Permaculture Designers Manual



Section 3.6-

Data Overlay in Permaculture

Design by map overlays

In design courses at modern colleges, students are taught to labor assiduously over maps, overlays on those maps, and overlays on the overlays.

This approach should also be considered. However, as a methodology, it is at once more expensive, possibly more time-consuming, and potentially the most confusing of all approaches.

Like the system of options, it leads to certain inevitable ground placements, and perhaps to uneasy compromises not necessarily inherent in the preceding methods.

The danger here is that the map overlays omit minutiae, and can never reveal evolutionary processes.

Where a mapping and hard data approach is weakest, however, is that some factors are not able to be  mapped  (ethical,  financial , and  cultural  constraints), and that it is very difficult to include those site-relevant details revealed by observation , or indicated at once by our analytic method of component inputs and outputs.

Despite this, a good site map makes any landscape design (and this is only part of the total design) much easier, and far more visual.

A good map indicates a lot of sensible options and hypotheses (dam sites, soil/crop suitability) which can later be checked with actual site conditions, available clay for dams, existing useful vegetation, threatened habitat and so on.

The danger of the purely analytic and overlay approaches is that the very remoteness of such systems makes flexibility difficult, occasioning unforeseen work and expense, which are not incurred by the more empirical  and flexible  “observation” and  “option” systems.

The latter both allow a flexible response to fresh conditions.