Random Assembly in Permaculture Design

Permaculture Designers Manual



Section 3.7-


Random Assembly in Permaculture Design

Design by assessing the results of random assemblies

Random Assembly Post it Permaculture Design

This is another analytic method, removed from the site itself.

It is of value in assessing energy flows in the system, and is also a generator of creativity.

Because it is based on a set of essentially random selections, it may reveal some very innovative designs.


The process is as follows:

We select and list a set of design components and with them a set of placement or connective strategies.

If our components are arranged in a circle around these “connections”.

We can join them up at random, make a sketch of the results, and what it is that, we have achieved.

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This frees us from “rational” decisions and forces us to consider unusual connections for their value; connections that would be inhibited from proposing by our limited education, by cultural restraints, or by normal usage. (See Table 3.2).

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Having laid out a simple diagram, we can select any one component and connect it to others, creating images for further examination as to their particular uses and functions.


Some simple examples are:

  • Glasshouse OVER house
  • Storage box IN glasshouse
  • Raft ON pond
  • Glasshouse ON raft
  • House BESIDE pond


And, using more connections:

glasshouse CONTAINING compost heap ATTACHED TO house BESIDE pond with cave UNDER, containing storage boxes with plants IN these.

We can sketch these, and see just what it is we have achieved in terms of energy savings, unique assemblies, special effects for climate, increased yield, compact design, or easier accessibility.

As we do not usually think of these units with respect to their connections, this simple design strategy frees us to do so, and to achieve innovative results.

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Having illustrated (by way of a diagram) random assemblies, we can then think out what would happen if we did in fact build them or model them.

  • Rafts can, of course, be oriented quickly to suit seasons.
  • Caves are cool and ponds in them almost immune from evaporation.
  • Ducks are safe from predators on rafts.
  • Glasshouses on rafts will warm contained water and create thermal storages and currents.
  • Solar cells will light caves, and caves below houses supply storage and cool or warm air.
  • Trees shade houses, and so on.


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Thus, immune from ridicule and criticism, we can try various unlikely combinations and links of components (all of which probably exist somewhere), and try to assess what we have done in terms of function.

This is, if you like, working backwards from assembly to function to benefits and system characteristics.

The value of this approach is that it frees us to create novel assemblies and to assess them before trials.

Creative solutions may also be arrived at by constantly re-examining a problem, and by considering every form of solution, including that important strategy of doing nothing!



Restate a problem many ways, reverse the traditional approaches and allow every solution to be considered.

Simple solutions may be found by this process.

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The art of thinking backwards, or in opposites, is often very effective in problem-solving.

It is easier to drive an axle out of a wheel than to knock a wheel off an axle, easier to lower a potted vine down a dark shaft over a period of months than to grow it up from the bottom.

So, if we worry away at problems in terms of restatements, turning things on their head and stating the opposite, we may find that real solutions lie in areas free from acquired knowledge and values.

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