Permaculture Design Certification Course

The Permaculture Design Certification Course

June 29th – July 17th | $900 – $1350 | UBC Farm & Bio-region

The Permaculture Design Certification Course is presented by the Conscious Design Collective and supported by the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm. It is a two-week experiential learning certificate designed for anyone looking to deepen their knowledge of design principles using permaculture. It is offered every alternate growing season.


Permaculture is an holistic method of design leading to establishing a “permanent culture” guided by grounded ethics, principles and design practices. It considers the whole system at multiple levels of scale through the intelligent integration of social, economic, land, water, plants, and shelter subsystems. Using Permaculture can lead to the design and implementation of self-sustaining, regenerative human systems that “do good” for both humankind AND the Earth.

  • How to read the landscape and consider the needs of a client and the environment
  • How to manage a market garden (planting, seed saving, vegetative propagation, pruning, weeding, crop planning, harvesting, preparing food and eating in community)
  • Why and how to apply Permaculture in rural, suburban and urban landscapes
  • How to teach or work with community in the garden
  • How to make a food forest (design, implementation)
  • How to consider planning options that benefits the environment and our economy
  • How to plan carbon-neutral landscapes and lifestyles
  • Why and how to design with and adapt to a changing climate
  • And many more…

Learning will be inherently experiential and involve engaging students' head, heart and of course, hands - the primary mediums through which we learn. The intergenerational nature of the course enables an exceptional learning experience that can be structured around YOUR learning goals. The course will also be supported by a series of media rich presentations, online dialogue, and readings to dig deeper into the art, science and culture of sustainability and resilience.

The course is demanding and will be full on during the days we're in session.  However, we endauver to challenge your head, heart and hands in a way that I finds leaves folks exhaused, but in a good way.  With that in mind, it is not advisable to take this course on while in the process of moving house or during some other life-changing event - we'll take care of that on-course!

The course is centred around UBC Farm and UBC Main campus, but utilizes Vancouver City and OUR Ecovillage on Vancouver Island as living examples of Permaculture at work.

The course runs 9am - 5pm with short breaks for morning and afternoon tea and roughly an hour for lunch. Some time at the beginning or end of the day will be dedicated to supported studio work for students to meet with their team mates and work on assignments.

Teaching sessions will typically utilize a presentation in the morning (head), hands-on session (hands) in the afternoon, and collaborative desgin activity in the late afternoon (heart), in concert with how the mind, body and community tend to work.

Students will leave with the essential skills for reading the landscape, developing a conceptual and detailed design plan, and implementing that design plan through soft (plants) and hard (structures) landscaping.

The work spans small (garden) through large (city/regional) scale planning and integrates human systems - water, food, energy, housing and community into a development plan that seeks to support non-human wilderness systems as well.

In short, we explore the design and management of sustainable food, housing, energy and community systems.

Everyone! Permaculture is becoming a standard stepping stone to support the transformative shift humanity needs to become sustainable and even regenerative.

In our course we've hosted students and professionals in farming, business, teaching, architecture, fine arts, culinary arts, planning, construction as well as retirees who are seeking a new way of life or a new direction in their career. Indeed, some businesses such as LUSH now treat the Permaculture Design Certificate Course as a prerequisite for many of their employees.

Heads-on, hands-on, hearts-on learning.  Our learning process hits all three modes of learning. You'll leave each day exhausted, empowered and enthused, appreciating some of the real challenges we're facing, but with the tools to do something about it.

Community integration.  Our connection with UBC Farm, the university, OUR Ecovillage and a host of other organizations make learning with us a meaningful step to enter real work in the field.  Many of our graduates find work at UBC Farm after our course, landscaping, small-farm management, or other organizations doing the good work.

A 40-hectare urban agro-ecology farm at your fingertips.  Our unique relationship with the UBC Farm and Centre for Sustainable food systems provides a living model of an urban food system at the forefront of agro-ecology research, and the centre of Vancouver's food system.  It hosts a 20 hectare second growth forest for use in our sustainable forestry module, a well-evolved orchard, and living examples of community-based farming in practice.

