What is a Permaculture Design Course? (PDC)

12246722_10154350177718626_3466963837951524604_nOur Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC) is a great fun time, the material was originally developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, co-founders of permaculture, to teach the ethics, principles and foundations of sustainable design. All PDC courses offered throughout the world must follow the same format (see course syllabus and PDC Outline) to assure that the integrity of the certification process is upheld. The course uses the book “Permaculture a Designers Manual” published by Tagari Press.  Permaculture is a design system that attempts to emulate nature and covers a wide range of topics on ecological living, energy efficiency, intensified gardening, sustainable living skills, organic agriculture, water harvesting and uses, sun, food, land and soil, and generally living in harmony with the planet and the environment.

The idea of permaculture as ‘permanent agriculture’ is still evolving. With each new break thru in Appropriate Technology new skills and ideas are added. New technologies in;  solar energy, wind energy, human energy and water energy are added all the time under the umbrella of Permaculture. New techniques in Natural Building as earth bag building or super adobe, new technology in rammed earth and well as older wattle and daub and Adobe all fall under the sustainable umbrella of Permaculture.  It is this flexibility to encompass all that makes Permaculture unique and well…sustainable!

At a minimum, any PRI certificate course shall meet the following criteria:
1.) The lead instructor is an “established permaculture teacher” with a Diploma in Education (beginning in 2015) or equal credentials . Lead instructor is present throughout the entire course and course certificate bears his/her signature.
2.)The course provides a minimum of 72 hours of direct contact with instructor(s), it includes a group design and time, homework assignments, self-study time, hands-on projects, visits to demonstration sites and other learning activities. Courses shorter than 12 contact-days are generally not offering sufficient time for learning and should be evaluated by potential students for their validity as there is alot of material covered, like a mini MBA in living skills.
3.) Course material is inclusive of, but not limited to, all subjects listed in the PDC Outline.
4.) Course includes at least one design project exercise or multiple design vignettes.
5.) Course includes a Talent Show at the end.

Curriculum: 1. INTRODUCTION – human past, present and future. – Permaculture design philosophy – holistic thinking.- Key problems:  Population – Soil erosion – Deforestation, –  Ethics of Permaculture – Earth care, People care, Return of surplus, Spirit Care –  Definitions of Permaculture. – Sustainability Outcomes – Holistic thinking – History of Permaculture. – Permanent Culture. – Urban Permaculture – Permaculture Repair. – Permaculture Aid Work. The PRI Master Plan – Permaculture in Society -Permaculture as a Holistic Design. – Conclusion to the Introduction to Permaculture

2. CONCEPTS and Themes in Design –  Hierarchy of soil creation in natural systems – Element characteristics – needs and products – the sun the source of energy – characteristics of natural ecosystems – Zone and slope analysis an example of designing elements into a system –  Plants – weeds –pioneers – niches –  Weeds – fast tracking recovery by design – techniques – Diversity leads to stability fertility – productivity – connections between elements – positioning of elements – Use of natural resources – energy – edge opportunities – Capturing energy – extending entropy – Categories of resources – Dispersal of yield over time – plant diversity – perennial plant for food advantages – Diversity & security–yield and energy inputs – The more diversity the more security – Mollisonian permaculture principals – Holmgren Permaculture Principals

3.METHODS of Design – Analysis; design by listing characteristics of components -Connections”  between elements or components – Zone analysis – sector analysis – Zones and designing with zones – Slope and orientation – 6 sectors – outside energies – Listing possibilities – selection of random assemblies – Connecting elements – simple efficiency – observation – Conclusion

4.PATTERN in Nature – Patterns in nature –  formation of pattern- working with nature and patterns – scale and order of size – Order and form – edge areas – Edge effect – working with pattern and design – Looking for existing patterns- translating pattern form – reading the land  – Re patterning a river – wind patterns – pattern used for passing on knowledge –  Traditional use of pattern – re-patterning – Pattern for productive form -The pit garden – banana circle – edge to space relationship -The pit garden – banana circle – edge to space relationship

5.CLIMATE – Climatic factors – Local knowledge – broad climate zones – Landscape effect climate, analogue -Characteristics of major climates – Orthographic effect, major landscape profiles humid-arid, minor profiles -Minor landscape profiles, 13m high island, low island

6.TREES – Trees and their energy transactions – Zone 4 – farm forestry – Tree effects,  Tree functions,  Types of forests and products – Tree effects transpiration –  photosynthesis – Forests- panage, forage, retirement, bee, pole, bamboo, – legumes as support species.

