"Not even a single raindrop should be allowed to flow into the sea without it first having been used for the benefit of many living beings..."

(King Parakramabahu the Great of Sri Lanka / 1153 – 1186)


Permaculture, a term coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, is a concept that is gaining more and more attention globally. Mainly it is dealing with strategies for a sustainable living on our planet, characterised by a highly systematic and interdisciplinary approach.

Architecture is an integrative part of our human culture, which can also be defined as an "overcoming of nature".

Permatecture is trying to resolve this apparent contradiction between "nature" and "culture" in a sensitive and integrative manner.

The architecture office PERMATECTURE is active internationally and run by
Architect Dipl. Ing. Jens Kalkhof (*12.05.1968): 
1987 A-Levels - German School Johannesburg / SA
1988 University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg / SA
1989 - 1992 University North-London (Bachelor of Science) / GB
1993 - 1995 University-College London/  Bartlett-School of Architecture (Diploma Arch.) / GB
2010 Registered Architect EU
1989 - 1990 Architecture office Daniel Watney / Douglas Young - London / England
1995 - 1996 Architecture office Fischer in Berlin / D
1996 - 1997 Architecture office Riess / Hohensinn - Graz / A
1997 – current Purchasing and running the ~4ha farm "Reindlhof" along permacultural principles  / A
1998 - 2010 Freelance office- and project manager for Architecture office Pittino & Ortner - Deutschlandsberg and  Graz / A
2008 – 2018 Project development and teaching in collaboration mit "Holzer Permaculture" / A
2010 – 2014 Founding and running the Architecture office Permatecture in Germany
2015 - current Moving and running the Architecture office Permatecture at the "Reindlhof" in Austria
Places of residence: Germany - South Africa - England - Austria
Projects: Germany - England - Austria - Spain - Portugal - Switzerland - Slowakia - Ukraine - China - Kasachstan - Russia - Moldova - USA - Canada - Madeira - Belgium - Slovenia - France
Travels: Spain - Portugal - France - Great Britain - Holland - Belgium - Switzerland - Slowakia - Czech Republic - Kroatia - Italy - Greece - Slovenia - Ukraine - China - Thailand - India - Nepal - Kasachstan - Russia - Moldova - Belize - Honduras - Mexiko - Guatemala - USA -  - Egypt - Israel- South Africa - Canada - Madeira



Current pressing global issues describe problems of drought and disturbed groundwater tables. Yet water is the source of all life!

One of the most important project aims is to catch and store precipitation with easy means on the respective site.

The proposed landscape designs enable as much water as possible to be stored in the soil where it fall. Furthermore, surplus water can be easily circulated by gravity on the property for flexible usage at many places whenever necessary.

The designs are meant to counteract the dangers of erosion, desertification, salinization of the soil, fires, mudslides, flash floods and a sinking ground water table.


source: http://www.waterparadigm.org/indexen.php?web=./home/homeen.html 

 „Water for the Recovery of the Climate“, p.62

trend 2050 - changing water levels


What leads to a successful project ? 

At first all assets (gains, positive aspects) as well as every liability (losses, negative aspects) of the site should be collected, listed and evaluated. This can be done by analysing and studying all  existing conditions carefully.

Subsequently principles and strategies must be developed in order to maximise gains and minimise losses of the site. This can be achieved best if the bases, reasons and interdependencies of all available (past, present and future) assets as well as liabilities are understood comprehensively.

The right design sequence in order to achieve a sustainable and ecologically sound project is the basis for an integrated design - working with nature and not against it.


The main philosophical and ethical principles of our system of Agro-Ecology are:

- Respecting Nature

- Observing Nature

- Interacting with Nature


The leading design strategies are as follows: 

I) Observation and Analysis

- Special places with favourable natural conditions are defined on the site in terms of topography, geology and hydrogeology. It is a precondition to ensure a balanced water-household in order to tap nature's potential to develop biodiversity.

II) Ensuring a Sustainable Water Management

- The difficult and disrupted water household will be restored to form a basis for life

- We claim that 70% percent of the work is done when the water household is revived.

- Maximising available water with most simple means.

III) Working with nature, not against her

- Favourable natural conditions are intensified and thereby improved in a catalytic manner, while the existing situation for vegetation will be kept as such, which means a non-invasive approach to existing ecological “hot spots”.

IV) Economical operation methods

- All interventions should be undertaken with the minimum of effort and maximum effect.

- Economic considerations and easy maintenance are indispensable.

V) Focusing on local conditions

- regionally adapted, indigenous and thus suitable species (plants and animals) should predominantly be chosen and (re-)introduced adhering to natural cycles.

- Using existing resources as much as possible, this includes water, building materials, energy, flora and fauna.

VI) Starting small, giving and taking time

 - all work should at first be carried out in relatively small areas, well observed, studied and documented.

