We offer a full turnkey whole systems design service for off-grid conversions & urban permaculture implementations from smallholdings, commercial property to urban homes. We are fully involved in all aspects of the profession including cost control and management, project management and liaising with consultants and contractors.

What is Whole Systems Design?

Often sustainable solutions are seen in isolation; as bolt-on options. Whether it be a rain-water harvesting system, solar PV or a food garden, clients often ask for the solutions in isolation without necessarily considering the whole system, as it were.

In whole systems design we integrate ecology, landscaping, organic gardening, architecture and agro-forestry in creating a rich and sustainable way of living. We uses appropriate technology giving high yields for low energy inputs, achieving a resource of great diversity and stability. The design principles are equally applicable to both urban and rural dwellers.

If someone is asking for a water harvesting solution, we like to consider what their ultimate vision for their home/lifestyle might be. Usually, there is a desire to live more sustainably and to be more self-resilient in the face of climate change & water shortages. With this in mind, If we are truly to create a home that is sustainable & resilient, we need to emulate eco-systems and understand that everything is related. So in whole systems design, we look at the entire property and design the entire system holistically.

This means that we make detailed observations. We consider everything from:

Sun, wind, contours, loud neighbours, soil type, traffic noise, drainage, biodiversity (yes, even in an urban garden), microclimates, groundwater, history, air movement, water flows, existing animal paths, stormwater run-off, fire corridors etc.

We collect all this data and map it out, which not only allows us to make sure we are making mutually beneficial relationships but also allows us to see potential opportunities we may not have seen previously and avoid critical and costly mistakes.

Click on the image above to see the full PDF of the design.

Taking water as an example we can ask & discover:

  • What is the water budget? What do you need water for and how much do you need to store to achieve this end?
  • Is it better to harvest rain water or sink a borehole?
  • Is it better to pump your borehole water with a solar pump or wait until you have Solar PV for the entire property?
  • How can you avoid pumping water twice? Ie. Out of the ground and again into irrigation?
  • Choosing to use drip irrigation or spray irrigation might depend on how much iron is in your water or how much clay is in your soil.
  • Where is the best place to plant your trees? Which of them thrive on grey water?
  • How are you managing drainage? Can you redirect storm water into your soil and reduce your water budget?
  • If building from scratch you can gravity feed water to your home but need to plumb the house with larger pipes?
rain-water-harvesting-cape-town

Through this process a pattern & design will EMERGE, rather than simply being imposed. This is fundamental to Whole Systems Design. Conventional architecture might consider sun, aspect and wind in a design but ultimately the concerns are for the comfort and benefit of the humans in that space. We ask how can we create a system where we achieve maximum benefit for humans, plants, animal life, soil, water and air. How can we maximize beneficial relationships?

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