Permaculture design principles serve as the foundation for any permaculture design and allow for a more elaborate comprehension of the three permaculture ethics earthcare, peoplecare and fairshare. As design principles are set up to reflect nature’s inherent intelligence, they are a great tool for designers to interpret how ecosystem are established.

In his book Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, permaculture founding-father Bill Mollison laid out 10 permaculture design principles, to serve as the foundation for permaculture designs. Beside the principles laid out by Bill Mollison back in 1988, other permaculture designers have come up with their own sets of principles. Most widely known are the 12 principles introduced by David Holmgren in his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. There are lots of adaptations and compositions of principles out there, so don’t be confused if you stumble upon different sets design principles.

Design Principles by David Holmgren

We very much like the set of principles by David Holmgren with the beautiful icons designed by Richard Telford, so these are the design principles we will share with you here.

David Holmgren’s 12 Design Principles
with icons designed by Richard Telford.

1 Observe & interact

By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

2 Catch & store energy

By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.

3 Obtain a yield

Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.

4 Apply self-regulation & accept feedback

We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.

5 Use & value renewable resources & services

Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.

6 Produce no waste

By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

7 Design from patterns to details

By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

8 Integrate rather than segregate

By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them and they support each other.

9 Use small & slow solutions

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

10 Use & value diversity

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

11 Use edges and value the marginal

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

12 Creatively use & respond to change

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.


You can learn more about David Holmgren’s Design Principles on his website permacultureprinciples.com