Permaculture TheorySeries: Permaculture

Part 4, Permaculture design principles

An overview of different sets of permaculture design principles

Design principles provide a more elaborate comprehension of the permaculture ethics. In this article I explain what design principles are and we will have a look at different sets of principles by different designers.

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Design Principles by David Holmgren

David Holmgren’s 12 Design Principles (published in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways, 2002) have become very popular and I personally find them very inuitive and useful. Holmgren’s principles are phrased as positive action statements, thinking tools to assist us in identifying, designing and evolving design solutions.

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.

On the next and last page of this article we will have a look at the Ecosystem Criteria design principles.

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