PDC Syllabus

The UPISF Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) training is based on the internationally “standardized” 72-hour format explicated by Bill Mollison in the 1980’s. The 72-hour training, based on the Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual (Mollison), though commonly acknowledged by permaculture teachers around the world as a base from which to work has no rigorous content standardization (there is consistency in content categories/chapters and semantics) and as such one finds slight (sometimes not so slight) differences from teacher to teacher and course to course.

UPISF has, firstly, partially re-organized the 72 hour training by combinging certain segments (e.g., looking at designing human settlement (especially structures and food production practices) in the Tropics, Temperate and Drylands climate zones comparatively instead of in their respective climate zones separately) and, secondly, augmented the 72 hours by 13 hours to focus on urban/central city core application of permacutlure principles as well as specific techniques and strategies appropraite for San Francisco. Additionally, we add 12-20 hours of additional content if specific hands-on work for food production methods and implementing other techniques and strategies. For clarity, these augmentations are in addition to the globally acknowledged curriculum.

It is also the case that in any PDC the examples, techniques and strategies demonstrated typically reflect the climate zone and region of the site of the training. Therefore one can expect to see an emphasis on demonstrations and hands-on training applicable to temperate, nearly sub-tropical and semi-arid, coastal climates and, urban scale applications in particular in a UPISF training.

Finally, we also require a practicum – a group design project where we invite participants to apply their design training on an actual site and present thier work back to the class for feedback and constructive critique.

Permaculture Philosophy and Underlying Assumptions

The Permaculture Ethics (DM 1.2)
Land use ethics (DM 1.3)
Concepts and Themes in Design (DM 2)
Permaculture Principles Summary (DM 2.3-2.10)
Permaculture in urban environments (Permaculture One 10.1, 10.2)
Permaculture as Accounting (DM 1.2)
Design Process Model

Design Methods

Design Tools
Drawing Tools
Mapping tools and techniques
Additional assessment techniques

Patterns (DM 4)

General observable pattern forms
Problem Solving

Climate (DM 5)

Classification of climatic zones
Continental, maritime, landscape effects
Global weather systems -flow patterns driven by the sun
Climate as limiting factor in vegetation
Role of trees/vegetation in climate modification
Microclimates and how to influence them

Trees and their energy transactions (DM 6)

Wind effects

Perennial Agriculture

Patterns of Permanent Agriculture
Food Production Techniques and Strategies from the 3 Climate Zones
Designing Guilds and Polycultures
Perennials, Cultivars and Planting Plans


Hydrologic cycle
State of global water cycle
Design for Water Supply
Water Storages
Infiltration Earthworks
Designing for Water Conservation
Conserving water in the garden
Current home use and conservation
The Ecosystemic effects of water solutions


Introduction to Soil (DM 8.1)
Soil and health (DM 8.2)
Soil structure and texture (DM 8.3, 8.4, 8.5)
Plant nutrients
Soil Composition
Soil food web
Plant indicators of soil
Soil rehabilitation and difficult soils
Building soil
Maintenance of soils
Soil Toxicity
Compost teas
Compost Strategies

Housing and Structures

Green building
Natural building
Low Energy Building Design Principles
Material Selection
House design
Passive Solar


Cost and ethics of earthworks
Stacking Functions with Earthworks
Planning Earthworks
Planting After Earthworks
Types of Earthworks
Moving the Earth

Human Settlement Design

Natural Building


Energy Basics and Definitions
Supply and Demand Analysis
Supply Renewable and Diverse
Demand Side Conservation and Efficiency
Appropriate technology


`Permaculture Life Design

Alternative Global Nation

A New United Nations
Bioregional organization
Trusts and Non-Profit Structures
Economics and Currency Strategies (DM 14)
Worker owned cooperatives

Design Presentations

Where do we go from here