Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Enhancing Urban Sustainability through the Application of Permaculture Principles

EPA Grant Number: SU834758
Title: Enhancing Urban Sustainability through the Application of Permaculture Principles
Investigators: Reyes, Manuel , Alvarez, Carlos Montoya , Hayes, Randall
Institution: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University , EARTH University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2010) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability



With high percentages of impervious ground cover, contaminated storm water runoff, and increasing resource consumption, urban development contributes to the degradation of the local ecosystem and also reduces the capacity of that ecosystem to remediate itself. Permaculture, which can be loosely defined as a “design system for creating sustainable human environments,” is based on common observable principles found in nature. In permaculture, practitioners learn from the working systems of nature to plan to fix the damaged landscapes of human agricultural and city systems.


We hope to prove that in university and K-12 campuses inclusion of permaculture will be environmentally, socially and economically better landscaping approach than just the current traditional systems of manicured lawns and bricks or concrete. We will use these principles to increase the overall sustainability in three campuses as a model and hopeful precursor of more sustainable practices campus-wide, even within strict guidelines applicable to state-owned property. In addition, permaculture will be introduced in EARTH University, Costa Rica. In our first phase, we have been creating a permaculture wildlife friendly habitat in North Carolina A&T State University’s Sockwell Hall, which is also functioning as a water-harvesting and bioremediation system. We have been changing the manicured lawn landscaping of Sockwell hall to permaculture. In our second phase, we will compare the water consumption, urban runoff, temperature, air quality, public acceptance, soil quality, and biodiversity; fertilizer, pesticide and energy used; and labor cost under permaculture, manicured lawn and brick systems. All of these systems are in close proximity to Sockwell Hall. In addition we will construct a permaculture rainwater harvesting-irrigation system in elementary and middle school campuses.

Expected Results:

We will measure our success by our output and by our outcome. Our output is an established permaculture system which contains a rain garden, rain water collector, drip irrigation, bird pond, solar lights, solar pump and different endemic plant species. We are convinced that the outcome will show that permaculture is a better landscaping alternative than manicured lawns or brick surfaces. We will prove this outcome: (1) through application of engineering design principles, hydrology, and scientific literature; (2) by measuring municipal water use in permaculture and traditional systems; (3) by measuring temperature under permaculture and traditional systems, and (4) by surveying public perceptions of permaculture and traditional systems. We will partner with student organizations, local 4-H students, private ‘green’ companies, local elementary and middle schools, and others to educate NCA&T community on the importance of permaculture and the protocol of achieving it.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

urban ecosystem, conservation,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:
2011 Progress Report