VII) Respecting, supporting and trusting nature's regenerative powers

- No use of artificial chemicals, such as herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers!  They are counter productive and inhibit the positive development of an agro-ecological project!

- Supporting ecological diversity and stability.

 VIII) Long-term instead of short-term thinking and action

- Constant building-up of humus and living soil.

- Sustainability - striving for long term success, effects and gains.

IX) Interacting with and learning from nature

- Mistakes can and will be made but should not be repeated; successful strategies should be recognised and constantly improved; in due time from smaller onto larger areas, documentation should continue all the time.

- Facilitating redundant and stable systems.

X) Relaxing and harvesting

- Recognising and enjoying the generous gifts that nature will provide freely when respected and treated well.

- Enhancing the beauty of a place as well as all aesthetic considerations are self-evident.


The right design sequence to achieve a sustainable and ecologically sound project:

1st: Stabilisation of existing WATER household 

2nd: Ensuring and fostering healthy and living SOIL

3rd: Planting mixed cultures / 3-Dimensional VEGETATION

4th: Harvesting, multiplying, sowing / CROPS and SEEDS


Integrated Design and Building Measures:

a) Catchment of all surface runoff / “Rainwater Harvesting”:

- Wherever possible preventing all surface water to leave the site by using appropriate means, such as building of terraces, swales, ditches, check dams. 

- Counteracting erosion by taking away destructive energy from runoff water. 

- Ensuring decentralised systems by trying to catch water where it falls.

- Most effective measures are as far uphill as possible, seeping into the ground an d replenishing ground water reserves.

b) Stabilising ground water level:

- Ceasing to pump ground water.

- Using the system of “spring tapping” for drinking water in suitable spots of the site / underground storage with circulation is important for good water quality.

- Creating a “water network” on the site, using gravity as much as possible.

- Indirect positive effect of decentralised “rainwater catchment” 

- Recycling of used water and using it to replenish the ground water level

- Minimising evaporation from soil, covering soil with vegetation / conteracting salinization

- Cheapest and most effective storage of fresh water

c) Building strategic ponds / aqua biotopes:

- Enhancing the local micro climate / buffering effects

- More diversity and stability through introducing valuable habitat structures

- Positive effects on surrounding flora and fauna

- Evaporation losses minimised through shading and small size open water surface as well as favourable ratio volume/surface

- Cheap storage of large volumes of water

- These ponds can be made watertight using totally natural materials (i.e. clay mineral “bentonite - the costs of this natural material are similar to plastic sheeting/epdm foils but have the advantage to maintain ecological soundness and easy recycling for the future).

d) Minimising water losses:

- Proactive building measures, such as “green roofs” and preference of permeable surfaces!

- Avoiding bare earth 

- Implementation of an integrated sustainable water management system

- Changing the present irrigation system to a subsurface drip systems / irrigation only at night

- Using appropriate plant species by implementing three-dimensional plant guilds, vertically mixed polycultures of hardy and well adapted suitable species .

- Recycling of used water wherever possible

e) Circulation Water System for the whole site:

- implementing a huge buffering system, that stores water and releases it when needed.

- main storage water system for irrigation and fire protection combined

- sufficient water is available any time

- pumping system driven by solar energy, 

- hydroelectric energy: surpluses of daily solar energy can be used to store potential  energy in high water tanks, releasing electric energy at night without the use of batteries.

f) Adapting Pathway System according to usage and topography 

- no inclinations are steeper than 10%.

- loop pathway system if possible, no dead-ends!

- easy and economic circulation based on usage and topography of site.

- different quality pathways proposed according to need and usage, width and surface vary

g) Infrastructure adapted to flexible farm use:

- Assessing existing building structures for diverse usages, i.e for workshops, machines, storage, processing, etc.

- Agricultural center with additional buildings should be strategically placed at a good central position.

h) Autonomous Solar Energy System - Prototype

- Combination of solar energy usage with the hydraulic pumping/circulation water system (g)  providing energy for the whole ranch including all buildings, air-conditioning (solar cooling!), cooking, electricity, pumping, etc. 

- Surplus energy can be used for production purposes, i.e. drying fruit or chilling food (even sea water desalinization is a possible option with this proposed system)

- Potential usage of hydroelectric energy as possible by product from water circulation system.

- Preference of readily available energy against importing it...


Sites can be endowed with a great variety of precious assets and resources. It is comparatively easy to minimise the risk of many liabilities by understanding their reasons and reacting appropriately and intelligently to these problems. 

The proposed designs provides a viable alternative for improving the valuable site in a highly pleasing and aesthetic manner, not only ecologically but also economically. This is not to mention the high quality and joy of life within such a beautiful places!

„Culture“ and „nature“ cease to be contradictory but start benefiting each other. This, from our point of view, is a necessary precondition for creating a sustainable and meaningful future.


2013 Reindl 42 pond






Arch. DI. Jens Kalkhof


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