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Enrollments are now closed - course offered again in January 2018

Register for the Economic Design, starting March 6th, here

Or for the full programme here

For any further information, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Do you want to be part of the Solution, rather than part of the Problem? Do you want to learn to create elegant solutions carefully adapted to the bio-cultural uniqueness of this place? If you do, then becoming an ecological designer is for you.

The ecological dimension of Gaia Education's online course will give you the skills to become an Ecological Designer and create self-regenerating sustainable settlements.

World Leaders have set the objective of achieving 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years: End extreme poverty. Fight inequality and injustice. Fix climate change. The 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people. If we are to attain these goals, everyone needs to know about them. That is why the Ecological Dimension is one of the 4 key components of our online ‘Design For Sustainability’ programme. How about adding ecological design to your own skill set as an agent of positive change.

The Ecological Dimension can be taken as a stand alone programme or as the starting point for our 10-month online ‘Design For Sustainability’ certificate course. The cost of The Ecological Dimension is £297 GBP. The course, which includes an Orientation period, lasts for a duration of 8 weeks. We suggest you dedicate a minimum of 10 hours a week to the course, in order to receive maximum benefit from it.

After completing the Ecological Dimension you will have the confidence and ability to start positioning yourself in the field of Ecological Design & Sustainability. Graduates of our programmes have gone on to contribute to sustainability projects, build communities, become social entrepreneurs, partake in permaculture projects and bio-dynamic farming, support transition movements and much more.

"Let us be good stewards of the Earth we inherited. All of us have to share the Earth's fragile ecosystems and precious resources, and each of us has a role to play in preserving them. If we are to go on living together on this earth, we must all be responsible for it." Kofi Annan


How the Course is Structured


You will receive an interactive pdf document of approximately 140 pages with many images, graphics and links to useful short videos, websites and documents. You will also be provided with your own personal Student Guide, describing each dimension's learning outcomes, objectives and timeline, plus a set of activities for each module of the learning journey.

The Ecological dimension is authored by: Michael Shaw, Daniel C. Wahl, Ezio Gori, and Lisa Shaw. The course is build on 5 modules, which you can read about below:


Module 1: Whole Systems Approach to Ecological Design

Starting from the concept of “Building Cultures of Sustainability”, this section covers the “big picture”. It looks at the philosophical foundations and principles of ecological design. We look at the whole system within which we carry out our lives and affect the world through the specific design decisions we take and implement.

Module one explores the following questions:

What are the historical roots of ecological design thinking and how do permaculture, ecological economics and engineering, industrial ecology and cradle-to-cradle, and environmental restoration and regenerative design contribute to this approach?

What is the context of crisis and opportunity as we embark on a fundamental redesign of humanity’s impact on Earth; and what do we need to know about climate change and tipping points, ecological and carbon footprinting, ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ and the ‘Happy Planet Index’ to design with a whole systems perspective in mind?

How can we co-create decentralized and re-regionalized ecological settlements and cities that are adapted the unique conditions of their bioregions in ways that help us to move beyond adaptation and mitigation towards regenerative development to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming?


Module 2: Appropriate Water Technology

The link between fossil fuel reserves and war has been a clear pattern for decades, yet equally many violent conflicts and wars have already been fought over the access to water. Water is a very scarce resource and yet is wasted and contaminated at a gigantic scale. There are still a seventh of the world’s population without access to a safe water supply. Learning to create more efficient systems to care for the world’s water is critical.

Module two asks:

How can we take a whole systems approach to water by mapping our water supply within the context of bioregional watershed management and restoring the hydrological cycles upon which healthy ecosystems functions and thriving communities depend?

What do you need to know about ecological engineering, rainwater harvesting. compost toilets, constructed wetlands, and the fundamental processes of biological wastewater treatment - such as anaerobic and aerobic digestion, nitrification and denitrification - in order to take informed design decisions?

Which of the following treatment options are the most appropriate for the specific conditions of a particular project: constructed wetlands, septic tanks, biogas digesters, lagoon or tank-based systems, horizontal or vertical flow reedbeds, or community scale treatment systems?

