Recently I met another civil engineer who works for a county in the State of Washington. He contacted me through the virtual world of Second Life where he is known as Jered Spitteler. Jered has been building a model in Second Life of one of the rain gardens maintained by his agency. Fortunately I had a chance this weekend to meet him at the virtual site of the basin he built. When I first arrived, Jered explained that he has re-created the basin and immediate area, including two homes that lie on each side of the property. Immediately inside the gate of the fence surrounding the parcel, there is a sanitary sewer lift station which belongs to a private franchise utility. The basin, along with its slopes, lies beyond taking up most of the area inside the fence. For now, Jered has placed some information near the top of the slope so people can learn about the best management practices currently in use at the site. However, he said his agency is researching the possibility of implementing a permaculture approach to improve maintenance of the facility.
The ease of modeling something like a stormwater facility in Second life is beneficial for educational purposes – both engineers and citizens can visit these sites to learn how and why best management practices are implemented and how they should be maintained. But it's also useful as a tool for engineers like Jered and myself to use for visualizing a design or concept. And, as Jered pointed out during my visit, because it's more than just a CAD drawing on a computer, engineers like us can contact each other and schedule a virtual site visit like Jered and I did today to discuss ideas and share experiences and walk through the design.
Jered said he has shown his build to his co-workers who thought it was pretty cool and had potential to be used for other projects. I think we both believe at some point in the future walking through our designs in a 3D environment will be a common task in the engineering process. If you are an engineer who is already in Second Life and are interested in seeing Jered's build, I'd encourage you to contact him for a tour. And if you haven't yet ventured into a virtual setting, but are interested in checking out his site, I'd be happy to schedule some time to help you first get familiar with Second Life. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM or ping me on Twitter: @pbroviak.