Site Survey

This document shows the information recorded at the client’s site for which ten designs will be created and/or implemented. I have lived in this residence since I was a child therefore observation has been a life-long process. This information will be used in combination with the clients’ interview to work towards solutions that cover the clients’ wants and needs, while following the Permaculture Ethics and Principles.

The site survey was organized in part, using David Holmgren’s adaptation of PA Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence (Climate, Landform, Water Supply, Roads, Plant Systems, Microclimates, Buildings, Sub-divisional Fences, Soil) and the PASTE (Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools, Events) framework


This site has been used for residential purposes since the 1980’s. At the moment of the survey, most of the site was a lawn with few fruit trees in random areas. A gigantic Ficus tree covered part of the roof on the main residence and other trees providing partial shade to the site and micro-climates. Due to economic problems, after the family moved out, except for my father, the residence was divided into 4 apartments and was offered for log-term rentals. At that time, the tiny house in the diagram was a tool shed. I extended and turned this shed into my temporary residence. After a few years of bad experiences with the long-term rentals, we decided to turn it into short term rentals using AirBnB. By this time, around 2010, my father had moved out a few years before and I took full responsibility of the site.

Base map

On 2015, I started taking measurements of the site to be able to have a clear picture and be able to design using a scale diagram. The initial diagram was created using Autodesk Autocad 2015. (This file can be downloaded here). This diagram was transferred to Adobe Illustrator CS6 where all other elements were added using a true-to-scale grid.

Climate: (Source: National Climatic Data Center. NOAA's 1981-2010 Climate Normals.)


Precipitation at site: 67.3 inches average per year with an average of 181 rainy days per year.

Average annual temperature at site: High 87°F (31°C), Low 72°F (22°C)

On site average, October is the most humid. (Source:

On site average, March is the least humid month. (Source:

Most rainfall (rainy season) is seen in May and November

The average annual percentage of humidity for the site is: 75.0% (Source:

Size and Landform: Flat 0.5-acre lot.

Fences / Roads: See base map above. The public street has only one access and is a dead-end street.

Water supply / Utilities:

Potable Water from utility company

Electricity- sourced from utility company

Buildings and mayor elements:

35’x35’ residence, divided several years ago into 4 apartments to be rented long-term. Located at the western side.

8’x20’ Tiny House- My current residence (Used to be a tool shed). Located at the south-western side.

60’ diameter Ficus Tree which shades more than a quarter of the yard. (Limits the garden area but supplies endless woody and leafy mulch) Covers half of the roof of the lodge, keeping the building cool. Provides a micro-climate for shade loving trees.

Soil- Sandy Clay Loam- Compacted but drains properly. (7-10 minutes to drain approximately, with the bucket test)

A soil test was done to learn about the nutritional deficiencies or excesses so they can be corrected so we can grow healthy plants. Soil samples were taken from 4 separate spots in Zone 3. Non was taken from Zone 1 or 2 because only Zone 1 will be used for a garden and only using raised beds due to the concrete debris that is buried in that area. The diagram below shows the 4 different spots chosen:

These samples were taken from the 2 northern spots and combined. They show that Phosphorous is sufficient while Potassium was deficient and Nitrogen was depleted. They also show a PH of around 6.1.

These samples were taken from the 2 southern spots and combined. They show that Phosphorous is sufficient while Potassium was deficient and Nitrogen was depleted. They also show a PH of around 6.3.

These samples were also used to do a Jar Texture test to learn about the structure of our soil.

Events/ Activities- The site is open for guests to enjoy as they wish, which has included: playing sports, camping in the yard for kids, simple all-night hang-outs, taking naps in the grass, etc.

Plant systems- Survey of the native plants growing on site.

Organized using the DAFOR (dominant, abundant, frequent, occasional, rare) framework.

Dominant- Commelina Erecta, Aristolochia Anguicida, Urochloa Distachya, Cissus verticillata, Cyperus rotundus

Abundant- Scleria Lithosperma, Chloris Barbata, Pennisetum Clandestinum

Frequent- Lomariopsis Amydrophlebia, Priva Lappulacea, Mimosa Pudica, Cyanthillium cinereum

Occasional- Hypolepis Nigrescens

Rare- Eryngium Foetidum

Plant Identification sources:


Mulch- Abundant due to the biggest trees on site. Lawn is mowed every 2 weeks and the grass is collected and added to the compost.

Manure- available for delivery for a low cost.

Limiting factors

Western side tends to be dry and needs to be watered by hand if crops are planted.

Soil- Most of the lot is very compacted which makes it hard to dig. Still water infiltrates properly.

Loss of crops when I travel due to lack of knowledge of the person maintaining the site.

High maintenance, mainly from mowing.

High cost (Mortgage).

Social- Lack of helping hands.

Water quality- Only chlorinated tap water for irrigation is available.

Low access to low cost organic and/or local food in the area.

Energy- Only one source through the utility company. This company mainly uses fossil fuel.

Fertility- Compost initially brought from outside

Financial- Limited income


Zones were designated based on the daily use on the site and the location of Zone 0, which is normally the main residence. This way, systems that require the most attention, are located near the residence. Being a small fenced site, it will only have three zones.

Desire lines

The following diagram shows the most common paths used by the owners, guests and cars throughout the years

Sun Sector

The following diagram shows the yearly path of the sun for the area:

Solar Angle- June 22nd: 86° N / December 22nd : 48° S

Timezone: GMT-04:00

The following diagram shows a 3d representation of the sun path in the area on September 22 at 12pm:
Sun diagrams created using Dr. Andrew J. Marsh’s tool ( The first one was superimposed and traced unto the base map using Adobe Illustrator.

Wind and water flows

Air: The following diagram shows the prevailing winds on site, which come mainly from the Northeast. The tall canopy of the Ficus tree creates a wind tunnel that increases wind into the living areas.

Water: It also shows the common water paths during extreme heavy rains. The site is almost 100% flat but most of the heavy rain escape through a series of 6-inch check valves which drain into a small creek on the western side. The rest usually remain on the lot and infiltrates into the soil after a few hours. The water puddles are always of clear color; no evidence of erosion.

View Sector

Since the goals for this site include its transformation into an Eco-Lodge and a demonstration site, the View Sector is to be taken into consideration. The whole site is to be designed to be as beautiful as possible but 3 areas are of most importance:

The view from the windows of 2 of the rental units. (Red arrows)

Privacy from the front gate. (Blue arrows)


Most of the site receives partial sun. The tallest trees and buildings create climatic variations from the surrounding areas. The following diagram shows:

Dry/Shaded area: This section falls under the eaves and is only feasible for shade loving & drought hardy plants (e. g., Cacti, Sugarloaf Pineapple). They would need to be watered by hand until an irrigation system is extended.

Shaded: These are areas under trees that receive only a few hours of partial sun. This is a perfect spot for shade loving trees like Cacao and Coffee.

Full sun/Warm: This is the harshest hit area due to the western sun. Being the Zone 1 area, it is to be used for the veggie garden. Another reason for this is that this area cannot be used for trees due to the shallowness of the soil due to concrete debris buried below. There should be more emphasis on mulching and irrigation.

Principle 3: Obtain a yield

Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.

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Beautiful nature landscape with silhouette of coniferous forest, mountains and sun, natural scene icon in geometric shape design, vector illustration in black and white colors, flat style