Much attention in Permaculture is directed to growing things and planning sustainable land-use. I invite you to think for a moment about Zone 0: the home. How can we apply Permaculture thinking here?
My passion for a long time has been with the design and building of houses and work-spaces that are friendly to the occupants as well as the environment. I call it “Building as if people mattered”.
What do I mean by that?
Here are 7 main qualities I hope to achieve with my designs:
- Connected to surroundings = fits into a Permaculture design of the land which includes looking at weather patterns, neighbors (human and animal) and other activities on the land. I look for the best possible relationship between all these factors, which results in ease of use and natural benefits like cooling or warming.
- Well fitting = enough room for the purpose or the activities that will happen inside. I think about getting the most use out of least amount of space while making it easy to operate inside. Designing with “what will you do in this space”.
- Planned for expansion = I encourage my clients to start by building something affordable, and in the planning include possibilities for future expansion. For example: build openings into walls that may become doors, think ahead when designing a roofline.
- Healthy for people and planet = I choose non-toxic materials, locally harvested or produced as one part of this. Another aspect is plenty of natural light, fresh air and beauty for the soul. Systems should consist of complete cycles, where whatever comes in will be treated in such a way that it will return to Mother Earth without causing harm after we’re done using it. This applies especially to water, but also to construction materials.
- Maintenance friendly = Let’s build it so that repair is easy: good access to shut-off points for water, gas and electricity. Invest in durable infrastructure (good pipes, wiring). I also teach people how to do basic maintenance and repair, on earthen walls and plasters for example.
- Materials put to their highest use = consider strength and structural needs when choosing what to build with. Cement and concrete are high strength and often overused in applications. I look for smart ways of reducing these high impact materials like vaults and using materials like stone and earth.
- Beauty = put love into the building by adding personal touches. I involve people in the process of building and invite their creativity. The energy we put in will radiate out.
Developing a sustainable lifestyle is easy when houses are planned to support us. Becoming part of natural patterns, paying attention to inputs and outputs can be facilitated by design.
In the end our experience is enriched and we feel more connected to Nature.