Design Course Exercise: What do I eat?

In this exercise, which can be used in a PDC, students try to identify and evaluate their involvement in and impact on food cycles. After evaluating the impacts, students are asked to implement an action plan to reduce the food consumption and sourcing from sustainable sources. The full description of the exercise can be dowloaded here..

Submitted by Andy Goldring

Permaculture Design Process – 10. Design presentation

by Aranya

The following pattern is a guide to what you might cover during your design.
Either follow this through as described, or use it as a basis for your own ideas.


Describe your site

  • Explain the context of your design, where it is located, size of site etc.
  • Show your base map and any overlays showing zones, sectors, desire lines etc.
  • Does the site have any significant slope?
  • How do microclimates vary across the site?
  • What is the soil like? Does it vary in content, depth, pH etc. across the site?
  • What flora and fauna is present on the site?
  • What about structures, tools and events?

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Core Curriculum Survey Results 2013

A Process Explanation and Results Exploration, by Peter Cow (May 2014)

This Survey was carried out in March 2013, at the EPT meeting in Vale da Lama, Portugal. Its aim was to identify what PDC subjects people considered important and core to a PDC, and which were less crucial.

This work was inspired by a similar survey carried out online in the UK in 2011/2012, which has led to a UK core curriculum for PDCs that are certified by the PAB.

Curriculum topics for the survey were gathered from the original UK online survey, with additions from the Slovenia meeting. Blank spaces were left at the end of the survey for more topics to be added as well during the survey itself by survey participants.

A large grid listing each topic was drawn up on a roll of paper with spaces alongside to add ticks to indicate how important participants think each topics is.

C&C_monster survey

This grid was introduced to people at the start of the meeting, and then stuck onto the wall next to the main meeting room in Vale da Lama, so all participants passed it many times a day.

During the meeting at least 42 people filled in the survey, and the results were typed up into a raw data spreadsheet (EPT Curricula Survey Raw Data) and later a spreadsheet was created displaying the topics in order of considered importance, from highest to lowest (Curricula survey).

We also compared it side by side with the results from the UK survey (EPT and UK curriculum survey results).

Results digest –

Top of the list came design tools, ethics, principles and the design exercise.

Then came more design tools and principles, alongside some application areas and some techniques.

Prioritised areas for appying permaculture included:

  • Zone 00
  • Zone 1
  • Water
  • Waste management
  • Energy
  • Zone 5
  • Appropriate technologies

 Prioritised techniques to be taught included:

  • Composting

  • Mulching

  • Water retention in the landscape

  • Rainwater harvesting/management

  • Active listening/thinking

UK Core Curriculum document – View the current UK core curriculum, which all teachers must teach on a PDC if they give out Permaculture Association (Britain) certificates.

Permaculture Design Process – 6. Placement & integration

by Aranya


Now we’ll get down to experimenting with where the different elements & systems
in your design might be best placed. If you already have a fixed point of focus on
the site (such as a house), then you’ll be aiming to place everything most efficiently
in relation to that. Most designs you do will have to work around this constraint. Continue reading “Permaculture Design Process – 6. Placement & integration”

Permaculture Design Process – 5. Choosing systems & elements

by Aranya


So having identified the key functions that we are going to design for, we are now
going to think about the best ways to fulfil them. Ideally, we only include
something (a system or element) in our design if it fulfils at least three functions.
Remember the ecological principle: Multiple functions for each element. Nature
happens to be so productive, because everything performs many functions.

The process

Taking each of your chosen functions in turn, write down all the ways you can
think of to (realistically) achieve them. Obviously disregard anything that is clearly
way beyond budget, or an inappropriate scale (too big or small) for the purpose.
When you are done you should have three or four lists, one for each function.

You will probably find that some of the things you thought of are on several of
your lists. Go through them again and see which other of the systems and elements
you thought of also perform any of the other functions. This identifies some
strong possibilities, though you will still have to make sure that they are suited to
the site conditions and other client requirements (do they fit in with the client’s
values?) before deciding upon including them in your design.

Continue reading “Permaculture Design Process – 5. Choosing systems & elements”

Session Plan Collection from Monika Frank

Monika Frank, France, has shared some lessons plans:

1. Design Process and Elements of Permaculture Design

A 90 minute session


  1. Know different steps in design cycle / process
  2. Know why it is important to follow a design process and that it is cyclical
  3. Get the idea that permaculture design does not only mean planning a physical site
  4. Get an impression of how a design can be presented

2. A Ballgame 

A Simple Fun Game to be used as Energiser

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Permaculture Design Process – 4. Identifying functions

By Aranya


This is the stage where we identify what will be the focus of the design. We take what we have learned from the client interview(s) & determine what key functions are required (there may be many, but some will be more a priority than others).

When we visit somewhere new, we often start redesigning that space in our heads, based upon things we have seen in other places, things that we would prefer if it were ours. This redesign usually takes the form of the imaginary placement of objects, be they plants, animals, tools etc. While aspects of this initial assessment may turn out to be good, each new space has its own unique set of circumstances & is best approached as such. Bill Mollison has a saying; ‘Vujà dé’ – the feeling that you have never been in this situation before – & that is the best way to approach each new design.

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Permaculture Design Process – 3. The Client Interview

By Aranya


This is the part where we identify why we are redesigning the site. The following process we would ideally go through with each client (everyone involved ought to be interviewed to some degree). Sometimes, your clients will include both adults and children, though one or two may guide the process more than the others. From time to time, you will also need to take into consideration the needs of animals (even if you cannot question them directly!).

