Sunday, 12 August 2012

Design: Sustainable Commute - Survey Stage 1

(noun) a person who travels some distance to work on a regular basis

In May 2012 I began a new full-time job in central London, while living out in Essex. Not for the first time in my life, I became a commuter...

There are reasons and justifications for all the decisions that led to this situation, living in Essex - working in London. All of which are worthy of inquiry in their own right, but for now I'll just accept these as boundary conditions of a situation that requires design.

In fact when I began the job, I felt my options were limited and chose to repeat actions I had made before, which had largely worked. [this is a design process of a sort, of course, and one commonly used - what worked before? do that again - but a very limited one]. I bought a monthly season ticket for the local railway, which was expensive but affordable within my new salary and began a daily return journey to work using train and tube to get me to work.

I'm now in my fourth month of repeating that pattern and at the end of a 3 week hiatus after a week's leave followed by a fortnight of telecommuting during the Olympics. It seems to be a good moment to pause and reflect - to do a survey of how things stand as the initial stage of a design process.

I think a good place to start a survey/begin reflection might be with a client interview - a pre-determined list of questions that I can use to structure my reflections and guide me toward capturing valuable information that an informal account might miss.

There are a few pro-forma permaculture client interview sheets around, including:
  1.  one put together by Joe Atkinson for the Permaculture Association's Introductory Course materials.
  2. one put together by Aranya and provided as a download for purchasers of his book Permaculture Design - A Step by Step Guide.
  3. A client interview checklist printed in Patrick Whitefield's book The Earth Care Manual.
These all share many common attributes, not the least of which is that they are all land based/site focused. This means that they are not immediately appropriate for a non-land based design.

I feel that Aranya's provides the most easily modifiable to my purposes, so I have adapted his Client Interview questions for a wider context. [It's a quick and dirty solution however, as thinking about the type of information the site questions are seeking to draw out and considering the non-site analogues for that type of information, quickly reveals that a non-land based based client interview sheet really needs its own design].

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