A Permaculture Design Consultation: an outline of the general process and detailed questionnaire.

Design and Consulting Outline

Step one: Questionnaire.

The design questionnaire is intended to gather as much information as possible about the clients vision, wants and needs.

Step two: Create base map and survey the site.

The base map contains only what is already existing on the site in as much detail as possible.
The mapping phase can include contour maps, geological maps, climate maps, etc.
The site survey is an accounting of all other relevant data that may pre-exist on the site but can not be included on the base map. (Soil test, usage history, solar data, climate data.)

Step Three: Review of base map and questionnaire.

This is a conversation and dialog to asses the best options based on the information already gathered.

Step Four: Draft design proposals.

The design team will come up with several draft proposals that fit with the clients vision, wants and needs.
The proposals will usually be in the form of a map and be accompanied by descriptions if necessary.

Step Five: Review of proposals.

The design team and client will review and evaluate the various design proposals and arrive at a final design proposal.

Step Six: Final design

The final design will be a detailed design map which may be accompanied by other resources that compliment it. Possible additions to the design map include: implementation and maintenance schedules, species lists and plant source lists, costing analysis etc.


Design Questionnaire

The following questions will enable a designer or team to understand a potential project prior to beginning work. Please answer in as much detail as possible.  The scale and purpose of a project will make some of the questions and areas more relevant than others.


Other people who will be involved


State as clearly as possible the overall vision for your site or project.
What duration are you going to be involved in this project?

What degree of detail /presentation do you need for your project?

Professional architectural drawings or construction plans.
Formal presentation for grant funding or other business purposes.
Less formal maps or presentations for personal use.
Phone or email consultation only.
Other, please describe:




Goals: What would you like to achieve, short, medium, long term?

Please consider what goals you may have in the following areas :


 To what degree would you like to be self sufficient and in what areas?
Water, energy, food, money
If self-sufficiency is one of your main goals then what do you like to eat and in what quantities?


Domestic use, drinking, heating, bathing, grey/black water etc.
Farm use, Irrigation, dams, ponds, tanks,
Aesthetic/recreation use, fountains, swimming pools etc.


Roads, paths, etc.


Buildings, houses, sheds, fences etc.
Energy efficient building, natural building
What are your goals and desired comfort level for your structures? (heating, cooling, ventilation, fire proofing.)


gas, electricity, heating, cooling, solar, micro-hydro etc.


Veggie gardens
Annual crops
Perennial crops


Worm farms

Trees, shrubs

Orchards, vineyards, food forests, timber




Environmental mitigation and micro-climate management

wind, sun, flood, drought, fire, frost


Small scale
Medium size farming/family farm
Broad acre


Children, guests


Are you concerned with how your property looks from the outside?
How would you like it to look and feel from the inside?
What kind of aesthetic would you like for your project on an overall basis and for individual areas within the site. (Ordered, classical, neat, rustic, modern, orderly chaos, natural, wild, etc.)
What do you find aesthetically pleasing? Displeasing?



Nature conservation, ecosystem regeneration, wildlife.


How involved would you like to be with your community and neighbors?

Resources – Assess and describe individually if multiple people or organizations are involved.


How much time to you have available to work on your site?
What pattern would you like  your time to take? From a few hours daily, large weekend blocks, to full time work.
Intended time away, vacation, travel, business etc.
Consider assessing your weekly schedule and see if there is room for the time you would like to spend on your project.


How much energy do you have to put in?
Health, strength, etc.


Relevant skills of all people involved.
Do you have the skills to do the things you want to do?
What do you enjoy doing?
Are you able to spend time learning new skills? (remember to note this in the time section above.)
How much contract or hired help would you be wiling to employ?
Do you have the option for volunteer help, or community, neighbor or family help? (Example: hold a weekend workshop on small home gardens, and invite your community to participate.)


Pattern of use. Monthly, yearly, initial investment, future windfall.
Existing resources.


Are there aspects or ways that the community can be a resource?

Some general questions:

What do you really like about your site? Dislike?
What do  you want to keep as it is? Change?
What works best or is the most difficult?

Base Map

The base map can be a cooperative effort between the client and design team.

Items to include:

Boundaries – internal and external.

walls, fences, hedges etc.

Buildings and physical structures


Roads, paths, doors, windows


On a larger scale they can be noted as types of vegetation or groups of plants
Smaller sites can list and locate individual species.


Broad: Ponds, streams, springs, mains, marshes, dams, etc.
Small: Taps, downpipes, roof tanks, grey water


Type: sand, gravel, clay, pH, mineral content, microbiology etc


Degree of slope, aspect, contours


Shade, sun, partial sun


Power-lines, gas, sewer, phone etc.

Evaluate existing elements and systems according to:


Site survey

The site survey will contain information that is key to the site and design, but may not be included on the base map. The site survey can be done cooperatively between the client and design team, the more information the client is able to provide the fewer hours the design team will have to spend.


How was this land used in the past?
How many owners have occupied it?
What might it have looked like prior to any human use?


Type, mineral content, nutrient content, structure.


Animal habitat, endangered species or plants on site.

Landform details

Altitude, steepness, solar aspect, erodibility, water storage potential

Climate data

Highs, lows, averages, rain, drought, climate change trends

Growing seasons


Wind, storm, fire, flood data

Microclimate data

Wind directions and season, frost pockets, etc.

Off site assets

Buss stops, schools, highways, shops, national forests, parks, etc.


Good views, bad views etc.

Design Proposal

The design proposal is presented to the client after considering all the previous information and forming it into a cohesive design map and written or verbally communicated plan.

The proposal can address these areas:


What does the client want to achieve – specifically.


 Methods, themes, strategies, theories, style and layouts for achieving the aims.


Exact definitions, plans, planting list, species, step by step instructions, costing, spacing, suppliers, timelines, implementation plans, maintenance plans, yield estimates, rainfall calculations, etc.


 Some things must come before others.

Workload patterns:

Harvest times, maintenance, planting, pruning etc.
Workload patterns can be divided and applied to each proposed system: Animals, trees, crops, structures etc.


Estimates or exact sums for proposal.


Analysis tools

Active listening.

Input output and link analysis.

Zone-sector analysis.

Options and decisions.

SWOC – Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, constraints.



4 thoughts on “A Permaculture Design Consultation: an outline of the general process and detailed questionnaire.”

  1. Thanks for this. I’m getting very burned out on the longevity of the process. I sure hope the work makes it worth it. It’s taken three months, and we’re just at “Costing.” I hope this is par for the course. I’m not sure I could recommend it–the process, that is.

    • I hear you, and thoughtful design before taking action is really essential for creating efficiency and success in the long term. I’m not sure if you have taken a PDC, but without at least that under your belt, the process won’t make as much sense. Taking a PDC or bringing on a professional Permaculture consultant will help connect everything together. It’s also hard to say what the time-frame or budget for design should be without knowing the scope of your project.


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