MREA Advanced Design Course

In May of 2008 Wayne Weiseman, Mark Shepard and Midwest Permaculture held an advanced design certification course at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s (MREA) eighteen acre educational site in Custer, Wisconsin. The intent of the course was to begin the process of designing a comprehensive site plan based on the methodologies, principles and ethics of Permaculture. The initial research and materials from this course were then passed on to an advanced Permaculture design course that was held at the MREA in August of the same year. What you see here is the creative process in full tilt and the results from all of our fifty-one students’ detailed and painstaking work. The design was presented to the board of directors of the MREA, which is now in the process of raising funds to implement the design at the site.

The schematic design described in this report is based on a whole systems design methodology known as Permaculture. Permaculture design utilizes a set of guiding principles that stem from the philosophical position that, “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children” (Mollison, 1990) Permaculture is about relationships, building connections between all elements in the landscape in a balanced way. Taking inspiration from natural systems, Permaculture design seeks to create spaces that provide for human use that are both ecologically sound and economically viable. The success of a Permaculture design is measured on how well it builds communities: of minerals, plants, animals and people.

The goal: To provide a visionary design concept for a site plan that allows for the ethical human use and permanent sustainability of the MREA property.

Design Objective: To assess the resources available to the MREA (including, but not limited to, the land, soil, wildlife, plants, sun, rain, wind, water, topography, buildings, people, financial resources, governmental programs, etc.) and create a permaculture design that will:

  • Harvest the available and abundant resources in a sustainable manner
  • Improve the quality of the soil and the natural environment
  • Produce a myriad of products and services
  • Require a minimum amount of work and effort
  • Support the MREA’s vision
  • Drive the transition of renewables to mainstream use, acceptance, and understanding in the Midwest
  • Demonstrate how we can all live honorably and sustainably
  • Create an authentic-living environment for students, visitors and members of the MREA to work within, for generations to come

This plan was informed by information collected from the MREA’s board of directors, executive director and staff who’s input provided direction and insights into the practical challenges and visionary opportunities that the organization and the site offer.