DESIGN and PLANNING
Assessment is often the most crucial and lengthy component of the United Designers’ process, depending on the scale and purpose of the project and the desires of the client.
Assessment and Analysis are executed with a range of tests and observations. Soil and water research are conducted via field observation and laboratory testing. Climate and climate change, precipitation rates, local and area demographics, land-form and geology, are all documented and taken into consideration. Inventory is made of buildings and infrastructure, hardscapes in general, existing or desired patterns of access and circulation, all hydrological systems, tools and existing resources. Existing ecological habitats (flora and fauna), zones of human use and activity, patterns of sun and shade, useful micro-climates, and soil fertility and management, are also evaluated.
Working with geospatial information supplied by satellites and aircraft, United Designers is able to accurately locate and label elements on the landscape. Each feature is assessed and measured as the data is recorded in the UD process. High-resolution imagery is used to quantify hydrologic characteristics of watersheds and stream beds. Groundcover and cultural practices on the land are also identified for further on-site investigations. A mosaic of data points and graphical mapping done by United designers is essential to the design process, regenerative agriculture, and ecological restoration.
With assessments, UD is neither confined to a digital research trajectory nor bound solely to the groundwork, striking a balance of both. In the best cases, one rises and lays with the sun, living the project on site for a number of days or weeks, again depending on the scale. In-depth interviews with the landowners or caretakers are indispensable. It is a shared process that requires patience and observation where awareness evolves mutually.
REVIVAL AND EARTHWORKS
History of the decline and fall of many past civilizations can be traced to the failure to maintain the fertility of soils. The fate of the present and future civilization also rests on this truth. Soil health is a pre-requisite for continued agricultural production and reproduction.
Soil is a living biological ecosystem, ever-changing, dynamic, and teeming with micro- and macro-organisms. It is the life, work, death, and rebirth of these organisms that give fertility to the earth. Only by allowing nature's own cycles of growth and decay to continue can life in the soils be restored, maintained, and nurtured. Humans are capable of encouraging and enhancing these processes.
The main factors governing formations of healthy soils are:
The mineralogical and geological origins and composition from parent rocks;
The prevailing climatic background;
The long chain of micro-and macro-organisms that inhabit the soils;
The cover of vegetation of the soils.
The last two factors are the points where humans have most control and offer opportunities for maximum beneficial intervention.
Being the foundation of all terrestrial life, understanding soils, microbiology, and interactions of plants and animals is crucial to all of United Designers’ work. UD provides biological soil consultancy services ranging from assessments of soil health and carrying capacity of the land, to remediation of soil disturbances and management to improve soil quality. Several of our Designers are certified in Dr Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web Approach and can assist clients and communities with comprehensive strategies for soil regeneration, earthworks, and erosion control.
Stream Bed and Watershed Restoration, Management, and Infiltration
Water is a primary resource for regeneration of any landscape. Its presence or absence will determine the fate of terrestrial life. As such an essential natural resource, rainwater collection is often the most crucial design element. UD teams observe the action of gravity and the physical properties of water to understand hydrological cycles and functions. Water finds its level. These can be manipulated. Land contours need to be considered. Only then can the flow of water be slowed, collected, and held, allowing for infiltration to the soils’ various depths. Water thus harvested and stored will be available for plant growth healthy ecosystems. Increasing organic matter in our soils is often equally important in raising the water holding capacity of soils.
"Just 1% of organic matter in soils can augment the water carrying
capacity by approximately. 17L"!
Earthworks can help divert and store water on sites depending location and scale. By implementing Swales, Keylines, Trenches, Bunds, Gullies, Dams, Ponds, and Basins the water retention and storage capacity increases and expands. In addition to increasing food production, these systems can also prevent erosion of fertile top soils, create fire breaks, and enhance land's carrying capacity. Properly designed water features benefit many more complex ecosystems for habitat and health. With a global decline of aquifers and clean freshwater access, this aspect of design has become crucial.
"United Designers assist clients and communities with comprehensive strategies for hydrological system enhancement, planning, and management to provide drought and flood resilience." - Daniel Halsey, Co-founder
AGRO-FORESTRY and AGRO-ECOSYSTEMS
The elemental and vast energies of sun, wind, and precipitation on the earth are so powerful and destructive they often need modification to create ideal conditions for life and growth. Trees are nature’s ultimate moderators of these incoming energies.
It is well known that vegetative interaction—especially so for trees—is crucial to the maintenance of the life-supporting composition of gases in Earth’s atmosphere, the moderation of temperatures, and the provision of food, fuel, fodder, and other essential products. However, less understood is the critical role of trees and vegetation in soil building and conservation, groundwater table recharge, and water recycling into the atmosphere by birthing moisture-bearing clouds to shed rain inland and on arid regions.
