GOBRADIME step 5: Analysis

Reviewing data, organizing information, and making decisions for your design project.

What is analysis and why do we need to do it?

  • What are the economic and ecological costs to implement and maintain the design?
  • What are the yields and how can they be improved?
  • Where are the imbalances and how can they be corrected?
  • What work can you avoid doing?
  • What are the best and worst places for each component?
  • How is everything affecting everything else?
  • How can you use what is available now to turn problems into solutions?
  • If nothing was there, what would you bring in?
  • How can you best adhere to my ethics and principles, with the least amount of input and the greatest benefit to yourself and the earth?

These are the main questions that the analysis step of the design process seeks to answer, so that we can determine where to place components, and how best to connect them to each other.

Quick recap of the deliverables you should have in hand before starting this step:

  • Site selection & base map
  • Components list
  • Species lists
  • Stakeholder interviews 
  • Goals, mission, vision statement
  • Observation and site assessment notes
  • Base map
  • ​Zone maps
  • Sectors overview map
  • Edge & microclimates maps
  • Personal boundaries assessment
  • Resources maps, notes, and/or diagrams
Welcome to Analysis!

Traditional data analysis comes in several flavors, all of which can be helpful to us at this stage:

Tools for your Permaculture Analysis

SECTOR ANALYSIS

Use sector analysis to determine the viability of your ideas and reveal problems and opportunities.

​Your final design will have an overall sectors map PLUS several additional sector maps, depending which sectors pose the largest threats and/or potential for your site. Usually a design will include extra details about water flows, waste cycles, and human throughways, and if you’re seeking a deeper and more holistic and egalitarian set of results, then it makes sense to pay extra attention to oft-marginalized sectors such as wildlife corridors, social relationships, and the flows associated with your “inner” landscape. 

Click here to download PDF

If you haven’t started work on your sector analysis yet, it’s time to pay careful attention to this design task. Working on sector analysis is a great way to review and incorporate the ideas from climate, ecology, water, earthworks, soil, and solar aspect, among other things. Your sector analysis should help you identify the risks, or major extremes that will threaten the longevity of your design projects whether they be fire, flood, drought or legal challenges.

To analyze your sector maps, start with looking for how the varied uncontrolled factors flow through your site, and then expand your thinking to search for flows within the flows. Look for places they brush past each other, and look for places they collide. Look for where they create waste, and where they create opportunities. Look for problems, and solutions.

​One way to perform a thorough sector analysis would be by comparing your sector maps with the types of analysis listed in the infographic above. Try making a chart like this one, then go through all of your observations and try to answer questions in each section.

An example of a permaculture sector overview map, created by one of our PDC students, Cindy Fetzer. For a better view and to see more examples go to the Alumni Gallery.

ETHICS AND PRINCIPLES ANALYSIS

Remember the principles cards you made at the beginning of the course? Here is a good place to use them. Shuffle them and take them out one at a time. Think about all the information you have gathered so far in relation to the principles. Assess how well your emerging design uses each principle. What can you add in?

Do the same with the ethics. Does the information you have gathered so far enable you to design with all three ethics in mind? How will your design demonstrate all three ethics? What can you add in?

If you didn’t make cards, or if you just want to review the massive list of ethics principles from the chronology we created, go here.

EDGES & MICROCLIMATES

Use edge & microclimates analysis to inform the placement of plants, structures, and other components.

This is connected to sector analysis, but more zoomed in. Review observations, re-examine inner boundaries, edges, and intersections, and add information to your maps and notes as needed. Use the information you have collected about microclimates to make decisions about where you will place components–especially plants. Microclimates analysis helps you make sure you don’t place the woodpile in a spot that you should be planting bananas, and so on. It also helps you find and create ways to increase yield, decrease labor, and improve the overall functionality of your system. 

SCALE OF PERMANENCE

Use Scale of Permanence analysis to organize your data and consider the impacts of the changes you want to make.

Scale of Permanence analysis versus observation

In observation, we use the scale of permanence as a checklist of things to look for. It creates a memory tool, and helps us to understand the potential impact any of our germinating ideas might have on the long terms ecosystems of the site. If you didn’t use the scale of permanence for your observations, please revisit that class now, and especially dive into this article by Taj Scicluna.

Here in analysis, we can use SOP again, to:

  • Check in with ethics
  • Review and organize data
  • Assess whether an idea is realistic
  • Begin to visualize time passes for implementation
  • Determine the potential damage and/or benefits your proposed changes will create.

