Permaculture Design Certificate


Permaculture is a design science utilizing an innovative systems-approach to consciously cultivate landscapes, human settlements, and smallholder farming systems that integrate functional diversity and biological fertility by mimicking natural ecosystems.

Introduction to Permaculture

    • Evidence of the state of the world
    • Philosophy, history, and impact of current cultural values

Learning Goals:

    • Understand how current cultural values have evolved throughout history
    • Provide a framework for a new perspective of our current worldview

Ethics and Principles

    • Earth Care,
    • People Care ,
    • Fair Share (distribution of surplus)
    • Limits Aware (constraints to consumption and population)
    • Holmgren’s 12 Principles and their correlation to Mollison’s Principles

Learning Goals:

  • Know the permaculture ethics and their applications in culture
  • Understand that values guide design decisions
  • Comprehensive understanding of ecological design principles and how to apply them across cultural domains

The Local Ecosystem

  • Observation skills
  • Principles of ecology
  • Reading the landscape

Learning Goals:

  • Get to know the place where the design comes about
  • Describe the flow of energy through the system, the cycling of materials within it, and the feedback loops that integrate it

    Patterns and Pattern Application

      • Visible patterns in nature: Form follows function
      • Tools and methods for noticing patterns and interpreting significant changes
      • Examples of applying pattern to design

    Learning Goals:

      • Recognize and analyze patterns found in the natural world and apply them to landscape design

    Climates, Biogeography and Microclimates

      • The global climate system, natural history, and climate change
      • Characteristics of temperate, tropical, humid and arid climates, and design strategies for each
      • Assessment of current and changing climate and adaptations to it
      • Biomes, genetic distribution, biodiversity
      • Climate near the ground: Aspect, slope, vegetation, surfaces and structures
      • Design of windbreaks

    Learning Goals:

      • Gain awareness of species and technologies appropriate for specific climate
      • Understand how permaculture design impacts climate on different scales
      • Implement strategies that lessen risk of climatic extremes.

    Design Methods and Process

      • Whole systems thinking, observation and pattern recognition
      • Data gathering (including access to public information) and assessment; inventories
      • Analytical methods: Site analysis and patterning; sectors, zones, elevations, slope and orientation;
      • Mapping concepts and elements; mapping with simple skills and tools using scales from data
      • Conceptual design; bubble diagram
      • Sequence and implementation;  flow charts; budgets
      • Graphical representation; presentation skills; importance of documentation

    Learning Goals:

      • Understand the practice of design as a discipline
      • Evaluate ecological design frameworks and suitable applications
      • Observe, analyze, and assess a site to determine resources and constraints
      • Draw zone and sector maps and flow diagrams for a site design
      • Apply whole systems thinking and problem-solving; integrate elements, principles, relationships, and emergent properties of dynamic systems
      • Demonstrate comprehension of the site design verbally and graphically

    The Home System

      • Patterns and elements of domestic self-reliant economies
      • Distribution of economic function by zone and sector analysis
      • Transition from consumer to producer households

    Learning Goals:

      • Understand the pivotal role of household capacity in resisting economic exploitation
      • Design an example home system by placing buildings, vegetation, and infrastructure


      • The hydrologic cycle
      • Conservation, water’s functions, matching quality to use
      • Water harvesting and storage in built containers, in ponds, and in ground  
      • Tropical, arid, and temperate strategies

    Learning Goals:

      • Understand the water cycle and the importance of water
      • Determine water  ow in landscape and through domestic systems
      • Apply conservation measures to one’s own life


      • Key-line design, micro-catchments, and check dams
      • Use of leveling instruments and construction of swales
      • Design and construction of earthen dams and ponds

    Learning Goals

      • How to channel and store runoff  by proper location and building of these elements


      • Soil biology and function in the ecosystem
      • Soil texture, structure, classification, and testing
      • Fertility management and soil repair

    Learning Goals:

      • Read the soil of place and determine what it needs
      • Ways to build healthy soil in any environment, including sheet mulch and compost

    Trees, Forests, Plants, and Cultivated Ecologies

      • Architecture, growth, and function of trees; placement and role of forests
      • Guilds and polyculture
      • Agroforestry, tree crops, multifunctional hedgerows, and orchard design  
      • Plant selection and identification; life strategies, succession, and niches
      • Plant physiology and propagation
      • Design and establishment of vegetable gardens and edible landscapes
      • Season extension: Cloches, hoop houses, greenhouses, and other techniques
      • Integrated Pest Management
      • Seed saving and exchange

