PDC Syllabus

Phoenix Permaculture Design Course Outline & General Syllabus

A 72 Hour Permaculture Design Certification Course - Phoenix, AZ

Description of Course

This standardized 72-hour course leads to a Permaculture design certificate. It covers the major aspects of sustainable design with an emphasis on Southwest dry lands. It encourages the student to move toward pattern recognition, noticing the links between plants and animals, climate, and landforms that make up natural ecosystems. Being able to read these patterns and incorporate them into design is the basis for the Permaculture system of sustainable human settlement.

The course focuses on dry land communities, addressing individual site and neighborhood "problems" such as storm water flooding, and learning how to see these problems as solutions in setting up sustainable community. Students are encouraged to practice reading the landscape, to map and analyze energies flowing through a site, and to develop integrated designs for sustainable human settlements based on this site analysis.

A General Roadmap for the Course:

Updated syllabus with course dates, details, and event locations, will be provided on first day of class.

Weekend I

Core PC topics, Wheel of Community Exercise, A Permaculture Mind Map or the Permaculture Tree, what is Regenerative - Degenerative, Permaculture Ethics Discussion

Site Analysis and Story of Place, Developing a Site Analysis then Story of Place, Discover Practice Design Site, Introduce the pattern of the sun (as a sector) and do the sun dance, Begin researching and completing Site Analysis for weekend II

Weekend II

Finish PC Site Analysis and Permaculture Design, Introduce Vision Statement/Conceptual Plan List, begin individual presentations, discover permaculture principles, Discover Permaculture Design – how to work on a first draft of a design -

Passive Solar Design and Natural Building, Natural Building hands on, Passive Solar design assessment talk and application to both, Natural Building materials and conventional construction.   

Weekend III

Water Harvesting Day

Zone I Strategies, Introduction of Zone One, site design relationships with food systems, food system relationships with permaculture principles and ethics, more hands on & get your garden on.

Weekend IV - Trip to Tucson

Permaculture applied to small scale community development and how to design for taking care of people in community, Tour and story of place, tour of farm and residential community, story of place, the community's work in neighborhood, watershed, and region

Theme for the day - Non-profit Permaculture and taking your Permaculture out into your neighborhood, Invisible structure design for community, Community Permaculture systems design

Weekend V

Final Design Project - Final Design Project Presentations in two or three groups and all day design seminar.

Class review, Evaluations, Graduation, and Party


Course registrar

Course Coordinator

Schedule and Teaching Manager for Course

  • Don Titmus
  • Teaching assistants/Instructors: Contact info for others involved with the course will be available the first day of class.
  • Web information for the organization that teaches this educational experience: GrowPHX.com/permaculture

Course Objectives

What are the expectations for the participants in the course?

The expectation is by the end of the course that each participant will understand and be able to apply all of the ‘key subjects’ and ‘exercises’ listed in the schedule for the course. Also, participants will be able to apply Permaculture site analysis and design principles to their own site designs, as well as to their neighborhoods and communities. The participant will also acquire hands on experience with gardening, water harvesting, and natural building. The participant will understand the importance of the vision statement and conceptual design, as well as the four-step design template, which is applicable to a wide range of design situations.

Required or Optional Sources:

  1. The Permaculture Designer’s Notebook. Known in this document as PDN and supplied as a part of this course – required.
  2. Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison, known in this document as ITP – an Optional textbook, but helpful
  3. Rainwater Harvesting For Dry lands vol. 1 - known in this document as RHFD by Brad Lancaster - Optional but highly recommended

Required Materials

  1. Tabbed notebook with all handouts for the course (will be provided the first day of the course to each participant, paper, and pen.)
  2. Some specialized tools like the ‘A’ frame and ‘Bunyip water level’, which are used in site analysis. (How to build and use these tools will be covered in the second day of the course.)
  3. A computer with access to the internet and e-mail.

Grading Policy

Evaluation criteria: the design certificate is awarded on a pass or fail basis, based mostly on participant’s final design project presentation, but also on attendance and participation in activities through the course and several tests. A minimum of 75 points out of 100 ( a middle C) must be earned to receive a Permaculture Design Course Certificate.

Late work policy: late work is allowed to be submitted within three months after the end of the Design course, but no design certificate will be awarded until completed final design project and presentation is made.

Incomplete and make up work: Incomplete work is allowed to be submitted within six months after the end of the course , but no design certificate will be awarded until completed final design project and presentation is made.

Academic integrity/responsibilities

It is up to each participant in the course to ask questions of the teachers/instructors to make sure he or she understands the material, to do the suggested study, exercises, and reading between weekends, and to ask for help if needed from other participants in the course in order to understand and apply the material. It is up to each participant to be on time for class.

Attendance Policy

It is expected that except for an emergency, each participant will attend the entire course, including each day and class. Exceptions can be made for having to miss an occasional class or even a whole day, however make up work assigned by the registrar or teacher for the day will have to be completed to pass the course and receive a certificate.

Subject to Change Statement

'Subject to change’ statement – Other than the pass/fail policy and the attendance policy, the schedule, location, and other aspects of the course may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the teacher of the day or the registrar of the course.

Notice of Possible Objectionable Materials

Radical ideas like integrated design based on mimicking nature, gardening, water harvesting, community economics, community resilience, and living in balance with the natural world may be discussed and practiced in this course.

Assignments/Due Dates

We will go over this the first day of the course.

Assigned Readings

Before each class day, read the material in the tabbed notebook of handouts for the coming day. Other reading and study material may be assigned during the course.

Topics for Each Day

See the day-by-day schedule contained in a separate document in the course notebook.

Teaching Format

Course topics will be addressed using the following methods:

  • A small amount of lecture
  • Guest presentations/demo/hands on exercises by local experts and participants.
  • Class discussions with comments and questions
  • Interactions with standing groups of six to eight students who will meet mostly during class hours and occasionally outside of class to work on site analysis, design, and other projects.
  • Participatory exercises in groups and as individuals
  • One-on-one interaction with the teacher in class or out of class.
  • Hands on learning and exercises in topics like gardening, water harvesting, and natural building.

Assignment Format

A handout will be available in the course notebooks concerning the format and expectations on the required final design project presentations. The required individual short presentations will be demonstrated the first day of the course also.


A bibliography is provided in the tabbed course notebooks for the course.

Required/Helpful Knowledge or Skills

Required: openness to learn a new way of designing integrated and sustainable human settlements that mimics the natural environment.

Basic computer and other research skills, basic drawing skills, knowledge of what a contour line is and how these lines show three dimensional topography on a two dimensional surface.

Some Web reference sources

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