Design balcony

Posted on do 27 december 2018 in designs


Ilona and Stefan want to limit the view from the neighbors. They would like a nice environment to look out onto from their living room.

Design team

The design was done by:

  • Arno Peters (permaculture designer)
  • Ina Heinz (permaculture designer)

Design strategy

We used SADIMet for this design.



Overview map

Red highlight shows the location of the balcony. North is up. Map courtesy of OpenStreetMap © OpenStreetMap-auteurs

Meta data:

  • Timestamp: 2018-12-01
  • Location: Terra, Europe, Germany, Noordrijn-Westfalen, Regierungsbezirk Düsseldorf, Kreis Viersen, Tönisvorst
  • Latitude / longitude: 51.326N / 6.478E
  • Height: 37m
  • Population of Tönisvorst: 29286 (2017)
  • Climate: Moderate maritime climate

Sketch balcony

  • 4m deep x 4.7m wide
  • access door to balcony
  • access door to small storage area under the roof
  • balcony fence approx. 1m50 high
  • balcony faces south by south-west

9 ways of observing

  • I wonder...
    • how much harvest can come from such a small space
    • if this design can inspire others
  • Observe energy
    • sun
    • rain
    • wind
    • people
    • cats
    • wood for stove
  • Observe flow
    • people using the balcony
    • fetch wood
    • sit on balcony
    • wild animal visitors
    • cats
    • sun flowing across the balcony
    • wind blowing across the balcony
    • water / rain coming from the roof, flowing on / around the balcony
  • Observe communities
    • Ilona and Stefan
    • house cats
    • human guests
    • neighbors
    • birds
    • plants
    • other wild animals
  • Observe patterns
    • wave
      • summer / winter
      • day / night
    • net
      • balcony fence
      • pergola
    • sheet
      • balcony surface
      • roof
    • scatter
      • pots
      • other loose elements
  • Observe edge
    • pots
    • fence / balcony edge
    • Stefan is handy
    • Ilona has gardening experience
    • house
    • one side interfaces with neighbors (at a distance)
    • balcony at the top level, other (similar) balconies underneath
  • Observe limits
    • Ackerhelden is more of a focus for Ilona
    • all materials and plants need to be hauled up two flights of stairs
    • lacks shading from sun and wind
    • maximum weight for balcony
    • bamboo too small for wind break and onlooking neighbors
    • small surface
    • water availability
    • budget
    • time
    • energy
    • too much jungle - not appreciated
  • Observe from stillness
    • closer to the house is less wind and view is shielded from neighbors
  • Observe past & future
    • Past
      • Ilona has sucessfully grown courgette and pumpkin in pots
      • cats used pots for defecation
      • pergola regularly gets blown over
      • no notable problems with slugs
      • Ilona uses balcony more than Stefan
    • Future
      • beautiful plants
      • shield from wind
      • limit view to neighbors
      • require little maintenance
      • require little watering



  • Earth care
    • water harvesting
    • reuse and recycle materials
    • create habitat for insects and birds
  • People care
    • provide rest and relaxation
    • inspiration for others
    • provide kitchen herbs and a small harvest
    • party
  • Fair share / Future care
    • permablitz
    • share harvest
    • share plants
    • trade plants
    • trade seeds

Holmgren principles

  • Observe and interact
    • water flows
      • from the roof into either
        • a gutter above the window / door to the apartment and gets redirected along the side of the roof to
        • the gutters at the lowest part of the roof
      • from the roof gutter it flows down into another gutter connected to the bottom edge of the balcony floor
      • the water gets funneled to the side of the building where it falls down a drain pipe
    • the side gutter seems just big enough to hold a 25mm garden hose by friction to divert water
    • the new balcony fence is very sturdy and relatively high
    • the balcony is tiled
  • Catch and store energy
    • water harvesting by connecting hoses to the gutter
    • create wind break to improve microclimate
    • use lower right wall as a tromb wall to catch solar heat
  • Obtain a yield
    • kitchen herbs and small harvest of fruits
    • beautiful, relaxed environment
    • drinking water production possible by filtering through garden beds
  • Apply self regulation and accept feedback
    • self-watering systems
    • in-situ composting
    • choose plants that need little water
    • mulch and use ground cover to prevent evaporation
  • Use and value renewable resources and services
    • catch, store and use rain water
    • use kitchen waste
    • use gray water from kitchen
    • use cat manure
  • Produce no waste
    • compost kitchen waste
    • use gray water from kitchen
  • Design from patterns to details
    • close to balcony door what gets used frequently
    • watch catchment high and close to gutter
    • mobile sitting area to choose between sitting in the sun or in the shade
  • Integrate rather than segregate
    • invite neighbors!
    • bench for sitting, growing plants and storing wood
    • table holding rain barrel can also be used for growing plants in pots
  • Use small and slow solutions
    • rain barrel
    • in-situ composter
    • self-watering pots
    • use plants to limit view of onlookers
  • Use and value diversity
    • many different plants = much habitat
  • Use edges and value the marginal
    • use balcony edge to grow plants against, like Indian cress or grape
    • use sunny wall for climbers
    • allow wild plants to settle
  • Creatively use and respond to change
    • new neighbors
    • cats peeing in pots


This is the design we came up with.


The design for the balcony.

Main points in the design are:

  • barrels for water storage
    • placed on tables with an edge lined with plastic
    • fed by connecting a hose to the side gutters
    • water is passed through a screen to filter out debris from entering the barrels
  • benches that integrate
    • sitting on them
    • growing plants in them
    • storing firewood under them
  • water flow diverted and slowed down as much as possible
    • barrels act as a buffer for water storage
    • the outflow of the barrel is a drip irrigation for the table the barrel is on and for the growing space in the benches
    • outflow of the bench feeds another growing space on the floor of the balcony
  • plant choice
    • closest to the water barrels highest probability of moisture; further away can be drier; choose perennial plants accordingly
    • spacing plants close together prevents evaporation of water from the soil and discourages cats to do their business there


This design did not get implemented because Ilona and Stephan have sold their house in September 2020.