Design Process

Natural Systems Thinking:

Non linear Systems

Ethical Intention: Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share

TAPO: Rooted in, Grows From Thoughtful and Protracted Observation

The design process that we use comes from my Permaculture Teachers Training Course with Benjamin Farher and Kat Steele at the Esalen Institute and is one of the hot topics of Permaculture these days thanks to people like Dave Jacke. We use a hybrid one based on this simple pattern shown above, the core model, that Bill Mollison said all patterns spawn from.  It is a fluid process that allows the user to go through a linear process while accepting the holism of design.  This holistic perspective gives you the ability to back track at any moment to any step and the re-evaluation process.  When we form intention with the ethics of Permaculture and root ourselves in observation that is protracted (over an extended period of time) and thoughtful.  Then the fluidity of information and creativity can form the sacred symbol of the never ending figure eight. The other part of this process is to combine it with a linear approach to give a checklist for steps to follow and keep shifting within the figure eight.  It takes the main headers seen in the images and assigns tasks to accomplish so that we can combine patterns with rational thought.  It has been refined over the seven years of TreeYo’s existence and remains fluid because of the re-evaluation part of the design process.


For a reading on each step in more depth and with its associated tasks, click on the following links:


Ø  Observe the state of the situation to be designed and gather first impressions

Ø  Make sure observations are objective,  interpretation will come later

Ø  TAPO (Thoughtful And Protracted Observation) and Ethical Intention

Ø  Don’t just cut and paste as modern development does: Atlanta, Albuquerque, and Anchorage

Ø  Design so that it is truly reflective and responsive to place

Ø  Assessment for all people involved

Ø  Dream a future, what do we want, the WHY of the project

Ø  Develop a common statement of working together


Ø  Objective observations turn into interpretations through the lens of methods of design

Ø  Use various analysis techniques to understand the site

Ø   Elements are explored in-depth to make sure you understand- functional analysis brings about functional  interconnections

Ø  Understand your local socio-economic forces and community resources- go beyond just your site

Ø define vision through why, how and what

Ø  Bigger the group and land, the longer the process

Conceptual Planning:

Ø  Need to be creative and generate a wild host of possibilities for a site

Ø  Do this before trying to arrange the elements into a coherent whole.

Ø  Refinement of vision combined with the assessment; what will actually work.

Ø  Possibilities are winnowed through an ethical and functional sieve

Ø  Rely on principles and methods of design to unveil the design

Ø  Distinct ideas emerge through a series of creative ideas

Master Planning:

Ø  Take all of the assembled elements and array them

Ø  Use methods of design to further refine the design

Ø  Create a functional whole: define species and elements that will anchor the final design

Ø  Must sequence the implementation of the elements in a proper order.

Design and Evaluation:

Ø  Principles are displayed and articulated in design and presentation

Ø  Prime directives of Permaculture are met and enhanced, along with the goals and vision of the client

Ø  Both Broad design and patch designs are created

Ø  Never ending cyclical loop of infinity of re-evaluation and adjustments to the design, dynamic not static

Ø  Coherent conversation where one phase is dominating, yet all are engaged



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