Permaculture is an integrated approach to designing healthy, productive and environment friendly spaces.
The goal of it is to care first of all for the people and their close surroundings. Everybody matters, we should care for individuals, groups and entire communities so they have the best living standards. This is possible by designing them an environment friendly home that provides food, shelter, safety, clean water, and all their basic needs.
Besides that it also wants to ensure the future of the planet. Through designing by a couple of “rules” we make it possible to have a sustainable and productive environment.
The first rule is that you have to learn how the nature in your surroundings work, what they need and what the value of it is. What happens when the forest next to your home is gone? How will it affect your life? Will you lose food?
The second rule is to store as much energy as possible. In wet countries it is possible by several technologies. For example it is done by designing your building right so you don’t have to cool or heat it, and by storing all the rainwater.
The third rule is to produce no waste. We have to design our products and buildings so everything can have a second life (down cycling.) We make sure it does not lose any value and give something new in every step of the way (cradle to cradle). Besides the second life we try to produce our food and other necessities on the site where we live and lower down the embodied energy.
The last rule is permaculture is a very slow process. Don’t make massive changes at once because it will disturb the natural rhythm of the nature and it surroundings.
Examples in Architecture
An example of permaculture design is a site in the Philippines that I visited this summer, the Cabiokid Foundation. In this project they split the 5.5 ha of ground in different zones. The first zone is living, which is used for ecotourism and here they have built houses out of the local materials like bamboo. Also they keep the animals they use for food next to it. The next area is the farming zone—the name of the zone already tells us this space is used for producing food for humans and animals. Once you walk through this zone you will come out in the forest. The forest is used for the growth of bamboo and wood for the building of the ecological houses on the site. The last two zones are almost never entered so that nature can repair itself. Because this technique is used on the site the biodiversity of the place is very high—almost 90% of the things they need comes form their own ground.
This way of designing the place allows for the community to improve the quality and productivity of their own lives. It means we can eat healthy food and live in healthy communities without the influence of price elasticity. Doing this will not only affect the health of the community but also give them more profit, yield less energy use and almost no pollution.
Such example brings us to how permaculture is applied through existing modern designs. To prove you don’t need a lot of agriculture area to be sustainable is the next project of a renovated office building in the centre of the city of Tokyo, Japan. It uses permaculture in an urban way. The first step the architects took is to put a lot of greens in an around the office building. They did it on the outside by putting a second façade in front of the existing building with a lot of greens. On the inside they used planters in all formats for fencing between office rooms or just to have a beautiful accent in the room.
These plants are not only put their for the sake of a nice interior, but also to lower down the emission of the building and regulate the indoor climate of the office (humidification, shading, and oxygen). Next to that they also produce a lot of food that can be consumed by the employees.
The second step that has been taken in this project is the use of renewable energy. Solar panels are applied to the roof so the cost of the energy will lower down.
By designing the building this way it will improve the biodiversity, lower down the footprint of the company, feed a lot of people and teach them where food comes from and how it grows.