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Open Source software for designing, implementing and maintaining sustainable human habitats using permaculture as a design system.



The project is based on the integration of the Open Source culture with the permaculture movement, seeking to enhance its development by providing new ways of documenting, communicating and applying collective intelligence in this area.

The objective of the project is to promote the design and implementation of spaces using permacutlure as a local action strategy in search of solutions to the major problems facing humanity at present, seeking, among other things, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and increase the resilience of food production systems.

Although permaculture projects are mainly considered small-scale projects, often family or in the community, the repercussion can be large scale and global in adding the application of these in multiple instances. By making a design software that offers ease of use, more people can learn the benefits of permaculture and take action on their property.

Currently, many people make designs using permaculture as a design system, whether for personal or professional use, doing the work by hand or using different computer applications that were not designed specifically for this work, such as  graphic design or diagram design applications.

Having a specific tool for permaculture design allows us to provide the appropriate functionalities for each method as well as to integrate the information generated by each one of them, facilitating the different stages of the design.

Having permaculture design principles & practices available in a specific software, all the work done  at design phase is used in the stages of implementation and maintenance, increasing the chances of success of these projects.

The site will also be of great help to people who are new to permaculture design, as well as for those who are already more advanced, offering the opportunity to know other points of view and to discover elements or design options used by others.

Source: Student Resources

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

  • Implementation of an open source web application with this main features, that will be added incrementally:

    • Compatible with personal computers, tablets and smartphones.

    • Possible to use from the web site free of charge, install it in a small network or single computer.

    • It will include a MediaWiki (the software used by Wikipedia) with SemantiMediaWiki extension, which will make possible for users to add data and integrate with external databases using semantic web technologies.

    • Element design describing its needs, products and characteristics. The element design may also include images, construction and use instructions, etc.

    • Landscape design using own or others elements using at least the following permaculture methods (described in the PERMACULTURE: A DESIGNER’S MANUAL book:

      • Analysis: designing by listing characteristics

      • Data overlay: design by map overlays

      • Random assembly: design by assessing the results of random assemblies

      • Flow diagrams: design for workplaces

      • Zone and sector analysis: design by application of a master plan

    • All designs will be categorized with the climatic conditions where they are used like: humid tropics, drylands and humid cool to cold climates.

    • All element and landscape designs will be shared using open source licensing like GPL or alike. Users that need to make private designs can choose to have a paid subscription that will allow them to do so or to run the software locally. There will be a collection with all this design freely accessible in the web site.

    • Get information from place coordinates like the following. If information is not available for a specific place and there is a trusted data source where it could be sourced from, it could be added upon user's request, paying for the work hours needed. Users of the same country or region can group together and make a joint effort to make data available to that place:

      • Solar path at different seasons and specific dates

      • Shadow calculations

      • Climatic data

      • Satellite images

      • Soil information

      • Topographic information

      • Other ecoregion information available like local flora and fauna


    • Projects may have multiple users that work collaboratively on real time and a control version system that will help in tracking changes and restoring to previous versions.

    • Specific tools for implementation and maintenance stages like a task manager, reminder and registry of activities.


  • Invite co-designers to contribute

  • Continual improvement of the software

  • Marketing and Distribution

Who will take these actions?

Development will begin by the author of the proposal and a small team with software and permaculture knowledge . As it is free software, it is expected that other permaculture practitioners and / or software developers interested in the project will join.

The software and website can be used by people around the world to design, implement and maintain sustainable human habitats.

Where will these actions be taken?

It will begin its development in Salto-Uruguay, but it is expected that people from other parts of the world will join as users and developers.

Source: Wikipedia

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.

No country selected

Country 2

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Country 3

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Country 4

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Country 5

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What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

There is no direct impact from the project itself, but, as people discover the benefits of using this software in creating their landscape designs, greenhouse gas will be mitigated due to the fact that plants and trees capture carbon and more people will actively be planting trees and plants.

The planting of trees not only aids in carbon capture, but also mitigates flooding, helps cool the site and provides habitat for beneficial insects, thus eliminating the use of chemicals in the environment. These are the types of knowledge people will gain by using the software As the practices of permaculture become more mainstream through the use of the software, more people will actively contribute to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: California Air Resources Board

Forests and carbon capture

"Besides the CO2 trees capture, they have a positive influence on the carbon capture of the entire biosphere (including shrubs, other plants and soil) in the surrounding area, both under- and above ground.

Thus, the accumulated carbon capture of a hectare of forest can range from over 300 tonnes in Europe to over 600 tonnes in the tropics.

CO2 captured in wood is released only when the wood decays or is burned. By creating durable products out of the timber, long term carbon capture is ensured."

Source: Sistemas de Circulacion Ecologia

Trees: The Carbon Storage Experts

"The actual rate of carbon sequestration will vary with species, climate and site, but in general, younger and faster growing forests have higher annual sequestration rates. Considering that one half of the weight of dried wood is carbon, trees in a forest hold a lot of carbon. When the enormous amount of carbon stored in forest soils is added to the trees' carbon, it becomes obvious that forests are major carbon storage reservoirs."

Source: Department of Environmental Conservation

Designer's can also learn about making biochar as part of a carbon sequestration project in their informed design using this software.
Source: International Biochar Initiative

What are other key benefits?

Currently, permaculture practitioners utilize several resources and software packages to create their permaculture informed landscape design. It's a cumbersome process which, primarily, only seriously committed permaculture designers engage in and requires personal knowledge of practices and specimens as the software programs are not permaculture specific.

This software aims to streamline the process of designing permaculture informed landscapes for practitioners and people new to permaculture practices. The software can provide designer's with easy access to informed sources and external tools.