Remember that, for every change you make that is meant to increase yield for you, you should also add something to your design that cycles resources back into the land. Close the loop. SOP can help you do that.

How to use the Scale of Permanence to analyze your design

Step 1: review and organize your observations using the scale of permanence, starting with most permanent/hardest to change. Here’s the list, in descending order, and yes of course it’s malleable. We’re manifesting organisms, not mechanisms, and the boundaries will always interconnect. That being said, having some linear processes into which we can stitch our masses of data and ideas, can really help.

  1. Climate
  2. Landform
  3. Water
  4. Roads and paths
  5. Structures
  6. Microclimates
  7. Fences, trees, hedges
  8. Gardens
  9. Human relationships
  10. Aesthetics

Step 2: review your fantasy designs, brainstorms, stakeholder interviews, goals, boundaries, and resources, and make a list of the changes you plan to make in the next twenty years. Think of your list of components. Think placement, connections, systems, flow. Write a list of complete sentences, each with a subject and a VERB. Actions. Make a list of actions you will take. Focus on the bigger yet finite projects within each area of your site. Don’t get stuck in details like the whole list of mini-tasks for each big task. (We’ll do that in implementation.)

Examples:

“Build a greenhouse on the SW corner, with a bathhouse inside of it.”

“Create a closed loop water system that includes roof catchment, gray water, garden irrigation, the greenhouse/bathhouse, and a pond”

“Plant a multifunctional hedgerow on the entire south boundary”

Step 3: for this step, it helps to transfer the items on your list into index cards or something similar (iOS app Cardflow is great, and free), so you can shuffle them around. Then, try to place your ideas on the scale of permanence. Go through each action you plan to take

Here’s an example, using some of the common changes permaculture designers make:

ZONES

Use zone analysis to inform placement and assess whether existing patterns and boundaries need to change.

Refer to your zone maps and analyze your site in bite-sized chunks, starting with the center and working outward. ​

Go through your place, zone by zone, and analyze every component you encounter. As you analyze each component, also analyze the relationships in which that component is involved. In addition to considering the types of analysis discussed above, try the methods below (IOA, PMI, and SWOT) to help you decide what stays, what goes, and what relationships need to change. 

IOA: INPUT-OUTPUT ANALYSIS

​Use input-output analysis to determine the value and viability of a component and discover relationships it could conduct.

How to do an input-output analysis

  1. First, list the INPUTS your component will require. Think of inpits in three categories: internal/coming from on-site; local external, meaning the input comes from nearby and was produced in your bioregion; and exotic external, meaning the input will come from far away and likely cause a lot of pollution before it enters your system. The more external an input is, the less sustainable its role in the system.
  2. Next, predict the outputs and outcomes. Think about waste as well as yields. Again, consider the onsite/internal impacts on your system, as well as the regional and global outcomes. 
  3. Finally, compare the inputs of each component with the outputs of others, and vice-versa. Can you close the loop? Can you see how this type of assessment can help you make important decisions about your design?
  4. As time goes on, monitor the inputs and outputs to see if your predictions were correct, and also to see how they change, and adjust your design accordingly.

Do an additional IOA for every component that will be connected to or influenced by the component you’re analyzing. In this way, you can follow resource loops through your system, and tighten connections as you go.

​PMI: POSITIVE, MINUS, INTERESTING

Use PMI to understand the basic qualities of a component. 

Start with Positive points, and not allow any Minus points until you can’t think of any more Positives.

​Interesting points can be added as they come up, whenever you think of something that doesn’t really fall under positive or negative, but still influences plans and decisions.

SWOT: STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, THREATS

Use SWOT to identify imbalances and reveal potential connections. 

SWOT analysis is a tool for brainstorming and can be used on your own or in a group. Some people prefer to say Challenges instead of Threats. Go around and try to think of as many points as possible for each section. Look for ways you can us the strengths and opportunities to balance out the weaknesses and deal with the threats.

RANDOM ASSEMBLY & INTUITION

​We vote yes for this, at least some of the time, perhaps a blurb about ecopsychology? Phenomenology, happenstance, chaos as an equal partner in a natural balanced system

Does it spark joy?

That’s it for this sample class!

(If you were enrolled this would be the homework section with details about what to produce for this step of your design project)

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