Structures are a component of all permaculture design. While we may think of structures as architecture or buildings, the concept really applies to all 'hard' elements of the design. Thus, structures include all buildings and shelters; landscape elements such as walks, drives, terraces, walls, fences, and trellises; and engineered roads, bridges, and drainage structures.

While structures may only consume a small portion of the site, they often consume a large portion of the budget and time involvement. The house is considered the most intensive zone of activity and the rest of the design frequently radiates out from there. However, other buildings where there are animals may demand almost as much attention. In old New England farmsteads, for example, the house and barn were often joined by covered passageways with chicken coops nearby.

Buildings may be compared to the human body in many ways. A building has a skeleton of structure that holds it up; a filling of muscle material to make rooms and spaces; a skin that covers it; circulation systems that provide for air, heat, water and waste; and a nerve system of electrical controls and communications. Architecture, in addition, is often intended to convey a message or idea -- a concept with social context and content.

In A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander discusses a patterns which give shape to groups of buildings and individual buildings on the land. Such patterns define both the buildings and the spaces between the buildings, the spaces between often being the ones of most importance for the permaculture designer. His approach assumes that if one takes patterns in order of sequence, one by one, the form will grow from the fusion of these patterns, the site and the designer's instinct. (Pattern Language, pg. 463)

Basic Elements of Landscape Architectural Design by Norman K. Booth provides direction for consideration of buildings as related to the landscape and use of landscape elements to form the structure of outdoor space. He reviews landform, plant material and buildings as the basic structural elements of a landscape; discusses the use of pavement, site structures and water; and finally presents a process for development of a design.

These two references provide a wealth of specific and practical ideas and guidance to the permaculture designer. They also provide insight to the processes and theoretical bases of architecture and landscape architecture, two disciplines with goals paralleling those expressed in the permaculture principles.


from: Basic Elements of Landscape Architectural Design, pg. 49.