Building Green

In greenhouse construction, as in all other areas of the industry, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Growers need to consider a number of factors, from location and climate to production and logistics, in the process of planning a new greenhouse.

But in the advent of the age of sustainability, growers are weighing another factor: green building. Is the process of building “green greenhouses” worth it in the grand scheme of things? Are there extra costs and what can be accomplished by sourcing green materials and environmentally friendly production choices? How can a grower get started down this path?

Greenhouse engineer A.J. Both of Rutgers University says, like the process of conventional greenhouse construction, in “green” construction, much depends on local conditions, crops grown, grower experiences and preferences, fuel cost and supply, greenhouse design and other variants. He adds that the individual grower’s definition of green building also plays a part in the process of building the greenest greenhouse, as well as where one might draw the boundaries – local, regional, national or global.

“The greenest greenhouse is planet Earth,” Both says. “Like other ‘green’ endeavors, the obvious benefits are to our environment and to our future, and there are no real drawbacks as long as the business maintains economic sustainability.”

With no current, standardized definition of a “green greenhouse,” its value is difficult to quantify and would depend on the operation, says Kurt Parbst of Ludvig Svensson.

“If there were a standard and a benefit, such as entry into a market or premium pricing, building green becomes part of the investment analysis,” Parbst says. “Each case would be different, so a good start would be to adopt current technologies that have been demonstrated to be efficient, arranged in a design that will make the operation profitable.”

Building From Scratch

New greenhouses should maximize energy conservation and recapture stormwater runoff, among other environmental objectives. Parbst says as part of this goal, new construction should be designed to deliver heat where it is needed to increase heating efficiency.

“Most plants grow closer to the floor than the ceiling,” he says. “Growing crops in cold weather is energy-intensive, so new greenhouses should have the economically viable level of insulation, which comes in the combination of glazing type and energy curtains.”

Rebates are available for growers using energy-efficient coverings such as double poly with an IR /AC layer or 8-millimeter polycarbonate, and some greenhouse manufacturers recycle construction materials.

“Green-Tek offers an exclusive polycarbonate buyback program, which reuses old polycarbonate, thus being very conscientious toward offering green programs,” says Erin Kelly of Green-Tek. “All Green-Tek plastic products are recycled.”

Many growers have opted to install biomass boilers, which burn renewable fuels. This is not only a greener option to burning fossil fuels, but it’s also cost-effective. Biomass energy is an unlimited and renewable energy source generated from the surplus of organic waste and agricultural waste generated every day. These fuels include:

• Wood cuttings, trimmings, wood chips, sawdust, etc.

• Paper/cardboard waste

• Agricultural waste (shells, husks, crop waste)

• Dedicated crops (corn, trees, grasses)

• Animal waste or other materials

Choosing hydronic, or hot water, heating systems over traditional forced air or space heater options is a green alternative that saves growers money without the additional investment of growing crops for fuel, as some growers with biomass boilers have taken on, according to Mike Kovalycsik of Delta T Solutions.

“Radiant heating systems offer accelerated germination, rooting and plant growth, as well as 20 to 30 percent fuel savings over conventional forced air heating,” he says. “Maximum soil and plant temperature control combine with the ability to create different temperature zones for growing flexibility.”

Consider cutting electricity use with the added potential of selling energy to the local power grid by installing wind turbines. Eagle Creek Growers was successful in obtaining alternative energy grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Development to help pay for the turbine. The operation, based in Mantua, Ohio, is working toward installing another turbine and aspires to be fossil fuel free by the end of this year.

Capturing and reusing runoff can be accomplished relatively easily using recirculating irrigation systems, Both says.
“In addition, rainwater collection systems can be used to either supply additional water to the greenhouse system, or to replenish the underground aquifer, in case maintaining a certain groundwater table is important,” he says.

Growers can help prevent runoff and protect water quality by implementing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stormwater best management practices and learn more about the importance of protecting ground water.

Other important areas for environmental greenhouse design might include natural ventilation, coverings, curtains, flood floors and benches and drip irrigation.