Often, the clients involved will include your self. In this case it can be helpful to get someone else to ask you these questions and make notes for you.

The interview

If you can, impose no time limit on these questions. Often the most important answers will be the ones you receive first, however given enough uninterrupted time to ponder, some real gems can emerge much later too.

Continue reading “Permaculture Design Process – 3. The Client Interview”

Permaculture Design Process – 2. Creating a base map

By Aranya


If you are lucky, you will have obtained a good map from your client, on which you can base your own. Maps are made for many different reasons though, and it is unlikely that even if you have, you will be holding the perfect map for you in your hand just yet. However, even a basic outline of a site is good starting point that will save you a certain amount of surveying work.

I’ll assume though that you were not so fortunate, and that you have had to create a base map from scratch. Hopefully you will have sketched out a simple map, something like the one shown here, while doing your survey. This example however, shows only basic measurements and angles; I recorded additional information onto overlays for clarity.

So first of all we need to determine the scale of our map. This we decide by identifying the longest dimension of the site and the size of the paper we are intending to use for our drawing. In this example, the approximate site dimensions were 25 metres by 12 metres. As the longest dimension was significantly longer than the shorter one, I used this to guide my choice of scale.

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Permaculture Design Process – 1. The site survey

This is the first article of a comprehensive series on permaculture design by Aranya. Enjoy!

by Aranya

1. The site survey Introduction

We are going to start our process by first surveying the area to be designed. You might not always be designing areas of land (permaculture is much more flexible than just this), but we’ll start you off by doing so, as this is the easiest way to get a sense of how the process works. Personally, I always like to have a look at a site before interviewing the client(s) as it gives me an unbiased view of what is there. The survey also often raises questions that need further clarification, such as issues around the history of use of the site; so doing it this way around makes most sense for me. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and you’ll have to ask the client(s) in advance about the site boundaries anyway.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.[3] In more casual speech, by extension, “philosophy” can refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”.[4]

The word “philosophy” comes from the Ancient Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”.[5][6][7] The introduction of the terms “philosopher” and “philosophy” has been ascribed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.[8]
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Design, when applied to fashion, includes considering aesthetics as well as function in the final form.

Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams and sewing patterns).[1] Design has different connotations in different fields (see design disciplines below). In some cases the direct construction of an object (as in pottery, engineering, management, cowboy coding and graphic design) is also considered to be design.

More formally design has been defined as follows.

(noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;
(verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)[2]
Another definition for design is a roadmap or a strategic approach for someone to achieve a unique expectation. It defines the specifications, plans, parameters, costs, activities, processes and how and what to do within legal, political, social, environmental, safety and economic constraints in achieving that objective.[3]
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Esthetics & Design: Symmetry

esthetics - symmetryHand-out in workshop on Esthetics & Design in Permaculture.

Patterns in Nature: Symmetry 

Bilateral animals, including humans, are more or less symmetric with respect to the sagittal plane which divides the body into left and right halves. Plants and sessile (attached) animals such as sea anemones often have radial or rotational symmetry. Fivefold symmetry is found in the echinoderms, the group that includes starfish, sea urchins, and sea lilies. People observe the symmetrical nature, often including asymmetrical balance, of social interactions in a variety of contexts. These include assessments of reciprocity, empathy, apology, dialog, respect, justice, and revenge.

Esthetics & Design: Fractals

esthetics - fractalsHand-out for a workshop on Esthetics & Design in Permaculture.

Patterns in Nature: self-similarity & scale 

  • Exact self-similarity: identical at all scales; e.g. Koch snowflake
  • Quasi self-similarity: approximates the same pattern at different scales; may contain small copies of the entire fractal in distorted and degenerate forms
  • Statistical self-similarity: repeats a pattern stochastically so numerical or statistical measures are preserved across scales
  • Qualitative self-similarity: as in a time series

Multifractal scaling: characterized by more than one fractal dimension or scaling rule.

Esthetics & Design: Sheet Mulching

Sheet Mulching

Hand-out for a workshop on sheet mulching. emphasis on esthetic qualities of the shape of beds/pathways/stepping stones and the different textures of the finishing top layer.

An often encountered criticism of permaculture design in public space is that it looks “messy”. And frankly: it often does. Going overboard on pragmatism can lead to a neglect of the sense of beauty – which is perhaps more important to acceptance and behavioral change then the usefulness of design.

Mulching has the potential to draw a collection of disparate elements together. Much like a neutral backdrop in a museum. It should not just cover and protect the soil but also be pleasing and restful to the eye, bringing feature plants to the foreground.

How does that work? One tool is to provide a contract of scale. By creating a top layer of very fine detail you emphasise the shapes and colours of the plants, their leaves, flowers and fruits. Another instrument is a homogenous colour and texture to contrast with the plants in colours and shapes.

Use a chipper or shredder to cut the mulch material into a fine and homogenous material. Using different source materials, like straw, tree bark, hemp fibers or coco shells, you can create a pallet of different colours and textures. Lay out different materials in gently undulating swirls and patches.

Part of a series of workshops on Esthetics & Design in Permaculture

Sociocratic Circle Method


What is the Sociocratic Circle-organization Method?
The Sociocratic Circle Organization provides a way of producing and leading organization on the basis of equivalence in decision making through the principle of consent.


Governing Consent

The core of the method

The sociocratic ‘vision’ on living together is a society in which people live and share their lives as dissimilar, unique persons on the basis of an underlying equivalence regarding decision making. This equivalence may be realized according to the sociocratic Circle-organization Method, which is based on sociocratic norms and values.

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