    Learning Goals

      • Understand forest succession, plant layers, and diversity within the forest  
      • Basic botany; identify types of plants and understand their roles
      • Propagate four different types of plants
      • Understand polycultures and the niches of plants
      • Knowledge of decision-making tools to work with pest challenges


      • Designs that integrate plants and animals (alley cropping, rotational grazing, etc.)
      • Roles and habitats of small and large livestock
      • General husbandry: Food, hygiene, health care, protection, reproduction
      • Breed selections: Needs, yields, and characteristics
      • Land management

    Learning Goals

      • A basic understanding of care for diverse species of animals
      • Awareness of animal impacts on the land and how to use them
      • Know how to attract beneficial wildlife


      • Aquatic ecology: Trophic food web, limiting factors, and design criteria
      • Chinampas and other cultivated aquatic ecosystems
      • Aquaponics; species choices

    Learning Goals

      • Apprehend methods of diversifying water bodies on large and small scales

    The Built Environment

      • Placing of structures relative to climatic conditions, elevation, functions
      • Building design for comfort and function; appropriate materials; passive solar heating
      • Natural building vs. Green building; energy sources and standards
      • Energy uses, efficiency, and retrofits
      • Examples of different natural building techniques

    Learning Goals

      • Address design for function: Energy conservation, shape and placement, materials, utility elements and aesthetics

    Waste and Bioremediation

      • Conservation and recycling of materials in households and society
      • Reclamation and re-use of grey-water, blackwater, and soil and water on toxic sites
      • Hygienic capture, treatment, and cycling of human waste
      • Closed-loop manufacturing strategies (cradle to cradle)

    Learning Goals

      • Guidelines to closing soil nutrient loops
      • Assess personal practices regarding material use


    Appropriate Technology

      • Holmgren’s Future Scenarios: Relation of energy and technology to social structure
      • Low, intermediate, and high technologies
      • Examples, sources, and importance of appropriate tools
      • Energy sources and energy-conserving technologies
      • Renewable energy generation: Solar, wind, hydro, bio-fuels

    Learning Goals

      • What makes technology appropriate, and how to use energy efficiently

    Design for Catastrophe

      • Types of disaster, impacts, risks, planning, and responses
      • Analysis, behavior, and mitigation

    Learning Goals

      • Be able to identify and prevent potential site problems through good design
      • Increase resilience by knowing how to prepare for emergencies and disasters

    Urban Permaculture

      • Patterns in human settlement;  flows and orders
      • Constraints and opportunities in the urban context
      • Local food security, energy alternatives and building techniques, waste cycling

    Learning Goals

      • Be able to apply appropriate permaculture strategies in urban areas

    Broadscale Landscape Design

      • Development of Zones 3, 4, and 5
      • Practical procedures in property design • Strategies for farmers
      • Wildlife habitat

    Learning Goals

      • Understand imperatives and challenges of rural regeneration, income from acres

    Design for Invisible Structures

      • Types and importance of invisible structures: Hierarchies and networks, information   
      • Strategies in community organizing and development
      • Issues of land use and building regulation, law vs. practice

    Learning Goals

      • Evaluate health and conviviality of legal and social environments

    Economic Systems

      • Household and community economies: Natural, human, and social capital
      • Real wealth: Degenerative, generative, and regenerative assets
      • Formal and informal complementary currencies; community lending and banking
      • Right livelihood and making a living

    Learning Goals

      • Awareness of examples of non-formal and formal economics
      • Familiarity with sustainability-related value systems such as triple bottom line

    Access to Land

      • Trusts: Private and public for housing, farming, forestry
      • Group purchase: Co-housing, intentional community, urban community block
      • Legal forms of tenure: LLC vs. partnership
      • Use of commons, landless movements and strategies

    Learning Goals

      • Revisit the ethics of land care
      • Understand some of the benefits and challenges in living in intentional communities
      • Know how and where to look for land to grow food

    Ecovillage and Neighborhood Design

      • Working at the political / personal edge to achieve effective land stewardship
      • Use of PC principles: Design, education, planning social and invisible structures
      • Infrastructure development and  financing
      • Defined governance and ownership structure; collective management and adaptation
      • Develop and promote a local, ecological, and economic base
      • Shared responsibility and predictable challenges
      • Intergenerational connections and responsibility; community cohesion

    Learning Goals

      • Know how to design physical and invisible structures that encourage and support healthy community interaction

    Permaculture Scene

      • Local, regional, and global networks and organizations

    Learning Goals

      • The local, regional, and global Permaculture networks and how to join them

    Design Projects and Presentations

      • Visioning, action learning, advocacy
      • Group intelligence, cooperation, project management


    Learning Goals

      • Gain insight to the value of collaboration and multiple voices for holistic design

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