Improvements for a Permaculture Home

kitchen island from Downtown Abbey

We’ve probably all seen the basic home tweaks to achieving an energy efficient home: LED lights, low flow plumbing fixtures, EnergyStar appliances, etc. I hope we are all working towards those. However, how about more permaculture oriented changes to make a more permaculture home? How about a few more creative ideas we can use for our zonezero?

KITCHEN SPACE

The kitchen is definitely one of the busiest parts of a home. Improving this space allows you to produce more-better food, health and food storage come to mind. How does your kitchen flow? There are different activities in a kitchen and certain workflows are better. A good example would be from your fridge, to prep space to the stove. Sometimes the kitchen design hampers this. Look at what you have and think it through-maybe you can allocate an intermediary prep space to improve it.

Consider adding a kitchen island. A good counter height table will help immensely and extend functionality in your entire kitchen.

Consider adding a kitchen island. It does not need to have a sink or stove in it if you are keeping it simple. A good counter height table will help immensely and extend functionality in your entire kitchen. You can also just use it as your eating space. A kitchen island with the right dimensions (similar to how we size our beds and keyhole gardens for reach) can be very efficient and make our kitchens a joy to use. Also, this is very useful when you come to process your harvest from your garden or food forest.

kitchen island from Downtown Abbey
An older kitchen island before it evolved to today
credit : http://www.humphreymunson.co.uk/mylands

WORKSHOP SPACE

Consider adding a workshop space- in a garage or in a spare room. One where building and making some mess is not going to be an issue. Consider this as a space where you can create things of value for yourself or others. This will enable you to produce a yield, preferably while pursuing a hobby or other things you already love to do. This can be as simple as a desk allocated for your things or it can be a spare room you already have but is currently under utilized.

NATURAL VENTILATION

Almost all rooms have a window-but we don’t really use them. Even when the weather outside is pleasant we keep our windows closed and keep the AC running. What conditions make it a hassle to open a window? Perhaps:

Let’s set ourselves up for success, so that opening (and closing) these are easier. Clear a path to them. Select strategic locations that will allow cross ventilation through the house. Pick a window on the windward side of your home, ones that are easy to get to. Now diagonally across the space or the home (leeward side), pick an opposing window that is similarly easy to get to. Make those select windows easy to open. You don’t need to open all your windows to benefit from fresh air. One gets fresh air in, the other end lets the old air flush out. It may be a good idea to put in a comfy chair at those locations too.

Pick a window on the windward side of your home, ones that are easy to get to. Now diagonally across the space or the home (leeward side), pick an opposing window that is similarly easy to get to. One gets fresh air in, the other end lets the old air flush out.

Indoor air is one of the most polluted air we breath, it gets recycled over and over our HVAC systems and our filters only do so much. Make it easy to use natural ventilation in your home and improve your indoor air quality.

FURNITURE LAYOUT

don’t lay out furniture in rooms based on standards only-determine for yourself the use that fits and enhances your lifestyle. Are you not a big TV guy? Then don’t waste space laying out your living room with a tv as focal point. Maybe a craft table is more valuable to you-go do that

When you layout furniture, you should also consider the flow from one activity to the next. Most of us already do this, but if you are intentional with it, imagine how much you can do through the entire home and the collective benefits this will give you with everything working together as a system. An example of this can be changing your routine from arriving at the garage, walking thru your garden and picking the harvest for dinner, having a space adjacent to the kitchen so you can prep stuff and put down your coat etc. The combinations really all depend on your personal lifestyle.

AVOID BOTTLENECKS

Where you have paths in your home or areas around a door, avoid squaring off that area with furniture or other obstacles. Keep them clear. These spaces tend to be used for transitioning from one task to another (walking-open door; walking-put on boots). Keep a healthy clear area around doorways, a 5×5 space at the door works well. This works great for wheelchair use, but even without that it is really just smart space planning.

Sketch showing benefit of keeping door clearances at doors

GADGETS ON TIMERS

To allow you to be more efficient with your tasks at home, consider using timers or photosensors for appliances around your home. This has been one of the more rewarding and inexpensive additions I have done in my house. They don’t have to be fancy-it may be as simple as switching out your porch lights for a bulb that has a photosensor on it-the fixture remains the same, but now the bulb does the work for you. Christmas lights? I am so glad I have an outdoor extension chord with a photocell and timer on it. The Christmas lights just turn on at dusk and turn off after 4 hours.

SMART DEVICES

These vary immensely from thermostats, cameras, doorbells, vacuums and smart speakers. The market is growing faster than they can fine tune the products and their quality control. They make sense for some things, I am selective of their use though as they tend to be intrusive at times. Just having smart outlets gives lots of flexibility when traveling. I’ll speak more on this in the future.

FURNISHINGS TO IMPROVE THERMAL COMFORT

Certain add-ons to the home can offer great benefits at improving your indoor temperature. The right type of window blinds can be used at the right parts of your home depending on solar orientation. You can use blackout shades which help with temperature and – of course – black out the sun.

Selecting the right materials and colors can help you trap heat if that is the goal as well. You might even have the option to switch out floor finishes to improve thermal mass. In the example below, I was exploring what floor finish to use for a west facing window and the floor adjacent to it. Tile was too cold due to the draft from the single pane windows. We did not want to replace those windows. There was solar gain from the summer, but it gets too warm even with partial tree shade. I discuss more in the video.

Combining these will reduce utility costs a bit. The bigger benefit is knowing you have control over things and even the little things help.


I hope you ponder on these ideas and use the ones that fit your needs. These are only my opinions, some of them may work for you and others may be flat out a miss. It all depends, but I hope I am able to get your imagination going on what we can work with.


Alt-Ark‘s goal is to make architecture more permaculture. We seek to empower the creation of forever homes that families can actively design to match the lives they choose to live.