In our design practice I rely heavily on three main tools. These tools are exceptional at creating connections, siting elements relative to their management requirements and ensuring that they are sheltered from energies that reduce performance and exposed to energies that enhance them.
THESE THREE TOOLS ARE:
All three of these tools stem from the seminal work of Bill Mollison (and David Holmgren) that was published in the Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual (Mollison, B., Tagari Publications, 1988).
Once the diagnosis is complete, we’ve found, over and over again that these three tools solve 90% of the issues on a property.
Also, after implementing them we have seen upwards of a 10x improvement in productivity, system stability and resilience.
Let’s go through each tool separately and look at how to apply them to your design.
Performing a needs and yields analysis is easy, fun and insightful.
The premise of this tool is to find functional relationships amongst elements on your property.
The easiest way to learn how to perform a needs and yields analysis is to watch this short video:
The concept of zones is used to place elements on your property relative to frequency of use. Very simply, the more you use it, the closer it goes to your centre of energy. The less it is used the further away it goes.
The majority of properties that we see place most of their elements in random locations only to find themselves walking literally thousands of kilometers per year to manage simple systems like gardens, compost, chickens and orchards.
We have a question that we like to ask that helps folks understand the importance of zones:
Would you ever design a kitchen with a sink in one room, a fridge in the garage and the stove in the basement?
People always laugh when we ask them this question.
However, the next question is:
Why do you design your land in that same way?
And then the light goes on.
The basic premise of Zones is that you list out all the elements you access on your property and determine how often you go to each one. If you are going to the element once or twice per day place it close to your home, if you go to it once every couple of days or perhaps once per week put it further away.
It’s that simple.
But before we go on to Sectors, you may be thinking….
“I don’t place my chickens and compost close to my house because they stink”!
I get this a lot. They stink because either the design is wrong or they are not being managed properly. Learning how to design and manage elements like this is a matter of getting it closer to your centre of energy for a few reasons. If you hate the smell you will:
- tinker with the design until you solve the problem.
- learn how to manage it to solve the problem.
- be closer to it allowing you to spend more time observing it, until you solve the problem.
In permaculture we use zones 1-4 to denote the domestic areas of use. Zone 1 is closer to the centre of energy (typically the house) while zone 4 is the furthest from the centre of energy. Sometimes we use the higher zones for places that are actually relatively close to our centre of energy for areas we rarely use.
In the example here, notice how zones 1 and 2 are very close to the house and that they predominantly contain elements like the kitchen garden, chickens and a recreation. The outer zones are used for chicken forage the main crop gardens and food forestry.
Distance is one of the largest mistakes we see on properties and one of the easiest problems to sort out.
Sectors are the trump card in the design toolbox.
Sectors are defined as the energy flows that traverse our property that we want to enhance or reject depending on our values, visions and behaviours and systems.
Sector energies that we consider when doing property design include the following:
- Site specific winds
- Local pollution sources
- Water flows
- Wet zones and dry zones
- Sun patterns
- Frost patterns
- Site specific fire risk
And many more…
The majority of sectors are relative to north (in the northern hemisphere) or south (in the southern hemisphere) and therefore are easiest to map out on your base map. Here is an example of a sector map that will give you a sense of how they are built.
Sectors like wind and sun cannot be ignored as nearly every element relies on good access or protection from wind or sun.
Despite the simplicity of this, it is amazing how often these primary forces are ignored to the detriment of the property’s productivity, profitability and resilience.
Good design is all about the optimization of energy flows!
Cheap abundant fossil energy has made us lazy and able to ignore how we use energy, leading to poor design in most modern-day homes, acreages and farms.
However, this ignorance comes at the expense of our life energy, pocket book and ultimately, our resilience.
All of the processes that we have taken you through are tools that help us to constrain the seemingly limitless options. In reality there are actually only a few options on any property, the trick is teasing out what the “best fit” is between you and your land.
When you get the process right, and combine needs & yield, zones and sectors as well as a thorough diagnosis of the property, the results are nearly magical as the land almost designs itself.
- Make a list of all of the major elements that you wish to include in your property design. Examples include: pond, road, house, chicken coop, pastures, garden, etc.
- Review the Needs & Yield video above and perform several Needs & Yields exercises between elements to see what results.
- Get a base map of your property (Google Earth is a great place to grab an aerial photo).
- Using something like vellum paper as an overlay (or using computer design tools such as Google Earth), start playing around with placement of the elements (both relative to each other and relative to the land) such that you optimize energy flows.
REALLY TAKE ACTION
How many times have you read good advice and not followed through? The truth is, the more complicated the challenge, the more we put it off.
If you want somebody to guide you through the process of creating a sustainable future & meaningful life, take action today.
You can go to bed tonight knowing you took the first serious step towards designing the sustainable property of your deams. Don’t wake up tomorrow with the same overwhelm, anxiety and fear.
Here are 2 ways we can tackle the problem and solve it.
Stop dealing with the symptoms and know that the root cause is the lack of a process and the lack of accountability. Let’s change that.
We can walk you through it and you’ll become a land design ninja. Takota & I will help. Let us help you today!
BECOME INSPIRED & EMPOWERED TO DESIGN
THE SUSTAINABLE PROPERTY OF YOUR DREAMS
Rob & Takota
p.s. Have questions? Don’t hesitate to call us (403-770-9789) or click here to request that one of us call you.