"Some mature and well-grown trees can transpire up to 40,000 gallons
of water in a year." Ref: USGS, U.S. Global Change Research Program
By integrating a well-designed planting plan United Designers can create many microclimates, capturing heat, blocking strong winds, controlling erosion, and harvesting condensation. Increasing microclimates can expand the diversity of crops, flora, fauna, and functions. With diversity comes resilience. UD helps create production systems aligned with the environment. These include forage for livestock and human uses, woodlands as expansive resources for sustained harvests and healthy ecosystems, and cultivation of multi-generational harvests with dynamic and increased productivity and diversity.
HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT AND BIODIVERSITY
Looking at full ecosystems over time has led to increased understanding of the mutually beneficial relationships between land, air, water, plants, and animals. Landscapes can be designed, built and managed as systems allowing animals to impart benefits on their habitats. On larger scale projects, such as Silvopasture or Agroforestry, and also in Orchards or rotational grazing pastures, introducing grass-ruminants can increase fertility, biodiversity, weed control, concurrently improving water retention in soils and assisting in pest management. On smaller scale projects poultry accrue similar positive results. Adding a flock of foul to backyards, homesteads or small farms hosts myriad of enhancements. They help build healthy soils in the vegetable beds all while scratching and eating weed seeds and insect larvae, breaking pest cycles, and adding high nitrogen manure to soils. In addition, there is the extra yield of meat or eggs. Fiber-bearing sheep, alpaca, and llamas can provide similar functions and wool. Ducks manage food forest floors by naturally processing and mowing the groundcover, converting it into nutrients, and thus speeding up the mineral cycle. They also eat fallen fruit, pest eggs and larvae, and weeds. Ducks are indispensable in the kitchen garden as they do not scratch the soil and because their ability to find and consume insects, especially snails and slugs, is unparalleled.
Pigs’ natural tendency to dig acts as an excellent land prep tool. In addition to being efficient low impact plowing implements, they also make wonderful grazers of pastures and orchards, recycling nutrients in food forest management. Pigs digest a wide range of food and crop waste from the systems into fertile dung, and during harvest season consume huge quantities of fallen fruit helping prevent fruit fly infestations. They might also locate elusive truffles.
United Designers helps develop integrated animal systems, from livestock to insects, into complete regenerative designs in ways that best utilize resources. Yields from these thoughtfully planned and properly managed ecosystems are endless and the possibilities boundless. Not to mention, working with the animals has its own rewards!
ON- AND OFF-SITE
Education is embedded in United Designers’ philosophy and approach, whether taught in front of a class, led out in the field, or as during COVID, trained remotely to assist from afar. Teaching local communities and stakeholders how to restore land, save seeds, establish nurseries, harvest water, create compost, holistically manage livestock, are but a few examples of how UD consistently aims to empower all involved and bring forth true land stewards.
United Designers has several certified Permaculture trainers and teachers, who can cater a full PDC anywhere in the world, onsite or online. Daniel Halsey, UD Co-founder, also teaches the only in-depth courses on Digital Permaculture and Ecological Design. This backbone methodology of UD International has been crucial to its worldwide success. Whether you are an experienced permaculture designer, or just launching a new design business, you will learn everything you need to know about the UD method and create stunning digital designs and professional standard presentations, all whilst greatly deepening your ecological expertise.
United Designers takes you from patterns to details, with a methodical approach, clearly and effectively demonstrating how to communicate and format your, assessment, analysis, concept, and design, enabling you to focus on what matters most: function and strategy. You will become proficient in and familiar with a suite of technical and digital tools and applications to augment other hands-on skills. Collaborate with other designers no matter where they are located, using a common language allowing you to share your work around the world.
This United Designers’ premiere education is the essential foundation for a successful career in professional permaculture and ecological design.
TRUE RESILIENCE AND ABUNDANCE
What differentiates and distinguishes regenerative design from other systems of agriculture is that it is a consciously designed system approach, in which we must intentionally design our cultivated systems based on laws governing Nature, only then can we be sustainable.
The changes needed are huge and go to the very foundations of our social system. The task of creating a just, humane and environmentally sound food system cannot be separated from the creation of a just and ecologically sound society.
"The landscape reflects our consciousness"
John D. Liu
Our main considerations are;
To conserve our energies in the system (internal). To cope with energies entering the system (external) like Sun, Wind, Rain, etc. To suit climate, site, soils and topography, so that the systems do not degrade, deplete, pollute or destroy other natural resources. And in turn, the systems we construct can last as long as possible and need the least maintenance, and are self-managed. So that these systems, fuelled by the sun, should produce not only their own system needs but also the needs of the people creating or controlling them. thus sustain themselves and those who construct them and hence become sustainable systems.
The benefits are an increase in biodiversity, enrichment of soils, improvement of watersheds, and enhancing ecosystem services. Aiming to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, at the same time offering increased yields, self-sustainability, food sovereignty and resilience to climate instability.
WORKING WITH THE 4RETURNS
4 Returns is a science-based framework developed by Commonland in close collaboration with leading scientific institutes, business schools, farmers and experts. Aiming to transform degraded ecosystems by focusing on 4 key returns over the course of a single generation, or 20 years. Returns that we always strive to achieve in every project, so partnering up was a logical step.