Traditional teachings with a twist.  The world has changed since the 1970's when the Permaculture concept was developed. Lectures are based on traditional permaculture teachings from Bill Mollison and David Holmgren with added material that bring it up to date with today's challenges.  Climate change, urban design, stream restoration are some of the topics we'll cover that bring this course into the 21st century.

A design course with a focus on design.  We intend for graduates to leave our course with the capacity to design and install a permaculture design.  With tutors from fields such as landscape architecture, urban planning, project management, natural building and agriculture we'll prepare you to work with a client, plan a design, communicate your ideas and plant (or build) it out upon completion.

Local action, global application.  We're focused on the design and the doing, observing how things we do at home can make a real difference to the region and larger global community.

An intergenerational course for all-sorts.  We attract a broad spectrum of intergenerational learners from undergraduate degrees, post-graduate study, pre, mid and post-career work.  Our framework enables folks to let shine what they've got to offer and learn from other people's strengths in ways that traditional schooling often fails.

An urban PDC with all the rural trimmings.  Most people in the world now live in the city.  We'll explore how Permaculture can be applied on the patio, backyard, community garden and city to help contextualize it where Permaculture is needed most.  We'll also take advantage of the rural system in action at University of British Columbia Farm, a 40 ha urban agro-forestry centre, and through OUR Ecovillage on Vancouver Island.

Small classes for great learning.  We'll have no more than 20 students for the full-length PDC - providing a great space to learn from other students, the lead facilitator and expert guests.

Less paper, more learning.  We avoid the information overload that often accompanies an intensive course by giving participants access to a wealth of digital resources they can use at their leisure following the course.  Included in the course fee is access to our self-published Urban Agro-Ecology Design Guide e-book, a tool-kit of sorts for doing the good work. Further, the relationships built with guests and other participants will last a lifetime.

Work-life integration:  The course runs for 15 days over three weeks leaving a little space to breathe and integrate teachings into your life.  It also allows those with busy lives to attend to some home and work life while on course.

Students are required to complete a group design project and actively participate in 90% of the course to obtain an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certification (miss no more than two days).  We're also pleased to support academic credit through UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems for interested students. Note that there may be an extra cost for those UBC students seeking academic recognition.

James Richardson, Earth Educator and Landscape Architect

James Richardson is a teacher, designer, builder, farmer and cultivator of social change. His research in sustainable food system planning explored some fundamental questions such as what it would take to feed the city of Vancouver and his PhD in resilient regional planning utilized Ecological Footprinting to redesign Wellington, NZ. He brings an experiential flare to his teachings following a dynamic teaching career in Canada, New Zealand, Guyana, and the United States. James is a student of Permaculture, natural building, biodynamic farming and brings to the space a deep understanding of the art and science of sustainability.

Special guests from the Vancouver bioregion will lead topics on plant selection, pollination and natural building and many more. They Include:

Brandon Bauer, Permaculture Ecologist:  Brandon has been studying Permaculture for 16 years and is actively applying Permaculture on various sites on Salt Spring Island and abroad. Over the last 8 years he has participated in teaching Permaculture Design courses at O.U.R. Ecovillage, The Bullock Brother’s Permaculture Homestead, UBC and at The Blue Raven Farm.

Lori Weidenhammer (Queen Bee), Community Pollonator and Bee Specialist: Lori is a performance-based artist/educator and author of the subtle art of pollination.  She is intimate with flowering things and anything that rubs sholders with pollen be it a bee or otherwise.

Brandy Gallagher, Community Governance Specialist: Brandy is a co-founder and Outreach Coordinator at OUR Ecovillage, a 30-acre demonstration of how to live in community and in the world in a sustainable way. Brandy has been engaging with the Permaculture world for many years and brings to the space a spacialty in Invisible Structures and Governance systems - those hidden and often unspoken rules of community that help us work together in a good way.

We look forward to drawing, creating, building, consulting, dancing, weeding, growing, planting, eating and living, laughing and learning with you all soon!

Questions? Please contact the course coordinator, James Richardson.