7.WATER – Fresh water on earth – Water storage –recharging LANDSCAPE – Slow, Stop, Spread, Soak techniques – Duties of Water –  Dams and Swales – Reading the land – Key-points – Placing and building dams – valley dams, saddle dams, ridge dams, contour dams, turkey dams – Dam building scenario – Putting a Pipe in a Dam – Dam Positioning

8.SOILS –  no larger subject or more diverse – Compost, chemical agriculture -pH and soil – reading the soil and weeds – ants – worms – Compost – Compost tea, bio fertilizers EM, Hugleculture, Chop and Drop, Green manures – Mineral soil livestock.

9.EARTHWORKS – Earthworks – design implementation – reading the land -Terraces, contour, swales, A frames -A frame build and how to use – Transit level Dumpy Level, laser levels – staking contour – Surveying – water pressure –cover crop – Heavy equipment machine types, names, uses – Design for property development- water design – Permaculture and Property development

10.CLIMATE DESIGN – Climates types – Local knowledge broad climate – Temperate zone –  winter (Rain)  –  Summer( DRY) – Humid tropics – dry lands – cool to cold humid – Cool to cold house: – mass of humanity lives here -Cold climate ho cold climate houses uses – Garden design by climate – Food forest by zone 2 – Compare zone 3 humid tropics, dry-land – Comparison zone 3, cool to cold

11.AQUACULTURE – Productive elements in water – Chain of life in water systems – Shallow aquaculture -Aquaponics – Free Fish Foods – Prolific Aquatic plants – synergy – Duckaponics

12. Strategies – alternative Global Nation – Invisible structures – Establishing a permaculture group – Bio-regional resilience – Definition of culture – Nonprofit – mission statements – Community land – Money and finance – non violent communications – generating community

13. Design Exercise – Description of Exercise – a comprehensive use of all elements of the course – students use and collaborate on design, elements, natural energies, sectors, winds, human energies, natural energies – land slope – soils – connections to natural systems

14.Appropriate Technology – Summary – Solar energy, Pumps, panels, dryers, ovens – Electrics,bike, motors, light – Heating, Rocket stove, solar passive, active – Natural Buildings, Adobe, Super Adobe, Rammed Earth, Wattle and Daub, Bamboo, Log cabin, RV, Tiny house, – Permaculture Jobs and Careers

Currently, there is no unified oversight for the multitude of permaculture courses offered globally. We encourage prospective learners, if in doubt, to request course syllabus from the lead instructor and compare it against the PRI criteria listed above,  or contact us with further questions. If you want to go on to be a PDC Instructor, then be sure you take your course from a PRI certified instructor as you will need this to ensure you can award a PRI endorsed “International” standard certificate.

Participants of Permaculture Design Courses that meet the criteria above receive PRI  Permaculture Design Certificates from their lead instructor(s) upon completion of the course. The certificate attests that the recipient has acquired the subjects an level of knowledge of the subject established by the founders or PErmaculture and it enables the recipient to start using the words PRI and  “permaculture” in their livelihood and professional practice.

When using permaculture strictly in their personal lives, students are able to begin applying their knowledge right away. Those wanting to use permaculture in a professional capacity must complement their certificate with an additional two years of acquiring practical knowledge and hands-on experience as well as pursuing continuing education. However, those students who come to a PDC with substantial previous experience might be ready for professional practice much sooner. Currently, there are no unified criteria to determine when each particular individual might be ready for practice. The responsibility of that decision rests with each practitioner.


Internships and Diploma
Persons who acquire substantial practical experience, achieve excellence in their professional permaculture practice and meet certain additional education requirements, are ready for the Internship Certificate or to apply for the Permaculture Diploma. Persons who wish to be instructors or teach PDC’s as lead instructors must have a PRI Australia or PRI Asia  Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and eventually a PRI Asia Diploma to do so. Co-teachers and guest instructors do not need a Permaculture Diploma.

Permaculture Design Certificate Courses offered by the Permaculture Institute Asia. PIA
PDC Outline / PDC Curriculum Links for Permaculture Teachers  see “INTERNSHIPS and APPRENTICESHIPS on the Courses page.

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Masters and PhD’s in Permaculture or related.

Murray Lane Thesis

Richard Mochelle Thesis




H StoryHoward Story – PDC – Instructor