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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Ecosystem Criteria (Ökosystemkriterien)

The ecosystem criteria are a set of 9 principles developed by the German permaculturists Lutz Wendeler and Volker Kranz in 2008. These criteria outline the basic characteristics of self-organising systems that can be found by comparing the structural similarities of these systems. I have taken the liberty of translating them into english – the original version (in german) can be found here.

1. Cooperation

Any type of symbiosis, e.g. between fungae and trees.

2. Boundaries or limitation

One ecosystem ends where another begins.

3. Resilience, Flexibility

The potential of change and the potential to respond to change.

4. Diversity

The diversity of elements, but also the diversity of relationships between the elements.

5. Feedback (positive & negative)

Feedback is the regulatory element of a system (e.g. predator-prey interplay)

6. Permeability

Systems and entities in the systems are never fully isolated and thus permeable to outside influences.

7. Momentum

Every system has the potential to gain momentum.

8. Interconnectedness

The focus is not necessarily on the separate entities of a system, but on the interconnections between them.

9. Reciprocity, Interplay

How the different entities in the system influence each other through their connections and exchange of information.

The ecosystem criteria are especially useful for attaining a sense of the functioning of ecosystems, while they might be less suitable for technical planning.

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