LEEDing The Way

Growers can find guidance for green building through the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Rating System and Checklist for New Construction and Major Renovations, or on the USGBC website’s LEED Resource page.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification for buildings designed, constructed and operated for improved environmental and human health performance. LEED addresses all building types and emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies in five areas: 1) sustainable site development, 2) water savings, 3) energy efficiency, 4) materials and resources selection and 5) indoor environmental quality.

“I think most greenhouse operations would qualify for LEED silver recognition,” says Leigh Coulter of Growers Greenhouse Supplies (GGS). “Steel, aluminum, glass, poly, etc. are in many cases composed partially from recycled material. Steel uses scrap, glass uses broken glass, etc. Growers should look for help from greenhouse manufacturers and builders like GGS and JGS Limited that have LEED experience.”

The process of getting LEED certification for a green building is costly in that growers have to keep immaculate records of where materials are sourced and how they are used in the building’s construction, Coulter says. And while green building and LEED certification, by extension, are not currently mandated in the greenhouse industry, it’s likely the market will eventually demand more environmentally minded construction in the future.

“Today the benefits are mostly in personal satisfaction and marketing,” Coulter says. “In the future, the big box stores will be looking for growers who are LEED recognized to attract the consumer marketshare that values ‘green.’”

The USGBC also provides a number of reference books, including the LEED Reference Guide for Green Building Design and Construction, 2009 Edition, a user’s manual that guides a LEED project from registration to certification of the design and construction of new or substantially renovated commercial buildings. It is available for purchase on the USGBC website.

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
mcconkey-plastic-shelves-feature

December 1, 2016

How Color Point Is Stopping Cart Theft With Plastic She…

Plastic shelving on carts acts as a deterrent to theft, and employees enjoy the benefits of being able to handle the racks without difficulty or injuries.

Read More
oasis-water-valve-feature

November 30, 2016

How You Can Water Plants Based On Basket Weight

The Oasis from Control Dekk is designed to reduce water use by giving baskets the exact amount of water they need.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How The Industry Is Ensuring Consumer Success With Plan…

Greenhouse Grower RETAILING reached out to growers and suppliers for their ideas on how to attract and keep new plant customers. Here's what they had to say about ensuring gardening success.

Read More

November 29, 2016

Heroes To Hives Seeks Veterans For Beekeeping Training

Michigan State University is bringing together two great causes of our times — supporting vets and boosting pollinators — in its new program aimed at teaching professional beekeeping to former soldiers.

Read More
Silver Bullet Heaters (Heat Star By Enerco) Feature

November 28, 2016

The Latest In Greenhouse Heating And Cooling Products

New developments in heating, cooling, ventilation, and humidity control technology are designed to help you manage your greenhouse environment more efficiently. Check out some of the latest offerings from leading manufacturers.

Read More
prince-tut-cyperus-grass-feature

November 28, 2016

Growing Tips For ‘Prince Tut’ Cyperus Grass

'Prince Tut’ from Proven Winners’ Graceful Grasses collection is versatile, working well in all container sizes with its columnar habit and dense canopy and filling out well in the landscape.

Read More

November 28, 2016

Help Nature-Loving, Gardening-Skeptic Consumers Fall In…

Learn sales and merchandising techniques that will help you bring in new customers in part three of our The Missing Gardener series.

Read More
growing-media-december-2016-feature

November 27, 2016

How The Sustainability Movement Impacts Growing Media

As consumers continue to focus on sustainability, growers need cost-effective media additives and options that produce high-quality plants, all while conserving precious natural resources and reducing the grower’s carbon footprint.

Read More
florida-farm-bureau-award

November 27, 2016

Florida Farm Bureau Honors Nursery Grower For Leadershi…

State Rep. Halsey Beshears, a long-time nurseryman, was recognized for his contributions to agriculture during the 2016 legislative session with the Legislator of the Year award.

Read More
Sea breeze combo

November 26, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
Begonia at Oklahoma State University field trials

November 26, 2016

2016 Oklahoma State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]