Stilted eco-hut at Taino Farm

Huts at Taino Farm are an example of sustainable housing in the tropics.

This week at Taino Farm, Charlie Durrant (our permaculture designer and educator) gave us a lesson on the main differences in Zone 1 Design in Permaculture in tropical, dry and temperate climate zones. In permaculture practice, Zone 1 consists of the main building and the area nearest to it. It is the most controlled as well as the most frequently visited area. Alongside the main building you will often find herb gardens, a nursery or small animals in Zone 1.

A chicken tractor in a tropical farm

Chicken tractors are an example of small animals in Zone 1

In Zone 1 of tropical permaculture gardens, it is especially important to have multiple layers of growth to decrease the intensity of the sun and slow down the leaching effect that heavy rainfall can have. When building in tropical climates, the main goals are to maximize airflow and minimize the sun’s exposure to thermal mass (such as walls and roofs).  Houses in the tropics are often stilted and have large windows to increase airflow.

In dry climates when building sustainable eco-housing, the emphasis is on insulation. Though the climate is similar to the tropics in that it is often extremely hot, seasonally and at night it can become quite cold. Solar chimneys are often implemented for use in the summer. You can find an explanation of Solar Chimneys here. Permaculture gardens in dry climates are usually sunken beds and use the wicking bed system to prevent evaporation during watering.

Temperate climates are in many ways more complex, as you have more factors to consider in environments that experience all four seasons. However, Charlie explained that there are also incredible benefits to growing in temperate areas. The soil is often much richer and the growing season is productive because daylight hours are longer. He also pointed out the benefit of growing deciduous trees around a living space: It can help reduce the potential for the sun to heat the thermal mass (walls etc.) in the summer yet because they lose their leaves, still allow sunlight onto and into the building in the winter.

Permaculture Education in The Tropics

Charlie Durrant teaching us about the benefits of Temperate Climates

While all of this is valuable information, the prominent lesson this week was bigger than just Zone 1. Charlie’s lesson showed us that learning about permaculture is practical and interesting no matter where you are from. When we return home, whether that be to the Czech Republic, Haiti, the U.S. or right down the road, we are all sure to come away knowing principles that can help us maintain a more sustainable lifestyle.

Volunteers from the Czech Republic and Haiti

Volunteers from the Czech Republic and Haiti learning about Zone 1 planting