Stricter Energy Codes May Impact Your Ability To Expand

NGMA Color_webAre you aware stricter energy codes may be on the horizon that will impact your business in a big way? Energy codes have taken root, and the greenhouse industry is under pressure to conform. Without some type of intervention, you may find it more difficult to build in the future.

Here’s a Q&A from the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association between George Lucas, owner of Lucas Greenhouses, and Craig Humphrey, vice president of engineering for Nexus Corporation and chair of the NGMA Codes and Standards committee, that helps explain the dangers of the coming energy codes and what we as an industry can do to prevent them.

George Lucas: Craig, what’s up with this energy standard thing, this ASHRAE 90.1, and why is NGMA concerned about it?

Craig Humphrey: “ASHRAE,” George, is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, and they write different standards. One standard is 90.1, which is the energy standard for commercial buildings. These days, to build any building most states and municipalities require you to meet the energy code. Most of the codes are based off of ASHRAE 90.1 or the IECC. Currently, there are no exemptions for greenhouses in this or any other standard dealing with the insulative properties of the building coverings. The NGMA is proposing language that would give some relief to greenhouse structures.

George Lucas: What’s it got to do with me and other greenhouse operators?

Craig Humphrey: To get a permit, an owner would have to do an energy check, and they wouldn’t pass with normal greenhouse coverings, as it is now written.

George Lucas: Are you telling me the code guys don’t know the difference between a warehouse and a greenhouse, and that they would hold my poly or glass greenhouse to the exact same standard as a typical insulated building?

Craig Humphrey: That’s where we are, without some changes from a building official.

George Lucas: What’s NGMA doing regarding the standard? What changes are you proposing to ASHRAE?

Craig Humphrey: In previous 90.1 versions, greenhouses could be exempted of the building envelope requirements. We’re proposing language to define greenhouses and allow exemptions for these covering requirements.

George Lucas: What happens if NGMA does nothing? Any chance it’ll just go away and all will be fine?

Craig Humphrey: Energy codes are here to stay. As the state and federal governments try to gain more energy independence, it’s only going to increase. If the NGMA doesn’t work to get exemptions, then we’ll be unable to meet the current requirements for energy savings with current greenhouse coverings.

George Lucas: Should I be worried that new standards will make it almost impossible to build a new greenhouse?

Craig Humphrey: Yes, as we know it now. It may be a warehouse with thousands of lights. And yes, most people do realize that that scenario isn’t energy-efficient either. We do have proponents within the Department of Energy and other organizations who see the issue clearly, but we have to continue the fight until the language is changed.

George Lucas: In other words, this is serious. So what does NGMA need from greenhouse owners like myself? Can we help the cause?

Craig Humphrey: Greenhouse owners can be involved by asking their architects and engineers who understand and have dealt with the issue to write letters in support of our efforts. You can contact the
NGMA office (717-238-4530) to get information on what to include in your letter. Any help financially
from state and national grower organizations would also be welcome.

George Lucas: What’s in it for NGMA, Craig? Why is the association fighting this?

Craig Humphrey: Someone needs to stand up for our industry, and the NGMA took up the cause on behalf of our grower and retailer community. It’s nearly impossible for one greenhouse owner to do battle with the bureaucracy. By pooling our resources, we’re able to hire consultants to help us cut through the chaos.

Read the full article, “Greenhouse Manufacturers Fight Energy Code Changes,” or visit the NGMA website for more information.

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