Other methods and processes

A commonly used design process is 'OBREDIM'. This stands for:

Observation - key to permaculture is good observation. Use all of your senses. Record observations systematically. Try to observe land over the four seasons and in different weather, especially extremes - frost, heavy rain, very warm, etc. Where does the snow clear first? Where does frost collect? Where does it stay wet or boggy longest? What is the wind like in the winter, and in the summer? Where do cats like to sit (the warmest spots!) What wildlife is there? What is the soil like and does it vary over the site? etc....

Boundaries - What are the boundaries of the site? Walk them and see what you find. What is over the fence, how will this affect you? What are the boundaries of the project - its 'scope'.

Resources - What resources exist? Financial resources - what money is available to invest in the project? Is it available in a lump sum or small amounts over many months? What skills are there? What plants, structures or other resources are available? Is funding available from outside bodies?

Evaluation - Analysis of what you have got - how do elements interact? Evaluate your resources, will they make a big project possible, or do you need to design a long programme of small changes?

Design - This is where you can play with all your colouring pencils! A base map of what exists can be overlayed with tracing paper and you can start to look at how different aspects of the design might look. Many design techniques exist and most are relatively easy to use.

Implementation - Consider how your plans can be made real, consider the timing/phasing of the project. Create a plan of action and ensure that everyone knows what the plan is. (Best to involve them right from the start, if it doesn't reflect what they want to happen, it won't!)

Maintain - Make sure that you consider what maintenance is involved when you are designing. There is no point creating a system that needs 3 days a week to maintain, if there are only 2 days available.


Yeoman's Relative Permanence scale and Keyline Planning

This proposes that there are scales of permanence that guide the order in which we place attention to the design of the landscape. The first point at which we can generally make an intervention is water (since we cannot control the climate, or determine the broadscale landscape.) On this basis, the first thing to do when designing is to consider how we can guide and use water to best effect, and how we can get it to perform as many functions as possible before it leaves the site. P.A. Yeoman was an Australian who developed the Keyline System, and this has been used widely to good effect, and has transformed many previously degraded landscapes. It is a key strategy used within broadscale permaculture design. His scale of permanence is:

  1. Climate
  2. Land shape
  3. Water
  4. Roads
  5. Trees
  6. Buildings
  7. Fences and boundaries
  8. Soil


Use of the Pattern Language
This is a book by Christopher Alexander et al (Oxford University Press), that has uncovered patterns that can be observed in the way we create places to live and work. Highly recommended and an invaluable source of inspiration and guidance. Number two in a series of three books - starting with The Timeless Way of Building and ending with The Oregon Experiment.  www.jacana.org.uk/pattern/P14.htm gives a sense of how it works (but is only a summary of the full text.)