Case Study: Conceptual Permaculture Design

Permaculture design usually begins with observation of a particular site. Occasionally, however, it can begin with conceptual design. The image above shows a plan developed for a client who wanted a concept plan for a permaculture retreat somewhere in northern Italy. Unusually, the client has not yet found land for the project. But wanted conceptual artwork and a report for the plans.

The client provided a visual concept image, which included a dome retreat building, yurts for accommodation, and a few of the other features included on this plan. They asked how much land would be required, what could be grown, and whether forest garden planting was possible. But other than this, the client was keen to be guided in the creation of the concept.

The goal of this design was not to meet the individual demands of a particular site. Rather, it was to show what was possible (and develop a concept about how much land might be required).

This concept aims to show how only around 1 acre of land, managed regeneratively, can be utilized meet the fruit and vegetable needs of 2 permanent residents/ caretakers and provide for guests throughout the year. 

It is tailored to the creation of such a project in northern Italy. Of course, the specific site would determine the exact layout, planting and implementation. However, this plan is designed to be illustrative of what could be possible.

Goals For This Permaculture Retreat

  • Manage approximately an acre of land regeneratively, for the benefit of people and planet.
  • Accommodate 2 permanent residents/ caretakers who will manage the site.
  • Accommodate and feed around 20 guests at a time, throughout the year. (On a 1 acre site, self sufficiency in fruits and vegetables is possible. (There is also potential to keep bees for honey. And the potential to integrate chickens for eggs into the system.)
  • Provide a restful and calming environment for people and wildlife.
  • Offer plenty of opportunities for healthy outdoors recreation.
  • Allow for the practice and dissemination of permaculture ideas.
  • Show what can be achieved when land is managed in a sustainable way.

Potential Yields

  • Output of annual and perennial fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers from annual polycultures and hugelkultur mounds.
  • Fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs and flowers from perennial forest garden carefully integrated around glades in which yurts will be placed. 
  • Biomass from forest garden, meadow and native managed woodland. (for fuel, composting etc..)
  • Cob/timber and other natural materials for construction projects/ crafts etc…
  • Non-timber forest products from woodland – e.g. mushrooms etc…
  • Potential additional yield from chickens (eggs) and bees (honey).
  • Crafted/ upcycled projects from workshop and artisanal production on site. 
  • Knowledge, skills and increased well-being. 

Imagination is key to permaculture design. We must not only be able to design regenerative systems that meet human needs and care for our planet. We must also be able work conceptually and imaginatively to dream up better solutions for our societies and our lives.

If you don’t yet have land, but need some help to conceptualise a project for the future, please do get in touch. Concept designs will, of course, not be finished form – but can help direct your efforts and give you something amazing to work towards.

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