Site Analysis in Permaculture Design

Moving beyond basic sectors and site analysis is key to truly sustainable permaculture design.

Other garden designers are often somewhat confused by the extensive site analysis process permaculture designers go through before they even begin to formulate their designs. But as those familiar with permaculture will know – understanding of a specific site and the sectors acting on it is crucial for truly sustainable design.

Though I work remotely, on sites all over the world, site analysis is of course still a crucial part of the process. Fortunately, today, we have access to a range of online information and tools that can help us ‘see’ and observe a site fully, even when we cannot visit it in person. Of course, close collaboration and asking questions of those on the ground is also key. I have a questionnaire which I send out to all prospective clients which helps form a starting point for discussion.

All permaculture designers will look at sectors when creating their designs, using observational skills and research to obtain information about the site itself, external forces acting upon it and flows and influences from the outside as well as those within. We will look at climate, microclimate, geography, topography and soil. Sunlight, wind, water, wildfire etc. are of course key sectors.

Other directional forces are often overlooked – even by experienced designers. These include wildlife migration patterns and wildlife corridors, the encroachment of pollutants, and human beings (either directly acting on the site by walking through it or accessing the site, or through neighbouring activities).

It is only when we look at the bigger picture and the broader patterns that we can begin to identify opportunities and constraints, and edge our way closer, step by step, to a sustainable permaculture design.

All too often, garden designers only scratch the surface when undertaking site analysis. Taking a deeper look at site and sectors can allow us to truly develop the best strategies and design for a specific site.

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