Zones of human use in a permaculture system
What are "zones" in a permaculture system?
Here’s a primer on zones in a permaculture system:
Zones don’t have hard lines between them. There is edge, crossover, and change. As an observation tool, you can use zones to look for flaws in your design, and also to evaluate what’s working well. As a design strategy, zones are a super powerful way to make choices about where to place new components in your system.
Zones 1-2: Visited every day or every other day, home, work, and personal spaces that need frequent maintenance and provide steady yields.
Zone 3: Decreasing in frequency of use, and lower needs in terms of maintenance, but still relatively central to the system.
Zone 4: Season use, infrequent visits, niche purposes; often a shared space on the edge of your system that bridges the gap between your personal site and the larger community in which you live.
Zones 5 and beyond: wild areas, unmanaged; perhaps you go there and plant native seeds, or clean up trash. Or maybe you just go there to observe and learn from nature. Or maybe, you don’t go there at all.
Zone mapping calls into play these principles, among others:
- Relative location; place components in positions relative to the use of those components, and relative to their relationships with other components.
- Stacking functions; a component placed in the correct zone, relative to its function, will be available to serve other functions in that zone as well.
- Make the least change for the greatest effect; if you have an old dead car in the middle of zone 1, it will be much easier to move that car to a more appropriate zone, than it would to try and move all of your zone 1 activities to a different area.
- Work with nature, rather than against it; zone mapping will help you determine which patterns of human use can be shifted, and which are more firmly set (and should thus be designed around.)
- The edge is where the action is. Once you get a clear sense of where the center of each zone is, you’ll be able to find new, unique opportunities in the spaces between the zones.
And so on; refer back to our class on permaculture principles and see how many more you can use with your zone mapping.