Design Project: Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG


In my post, Creating An Example, I outlined what I want to achieve from the design project, and shared the 12 permaculture principles that provide guidance for this.

In this post, I would like to share my journey of developing the process for the project.

The branches reach out like signs in all directions

The branches reach out like signs in all directions

The way I see it, there are two parts to this:

  1. What is the overall process?
  2. In what format shall I capture the information, analysis, and reporting?

What processes are out there?

I have found a lot of the reading about the process to be quite high level and intangible. Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, which is the required reading for the course, offers a number of approaches for design methods such as:

  • design by listing characteristics of components,
  • design by expanding on direct observations of a site,
  • design by adopting lessons learnt from nature, and
  • design as a selection of options or pathways based on decisions, amongst others.

However, this doesn’t give an overall process.

So I turned to Permaculture Design by Aranya for more step-by-step assistance while this is new to me. When reading it, my first impression was that this was more what I was looking for, and it does place design in context of a project, which is helpful.

Aranya discusses a few different frameworks and their associated acronyms.

Some design frameworks

SADIMET represents Survey, Analysis, Design, Implementation, Maintenance, Evaluation, and Tweaking

OBREDIMET represents Observation, Boundaries, Resources, Evaluation, Design, Implementation, Maintenance, Evaluation, and Tweaking

Quite a mouthful, eh?

And this is where Ziga from Permablogger has put together a useful post on this.

Personally, I’m happy with a recipe-style guide, with number steps. I think the above can easily bundle similar activities together.

Choosing my process

Aranya also includes a shorter acronym in his book: CEAP.

C – Collect site information

E – Evaluate the information

A – Apply permaculture principles

P – Plan a schedule of implementation, maintenance, evaluation, and tweaking

That brings it down to 4 steps, which is far easier to remember, and not lose track of where you are in the process. Essentially, I want any process I use to be meaningful. It doesn’t really matter what you call the step; it’s what you do that’s important. I will need to reflect on whether these steps align with my process after this project is finished.

Which brings me to part 2, in what format shall I capture my work?

Capturing my work

In my working life, I was a System Manager a few short years ago, and our mantra with supporting projects was always to use the system that is fit for purpose. There are lots of systems out there, but you want to use the one that is:

  • accessible when and where you need it,
  • has training and support available to get you through the learning curve and to resolve any snags,
  • has acceptable costs,
  • scalable to your project size,
  • and importantly, fits into your processes so you can produce what you need.

My intention is to be able to take my permaculture lessons into a professional capacity in Melbourne, and since the requirements for the course assessment are so generic, it leaves presentation open to personal preference.

I had to wonder if there are industry standards for this documentation or is permaculture still finding its feet in that respect?

I found this article by Darren J. Doherty “A Case Study in Permaculture Design Business Development” published in 2007, who comments “The application of digital planning and mapping software and tools in Permaculture Design has to date not been prominent.”

This stands to reason that quick and easy documentation is the name of the game.

My formats and the promise

I’ve put together a Design Project Deliverables List in Excel to keep track of my documentation.  Letting clients know what to expect is a standard part of project delivery and enables a discussion about the level of detail they desire vs the agreed cost.

Design Project Deliverables List

You will see that I’ve organised it in terms of the design stages and noted the status.

I’m using the Microsoft Office suite, WordPress to publish and submit my work, plus a mind map from Mind Meister, all easy and free (aside from the initial cost of Microsoft Office).

The hard part for me has been the mapping, since the property is irregularly shaped.  I have used SketchUp for the base map. I had some timely local guidance for this from the director at Very Edible Gardens, Dan Palmer, who generously responded to my query about what they use and in gratitude I promised to mention it on my blog 😀  There you go, Dan!

You might be interested in seeing the responses from a question I raised in the Permaculture group on LinkedIn what they like to use for mapping, if you are a member of that group.

I liked the idea of using SketchUp as it can be used for both 2D and 3D rendering, and it can conveniently grab sections of Google Earth from within the program to sketch over.  It also has handy videos on YouTube to show different features of the program and that made the learning curve more approachable for me.  And I was able to use a free trial.  So that all makes it fit for purpose.  Hooray for making life easier!

So there you are, my process is CEAP, and I’m using computer-based tools for the documentation.  I have more C for Collect Site Information to share with you soon, including the all important client interview, base map, and PASTE analysis.

What about you?  Have you found any other useful processes in your permie work?


7 thoughts on “Design Project: Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

  1. Adrienne Smith

    Wanted to just stop by and let you know that your link for the Case Study is broken, I believe this may be the correct link:

    I’ve found your blog doing a search fro one of the long acronym tools for permaculture that I randomly came across during my research.

    I am currently doing a PDC through OSU with Andrew Millison here in Oregon, USA. 😀 I love your blog. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Adrienne! I’ve updated the broken link that you kindly found for me and it should be working now. I hope you’re enjoying your PDC! Aww that’s such a lovely thing to say, thank you!


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