  • Schools may use the software in art, architecture and horticulture classes
  • People can learn more about their connection to their food sources
  • People can learn how to create swales and berms to mitigate flooding and "sink" rainwater deeper into the land

Source: Midwest Permaculture

  • With more people empowered to design and install their permaculture informed landscapes, pollution will be less of a problem
  • By growing food after designing their own garden(s), people will have better health
  • People can realize an inspiring home environment

Source: Permaculture Homestead Blog

Designers can learn about the value of planting "Guilds" to enhance the beneficial aspects that plants provide when permaculture practices are used.

Source: The Resiliency Institute


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

Expenses (TBD):


  • Time for work by team members (25 USD per hour) :

    • Project management: 5 hours per week. 6000 USD per year.

    • Software analysis, design and development: 20 hours per week. 24000 USD per year.

    • Graphic design: 10 hours per week. 12000 USD per year.

    • Testing: 5 hours per week. 6000 USD per year.

  • Website hosting (Virtual Private Server) and domain registration: 400 USD per year


Total project cost per year:  USD 48400 per year. It is possible that University students majoring in Computer Information Systems can be involved to reduce costs of the project. In that case, there would be some expenses for outreach and project guidance.


Income (TBD):

The product is intended to be available free of charge, but users can ask for new features & pay for the implementation costs. The new features will be available to all users in future versions.

Users that choose not to share their designs in the platform would pay for subscriptions for that purpose.

Users can also pay for technical support, when community help in web forums is not enough.

The website where permaculture designs will be shared can also be used to offer commercial permaculture books & courses or other learning material, charging a fee that can be used to cover development costs.

New software versions could also be launched using crowdfunding campaigns to get more support from users.


Currently, there are several different software programs utilized by permaculture designers. No single program has yet emerged that will allow designers to 1) access permaculture plant lists, 2) acquire a satellite view of their property, and 3) present an easy to use methodology that accurately represents local climate seasons, scale and perspective.

The number of plants required for such an endeavor is large. This issue can be overcome by beginning with general plants categories such as conifers, evergreen, fruit bearing, nut bearing, ground cover, shrub, etc.. As contributions to the software are made, the plant inventory may grow and become more precise.

Discussions among permaculture practitioners highlights current challenges:

  • "needing to find out which design programs to use in order to invest my time & money wisely ... Google Sketchbook & Sketchbook Express came up ... there are free versions plus The pro version is $59.99"
  • "Some people like Inkscape (FREE) I have so far stuck with googleMaps or googleEarth and then the free programs that came with my Mac (Pages/Preview)"

Source: Permaculture (Permies) Garden/Landscape Design Software Discussion

  • "I'd recommend going with the shapefile, but I'm still a beginner with qGIS so I'm saying that based just on this link: which seems to indicate that DXF is not well-supported"
  • "I've definitely had mixed results with the contour data..getting down to small lots you miss a LOT of detail and sometimes it's downright wrong."

Source: Tutorials for permaculture design with free software (Permies)


Years 1-2:

  • Develop the software
  • Invite other, related, developers to contribute
  • Market and Launch the software

Software development timeline

  • First iteration:

    • Month 1: Start in depth requirements analysis

    • Month 2: Architecture definition and software design

    • Month 3: Start software development and graphic design

    • Month 4: Software development and graphic design

    • Month 5: Software development and graphic design

    • Month 6: Testing and error corrections. Publish version 0.1

  • Second iteration

    • Month 7: Analysis of new requirements (2 weeks). Architecture definition and software design (2 weeks).

    • Month 8: Software development and graphic design

    • Month 9: Software development and Testing. Publish version 0.2.

  • Third iteration

    • Month 10: Analysis of new requirements (2 weeks). Architecture definition and software design (2 weeks).

    • Month 11: Software development and graphic design

    • Month 12: Software development and Testing. Publish version 0.3.

The second year iterations should take 3 months or less, publishing version 1.0 on month 24.

Years 2-15

  • Continue improving the software with new functionalities

  • Continue adding to the software's inventory
  • Continue marketing and distributing the software

About the author(s)

Danilo da Rosa lives in Salto, Uruguay and has more than 15 years experience in computer information systems. Danilo's areas of interest and activities include bio-construction, permaculture, teaching, and open source tools. His skill set includes:

  • Web: HTML, JavaScript, CSS, Python, PHP, SQL, web services, GIS.
  • Frameworks: Web2py, Dojo, JQuery, Mobile, Bootstrap
  • Other Languages: C/C++, Java, Lua
  • GNU/Linux: Administration, Shell Scripting
  • Semantic Web: RDF, SPARQL, Triplestores
  • Permaculture design and teaching permaculture practices

Pia Jensen lives in Salto, Uruguay and was the 2013 Climate CoLab Judges Choice winner in the Agriculture and forestry category (Nicaragua: Carbon Sink, Economic Driver & Medicinal Plant Preservation) and currently creating an urban farm/food forest. Her experiences include grantsmanship, policy development, educating educators, customer service, and permaculture. Pia at LinkedIn:


Related Proposals

Climate: Acquisition of Resources & Distribution (CARD) - Danilo's Permaculture Design Software proposal is meant to be nested in the CARD Hub inventory of solutions for Climate: Acquisition of Resources & Distribution (CARD).


HyperNext Studio - Software Creation

Mac Technology Overview - Creating Software Products for the Mac Platform

How can I get high resolution satellite images?

List of satellite image resources:

International Biochar Initiative - Climate Change and Biochar

Guilds for the Small Scale Home Garden

Permaculture Guilds

Fruit Tree Guild Design & Plant List