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Module 3: Local Food Systems

Healthy local food is one of the best entry points into building sustainable community, whether in a newly built ecovillage or in the transformation of a village or town. Food invites us to think about our health, our local economy, our relationship with the land. Since food is a basic need, we need to make sure to design resilient, productive and regenerative food systems as the foundations of thriving communities and regions.

Module three addresses the following questions:

What are the essential lessons for permaculture regarding ethics, principles, zoning and learning from nature that we can combine with regenerative agriculture techniques like holistic land management, keyline ploughing, organic fertilizers, agro-ecology, analogue forestry, and biodynamic farming to drive the re-design or our food systems in a regenerative way?

How can we use fungal mycelia, activated bio-char, Terra Preta and other carbon farming techniques to build healthier soils and respond to the threats of climate change?

What are the tools and techniques that lets us create integrative whole systems designs for regenerative food systems drive the regeneration of healthy ecosystems functions, soil, waterways, and forests while integrating aquaponics, community supported agriculture, and large scale Earth restoration into win-win-win solutions for people and planet?

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Module 4: Appropriate Technology

Deals with appropriate technology for the generation and use of energy. Looks at sustainable design of carbon neutral energy systems and explores these technologies as part of a resilience strategy for sustainable communities and ecovillages. Scaling and scale are important aspects to consider in order to appropriately suit various types of developments, locations and bio-regions.

In Module four we try to answer the following questions:

How can we use tools like ecological and carbon footprinting of energy sources, and concepts like ‘embodied energy’ or ‘Energy Return on Energy Investment’ (EROEI) to make better choices when it comes to designing or retrofitting regenerable energy systems?

What should we consider when we have to choose between wind power, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, renewable biomass, hydroelectric, marine wave or current and geothermal energy systems, as well as, efficiency measures to design with local conditions and ecosystems in mind?

How can we ensure that appropriately generated biofuels and/or alternative energy carriers can help us redesign our current transport systems in ways that improve sustainability and reduce their impact?

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Module 5: Green Building & Retrofitting

This module explores the challenges inherent in modern building and construction techniques and explores alternatives that are more energy efficient and less environmentally damaging. You will learn to discriminate between different building methods, material choices and architectural styles and how to adopt them depending on local and regional conditions. We also explore how best to retrofit poorly designed structures and improve the patterns of suburban sprawl.

Module five invites you to consider the following questions:

How could we aspire to creating ecologically designed buildings that function like an ecosystem and help to regenerate health and wellbeing for their residents and the ecosystems within which they are located?

What is the role of different heating and cooling technologies, bioclimatic building, airtightness and ventilation, green roofs and green walls and local material choices in creating a new approach to architecture that helps to heal the planet?

To what extent can whole systems thinking, smart buildings and smart grids ,and keeping an eye on the ecological footprints of buildings and utilities help us to create healthier carbon neutral settlements for one planet living?

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"We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet." Thich Nhất Hạnh


More Information


Once you have been enrolled on the online programme, you will be given an orientation of the virtual campus, e-learning tools and the Moodle platform. You will also be granted full access to the virtual campus, where you can join the classrooms, forums and design teams in your current course. There, you can communicate directly with facilitators and other students, access all the learning materials and activities for certification, and discover social media material related to the course. The course material contains about 120-160 pages of written curriculum content for each dimension.

Throughout the programme, our team will be on hand to offer you full technical and academic support to succeed in the virtual course and achieve all the learning outcomes.

Upon finishing, you will be rewarded with a Certificate of course completion from Gaia Education, along with credits to continue onto our flagship certificated ‘Gaia Education Design For Sustainability’ programme.

The Ecological Dimension will be followed by the Economic Design Dimension in March 2017 and the Worldview, beginning in May 2017. The next Design Studio will be held in July 2017. If you sign-up for the entire the 10-month ‘Design For Sustainability’ course, rather than registering for the 4 dimensions individually, you will save £191 GBP.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If after visiting the FAQ above you still have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.