What is a Type 1 Error?

April 18, 2023

A Type 1 Error (T1E) is an element in your design that is very difficult to undo.

As long as it exists, it costs you time, energy, money and emotional well-being.

Think of it like wearing shoes on the wrong feet. Sure, you can still walk, but it's not pretty, and people will give you weird looks because despite wearing high-quality expensive shoes it is uncomfortable, slows you down, causes painful blisters and the problems only compound with time. 

Let’s look at some of the properties of T1Es. 

  • T1Es are foundational with many other systems/elements built on top of – and are often discovered when it is too late to do anything about them but just accept it as it is and deal with it. 
  • T1Es are expensive to fix usually because so many other things depend on the system being the way it is, and would themselves have to be re-designed and re-implemented to solve the root cause of the issue. 
  • T1Es are often allowed to persist due to the psychology of the sunk-cost fallacy –  the phenomenon whereby you are reluctant to rectify or abandon the root cause of the problem because you have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial. 

To justify the slow, steady drain on your time, energy, finances and emotional well-being, you might heavily discount the reality of the T1Es with cringe-worthy cliche sayings like – “We’re used to it”, “it’s not that bad”, or “we’ve made it work so far.”

When it comes to rural earthworks, T1Es can result in amplified erosion, topsoil loss, landslips and  ecosystem damage, some fixable and some potentially catastrophic (depending on scale). 

For all of these reasons, it is best to avoid T1Es in the first place! To know how to prevent them - it helps to know how they are created. The list below gives some of the most common examples.

  • Not calculating opportunity costs. Hardly anyone does this as opportunity costs are unseen by definition, and it requires knowing all of the options you have to choose from to achieve the desired outcome. Understanding the opportunity cost when choosing one earthworks solution over another allows for better decision-making and can save you so much money in the long run. To do this properly you must have an integrated approach to mainframe design and be able to run the numbers on a whole range of options.
  • Constructing drains, culverts, dams and spillways without catchment calculations. Again…run your numbers! Know your catchment area, know your run-off coefficients and your max. rainfall events. Then plan and design for extreme wet weather events worse than that!
  • Cutting corners to save $$$. Not doing proper drains for roads, undersized pipes, rough finishes, doing the work yourself and a whole manner of other shenanigans seem like they save you a few dollars upfront - but this approach is pretty much guaranteed to backfire in the future… usually the first big rain event. Don’t be that short-sighted frugal fool.
  • Making access too steep.  Sure it seems like you can save some $$$ now because it is the shortest route, but how hard will it be to get up and down in a 2WD in all weather? The steeper the road, the faster the water runs and the greater risk of severe erosion - which is only going to cost more $$$ in the long run.
  • Suffering from “Swale Syndrome”. Often when you first hear about swales, from those that champion them, you think they can solve every problem in every situation. I know I did. Fortunately, I recovered from this condition early on before swaling up the countryside. There are times when swales are appropriate - but more often than not - there is a cheaper, faster and better solution to achieve the same outcomes. Swales are expensive to make and expensive to maintain.
  • Siting the house pad for the views, rather than strategically placed to deal with the elements.  This breaks my heart every time I see it because it is impossible to undo. Especially if the house is built! Solar Passive Design is a real thing. Orientation is the foundational step and the aspect you choose will influence your orientation. A LIFETIME OF MONEY can be saved on energy bills if the house pad is sited strategically for Solar Passive Design - and then integrated into the building. 

Luckily, T1Es with earthworks are relatively straightforward to prevent with an integrated approach to holistic design, good management during construction and finishing the job properly when the machine goes home. You can download our Rural Earthworks Guide for free which will help significantly with that. 

If you need more support you can book a free strategy call with us to see where you are at and where you want to get to. We will help you find the most efficient, effective, and effortless way to achieve your dream outcome. 

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