Permaculture Design: Every Function Is Supported By Various Elements

This principle of permaculture design is important for two reasons; to identify which functions are more important and to ensure that the functions are supported by at least two elements. The whole point of identifying functions is to ensure that those that are more critical are addressed by a permaculture design. And while this may seem like an obvious point to remember, forgetting about it can lead to disastrous consequences. Resilience is the main reason why a design should ensure that every function is addressed in at least two ways.

This principle thrives behind the reasoning that by building multiple systems to address one function, any weak links that may exist in the design are eliminated. All points of failure are eliminated and this increases the chances of survival should any unforeseen circumstances arise. So which functions are considered the most critical in a design?


This is considered the most important function in a permaculture design because without it, all life crumbles. Main water supplies are available in urban areas to cater to this function. Rainfall is also an important source of water for human consumption, animal consumption and gardens. In this case, the main water supply provides water if there is no rainfall or a wastewater recycle system and vice versa, thus ensuring continued existence of food forests. This fuction can be served by the following elements among others:

  • Chisel ploughs: These are used to break up compacted soil without disrupting the structure of the soil. Channels that are 30cm in depth are dug into the ground to improve aeration, drainage and penetration of water. Additional benefits include keeping organic matter on the soil surface, which helps to prevent soil erosion and serves as mulch.


  • Swales: Dirt that is removed from trenches is banked up on the downhill side creating what is known as a berm. The berm is planted with nitrogen fixing plants and/or cover plants which if fully developed, they help to increase the fertility of soil. Swales also help to slow down the flow of water, thus preventing soil erosion.


Permaculture designs need to be able to provide resilient sources of food. A good food system should be able to provide food throughout the year, provide a variety of foods, provide food from multiple sources and provide food through several varieties of the same tree or plant. To ensure that these requirements are met, consider planting a variety of trees that mature at different times of the year. For instance, plant both perennials and annuals.

The principles of functional design for sustainability

Other functions that need to be addressed by a permaculture design include energy, fire protection etc. Every function in a system is highly important, hence the need to ensure that it is addressed in at least two ways. To learn more about how you can meet different functions in a permaculture design, enroll at Open permaculture school or regenerative leadership institute.