Travelling downstream

Features - Irrigation

Irrigation design software can save you buckets of time on your next job.

October 4, 2013
Brooke N. Bates

Jeff Matthews opens his drawing of a client’s backyard, showing the pool and landscaping that his company, Distinctive NatureScapes, is adding. With immaculate details, the scaled design shows modifications to the irrigation system – including related materials, costs and water-flow rates.

Years ago, this information would have filled several folders after weeks of development. Now, with irrigation design software, details integrate seamlessly into one living document created in a few hours. By assimilating costs and other calculations to reduce and eliminate tedious steps, software adds efficiency to every stage of irrigation.

Time is money.
Software skips the initial steps of painstaking measurements and sketches that traditionally laid the foundation for design. Survey plans, municipal records and aerial shots from Google Earth can simply be imported, to scale. All elements of an irrigation system can be virtually dropped in. “The real value is to be able to quickly give clients a visual document, and to have it priced out with a quick turnaround,” says Matthews, co-owner of the Salisbury, N.C.-based firm. “It’s economic in that you don’t have to spend a bunch of time or make multiple trips to collect data to develop a drawing.”

Design time is drastically expedited because parts, with specs, can be pulled from virtual catalogs. But when Mark Swafford drops in a sprinkler head, he’s adding more than just an icon.

“Because I’ve plotted a certain head, I know this head has this nozzle, so much swing pipe, fittings and other stuff that automatically goes into my material list,” says the owner of Swafford’s Landscape in Gainesville, Texas. “I’ve configured all the fittings, T’s, elbows, and wire nuts for each valve, so when I finish my design, I’ve got a pretty accurate material list and cost estimate.”

By integrating layers of information, irrigation software can generate material lists, invoices and compliant documentation. As designs change, corresponding details update.

This trims steps for contractors, who can export data directly from designs to place orders or provide estimates.Software can do more with data than compile, especially in a field as technical as irrigation that depends on accurate calculations. Automation of hydraulic calculations and water-flow rates can reduce time and room for error.

“Irrigation is more technical than aesthetic,” Matthews says. “You have to calculate the amount of water required for a given area, and then size the pipe to deliver it. That gallons-per-minute flow information, coverage for the sprinkler heads, and size of valves, all of that is canned in the system when you identify the meter size.”

Play by the rules.
Local water restrictions can be programmed as well, freeing contractors like Bob Pickering from a lot of stress. When the RPickering Design Service website opened the door to a rare (and regulation-laden) project outside of Texas, the software became even more valuable.

“The software is not only adaptable, it saved my neck on this project in San Diego,” says Pickering, a one-man operation in Dallas. “The city sent me about 35 to 50 pages of restrictions that I needed to comply with. If I hadn’t had this software, I would have moved out of town.” Without manual calculations or additional takeoff, designs that used to take Pickering a week now take a few hours using software. The finished design doubles as documentation to satisfy as-built requirements.

The value of irrigation design software compounds as it combines various technical details. These benefits, delivered at the near-instantaneous speed of technology, make irrigation design software an easy choice for contractors.

The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

Photos courtesy of Rpickering Design Service