Applications for Permaculture: Sectors and Flow

My own kitchen is still a work in progress. But I have used permaculture principles and design practices when designing the layout of the space.

In permaculture, when we talk about sectors what we are essentially considering is how energy will enter and move through the space. We should consider the sun, the wind, water, and also human energy, and the paths we take as we move around. How sun, wind and water etc. behave on the site will set the larger patterns which form a starting point for the design, along with maps and topographical information.

Creating a sun map is one way to get started in understanding sectors in any space. This is most often something that is employed in a garden. But it can also be useful when we are designing other systems and other spaces.

For example, looking at sectors and flow can also be useful in designing a new kitchen, or other interior space.

Sectors and Flow in a Permaculture Kitchen

Sunlight is, perhaps, the most important sector for any room in a home. Consider the angle of the sun through a window or windows throughout each day and over the course of the year. Consider the places and materials onto which that sunlight falls, and how well the energy from the sun is stored by those materials. 

New flooring of stone or ceramic tile, for example, could improve thermal mass, thereby allowing you to catch and store the sun’s energy in a more efficient and effective way. Improving thermal mass can reduce the energy needs of heating your kitchen and help to keep temperatures more constant over time.

By placing a fridge or freezer out of direct sunlight, we can help to reduce the energy use in our home.

Where cooling is a concern, simple measures such as installing window blinds can help to keep a comfortable temperature in your kitchen during the hottest part of the year.

An understanding of air movement can help you to develop a natural ventilation system that can also help to cool your home. By careful placement of internal fittings and fixtures, you may be able to keep down draughts, or create a cooling breeze simply by opening a window in the summer months.

While rain will not fall inside our kitchens as it does in our gardens, we can also still consider water flow when designing our interior spaces. New kitchen designers could consider installing a rainfall filtration system to feed a kitchen sink, while even those attached to a mains water supply could opt for a sustainable grey-water harvesting system, and use water from a sink waste to water indoors plants, or to flush a downstairs toilet. 

In any kitchen design, it is important to remember to take account of the human elements of the system – the kitchen users – any members of the household. As individuals, we may all use our kitchens in somewhat different ways – individual characters, practices, likes and dislikes should, of course, be taken into account. But there are certain things that will always be true of human occupants – in some ways, we are all the same.

Human beings tend to take the path of least resistance. We will usually walk the shortest route between two points. When designing a permaculture kitchen, think about the most natural routes that will be taken through the space, and work to disrupt and occlude these paths as little as possible. Think about the patterns of movement and try to design accordingly.

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