Components are defined as the actual physical elements or social arrangements that are included in a design. They are the things manipulated in a design to achieve our goals. Components serve specific functions and are factors of cost for preservation, installation, implementation and operation.

The physical components are what landscape architects call hardscape and softscape. The hardscape components are buildings, roads and walks, utility infrastructure, patios and terraces, dams, walls and fences and so on. The softscape includes all the existing vegetation and proposed planting areas. To be complete in our permaculture thinking, we should also include the bioscape of all the living beings on the site from soil microbes to larger animals.

The social components are the arrangements made by people for the use and management of the design. At a basic level the social component is one or two people using a house and garden to meet needs. At a more complex level, the social component is co-housing agreements and arrangements, plans for managing pests, time schedules for planting or other activities, financial plans, or any other specific approaches or controls attached to the physical aspects of the design to make it function.

Bill Mollison suggests components include site, energy, social and abstract (timing, data, ethics). Our approach places his site and energy under physical components and his social and abstract under social components. In the end it is the idea of components that is important, not how they are placed in categories. Make your own arrangement. The goal is to achieve a design where we have "a beneficial assembly of components in their proper relationships." (Permaculture, pg. 37)

First we need to understand each component through an analysis of its intrinsic characteristics, needs, and products and behaviors as in the classic "chicken" example. (Permaculture, pg. 38) Then we need to make connections between components by "putting them in the right place," "arranging connections" we want to achieve, and "observing and regulating" what we have done. The better we make our connection of components the more self-regulating the system will become. (Permaculture, pg. 39) Think of design elements as having hands that need to be grasped by the appropriate hands of other elements.



Major components of design are reviewed on the following pages.