Relative Location


Relationship is a guiding concept for the placement of circulation systems and areas where activities take place. Putting things in the right place on a site is essential to making useful connections. The effect of not paying attention to relationships is extra effort to meet needs not met within the system and waste of system outputs. Simply put, there is more work and more pollution if things aren't well related. (Patrick Whitefield in Permaculture in a Nutshell, page 14)

Perhaps a good way to understand relative location is to look at Patrick's example of The Chicken-Greenhouse:

 from: Permaculture in a Nutshell, pg. 13-14.

In this design the greenhouse is attached to the sun-side of the chicken house. The body heat of the chickens helps keep the greenhouse temperature up on cool nights and the greenhouse reheats the chicken house as the day progresses. The carbon dioxide respiration of the chickens and their manure enhances plant growth in the greenhouse. Water collected from the roof of the structures is used to supply drinking water to the chickens.

The chicken-greenhouse is further placed in a good relationship to the surrounding landscape. The chicken run is next to the wheat field and orchard making a forage connection by opening a gate. The chickens can eat the ears and grains missed in the wheat harvest and the insects in the orchard. Adding a connection to the vegetable garden puts the "chicken tractor" to work eating weeds and pests there. With this simple arrangement the need for chicken food is met from several sources.

The design of this complex of building, vegetation, animal, water and energy connections illustrates the concept of relationships. It provides a landscape that is diverse, energy efficient and sustainable. Other components in a design may be connected in a similar manner. We may also have components that we wish to keep apart because they might conflict with each other. It is important to identify these as well. The nature of the relationship may be physical, visual, audial, time- or season-related. We may want a variety of potential combinations incorporated so complex arrangements and techniques for changing relationships may be required.

Think about each component in a design as having little hands reaching out to grasp the hands of other related components. Our job is to determine which hands should be joined and the best ways to join them . We are able to relate elements in a design to each other using several techniques. The most basic is to just put them next to each other on a horizontal surface or one above the other vertically. In other instances two components may be related to each other through a shared third component -- a mud-room linking a garage and a kitchen, for example. Another way of relating components is to give them a shared circulation system as when we link a number of keyhole beds along a pathway. Different types of circulation systems offer different opportunities for creating relationship connections. Creating workable relationships is one of the main issues addressed in a design problem.