The patterns found in the natural world are a source of inspiration for permaculture. 'Pattern thinking' can be used in a wide variety of situations, unlike specific techniques which can only be used in particular situations. Permaculture aims to help you think about the overall pattern for a project by using a variety of design methods. The principles themselves are all about helping to do this. Its about looking at the 'big picture' first.

The biggest picture thinking all relates to what we are trying to achieve, which is where the ethics come in.

Zoning is a very good example of a design method that is used to help generate an overall pattern for the site and ensure that it is designed to be energy efficient. Sector analysis is another design method used to see how energy (sun, wind, wildlife, etc) flows through a site. Both of these tools help to give an overall shape to the design, before getting too carried away with the specific details to start with.

When designing it is important to gain an understanding of the local / regional patterning:

  • landscape type, including hydrology
  • underlying geology
  • local biodiversity and common habitats
  • social and cultural patterns - traditions, norms and values
Design from Patterns to Details