You can approach permaculture design from at least three different angles.
The philosophy and ethics: Permaculture design is about working with nature to the point of actually sitting down, observing and learning from it. Nature has had a very very long time to find solutions that actually work. And if we can manage to see these and implement them within a human centered design, we can work towards a permanent culture where we take care of the earth, of ourselves and each other, while creating abundant resources to share among us all. Permaculture design work can be applied on many different levels, everything from governance and education systems to the more well-known “permaculture gardens” and farms.
The method: A permaculture designer create functional ecosystems with the humans in the centre. The system should cover people’s need as much as possible, on as little land as possible, with as little input of energy (maintenance) as possible. To achieve this we observe the place very thoroughly and get to know the people as much as we can, and then apply permaculture principles to find the most appropriate solutions.
The result: Each permaculture system is unique. How the design expresses itself in the physical world will depend on factors such as the climate, the wishes of the people involved, the available resources, the geology and many other things. But some things stay fairly similar. In a garden, we will often use any old materials lying around to create the new structures needed (sheds, cold frames, chicken house…) and of course composting all biomass, sometimes including surrounding “waste”. For buildings, it can mean using only on-site and reused materials, while creating small and low maintenance buildings. In other domains, such as the economy, the expression of permaculture design can be a timebank or other inclusive economic structures.