Permaculture design emphasizes patterns of landscape, function, and species assemblies. It determines where these elements should be placed so they can provide maximum benefit to the local environment.

The central concept of permaculture is maximizing useful connections between components and synergy of the final design.

The focus of permaculture, therefore, is not on each separate element, but rather on the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
Permaculture design seeks to minimize waste, human labor, and energy input by building systems with maximal benefits between design elements to achieve a high level of synergy. Permaculture designs evolve over time by taking into account these relationships and elements and can become extremely complex systems that produce a high density of food and materials with minimal input.

The design principles which are the conceptual foundation of permaculture were derived from the science of systems ecology and study of pre-industrial examples of sustainable land use.

Permaculture draws from several disciplines including

  • organic farming,
  • agroforestry,
  • integrated farming,
  • sustainable development,
  • and applied ecology.

It has been applied most commonly to the design of housing and landscaping, integrating techniques such as

  •  natural building, and
  • rainwater harvesting

within the context of permaculture design principles and theory.