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UK electricity boards spend a significant proportion of their capital expenditure on low-voltage distribution systems. Because of the relatively low equipment cost, this leads to a large volume of design work. At present, most of this work is done by hand. The paper describes a method that has been developed to assist engineers in the design of these networks. The method is based on an interactive use of a computer program that derives network configurations, automatically, from single load-flow computations. The kernel of the method is a route-finding algorithm whose theoretical basis is derived from the calculus of variations. The application of the method to the design of networks supplying housing estates, including the problem of evaluating alternative sites for single or multisubstations feeding these networks, is described. Results are presented for practical design studies based on a 500-house estate.