are well positioned to make the most of it, and we can feel the end of our project hiding like a sunset around the edge of a harbour. The next blog we write will also be our last, and by then we will be able to reflect on everything we’ve accomplished and all the lessons we’ve learned. It’s sentimental, but we also know it will be incredibly satisfying.