Permaculture Design Course Syllabus 

Fundamentals (Section 1)

Ethics, Principles, and Design, The Key Permaculture Overview (1 day):

Evidence of systemic ecological and cultural crisis; derivation and evolution of ethics; spirals of degradation and the etiology of health; energy and entropy; the Permaculture innovation and synthesis; roots of permaculture knowledge; principles of energy efficient design, language and terms; exercise in observation of landscape; the nature of pattern in form, orders in natural phenomena; application of pattern to design; design process, purpose and methods.

Natural Systems (2 days):

Principles of ecology; energy flux and materials cycling; conservation and diversity; guilds; cooperation; niches; forests as organism; climate, global weather patterns, and biogeography; forest impact on climate and the hydrologic cycle; functions of the tree; landscape analysis; the nature, sources, and value of freshwater; water’s duties in the landscape; water movement, storage, and purification; water in the domestic system. The soil community; oxygen/ethylene cycling and nutrient availability; soil biota regimes, mycorrhizal associations; carbon/nitrogen and other nutrient relationships; tropical and temperate soil conditions; building soil; physical properties of soils and soil testing; climate near the ground; factors in microclimatic design; windbreaks; moisture and humidity effects; modifying sunlight and capturing solar gain; thermal zones and frost pockets; limiting factors in living systems; exercise building swales, ponds, trellises, and/or brush fences; use of leveling devices.

The Domestic System (1/2 day):

Design of the home system; zone and sector analysis; placement of elements for beneficial function; the domestic economy; staging of development in small permaculture systems; building design, materials, methods, and examples; conservation of energy; building as organism; nutrient cycling in the domestic system; biological treatment methods for human and animal waste: compost, constructed wetlands, biogas; urine as fertilizer.

Elements of Cultivated Ecologies (2 days):

Energy advantages of aquaculture; designing aquatic systems; water quality and species composition; animals as energy translators; their utility and efficient management; self-forage systems; intensive grazing; silvopasture; agroforestry systems; forest gardening and farming; alley cropping, coppice-with-standards; ; orchards as floristic communities; principles of pruning and tree health; useful plants and planting strategies; guild assemblies; plant identification, plant families, nomenclature; wildcrafting; establishment of nurseries and intensive small systems; economics and rolling permaculture. Self reliance and food security; the year-round harvest; methods of food storage and adaptation to climate; garden design, establishment, and methods; exercise in sheet mulch bed preparation; short design exercise in creativity; tools and their energy implications; choosing appropriate technologies; favorite tools.

Community Design, Common Resources, and Larger Human Systems (1-1/2 days):

Patterns of human settlement; city and regional design; orders of magnitude; the village as building block of human community; building cooperative networks, organizations, and communities; resource inventories; business incubators; principles of economic design; how money works; the problems with present financial systems: interest, corporations, taxes, planning; community-based financial systems; the use of maps; simple methods of mapping; the integral urban house; resources in cities; appropriate scale for conviviality, economy, and security; components of village life; new village development; designing for human cooperation and interaction. Resources for further work; the permaculture movement; continuing education; how to organize locally; making a living; future visions and participant evaluations.

Design Practicum (Section Two)

The Elements of Practical Design (2 days):

Review of Ethics and Principles; pattern languages; site analysis exercise; mapping & field surveying exercise; introduction to client interview, cost & budgeting, earning a living.

Team Design Projects (3 1/2 days):

Small group projects for real clients son or near the course venue; mentored, hands-on design work involving application of all presented skills; site observation and analysis, mapping, client interview, conceptual design, mind mapping, and presentation.

Presentation (1/2 day):

Introduction of presentation skills; several opportunities for planned and impromptu presentation to the whole class; formal presentation in group of the team design with sketches, maps, speech, and other modes of work.

Broadscale Landscape and Systems Design (2 days):

Urban and Village systems; farm landscapes; design for wildlife; restoration and earthworks; economic design including financial systems; land access, regional strategies.