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
North Creek Tim McGinty Steve Castorini

February 24, 2017

AmericanHort Names New Board Members and Officers for 2…

The new board members are Steve Castorani of North Creek Nurseries, Tom Hughes of Hughes Nursery and Landscaping, and Cole Mangum of Bell Nursery.

Read More
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus on Osteospormum

February 23, 2017

4 Pathogens to Prepare For in 2017

Early detection of disease and virus symptoms in the greenhouse is critical. One expert says there are a few pathogens in particular that growers should be monitoring.

Read More
EAGL Graduates

February 22, 2017

Emerging Industry Leaders Earn Business Management Cert…

Dr. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair for International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, recently announced the graduation of the fourth cohort of the elite Executive Academy for Growth & Leadership (EAGL) program for nursery and greenhouse growers.

Read More
Drone for Bee Pollination

February 21, 2017

Learn How Drones Could Eventually Replace Bees in Polli…

Researchers in Japan are using the principle of cross-pollination in bees to make a drone that could potentially transport pollen between flowers.

Read More

February 21, 2017

Ian Baldwin: 2017 is Off to a Strong Start For Plant Re…

Many garden retailers are telling garden retail consultant Ian Baldwin that sales and the consumer’s attitude toward spending have been very strong the last two months.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Christmas Joy Marble'

February 20, 2017

5 New Varieties Shaking Up the Poinsettia Tradition

With poinsettias trending toward non-traditional colors, growers may find new opportunities to spread sales beyond the winter holidays. Here are five of the newest euphorbia varieties to hit the market that may play a role in redefining the future of the poinsettia market.

Read More
University of Tennessee trials overview (2015 University of Tennessee Field Trials)

February 19, 2017

2016 University of Tennessee Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson, TN.

Read More
Reiman Gardens field trials

February 18, 2017

2016 Iowa State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames, IA.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

February 18, 2017

Top 100 Growers Survey for 2017 Is Now Open!

Operations with more than 400,000 square feet of environmentally controlled production are eligible to take the survey, which only takes a few minutes to complete.

Read More

February 17, 2017

How to Keep Customers Coming Back With Top-Notch Servic…

A recent article on Forbes.com outlines seven ways organizations can take their customer service from good to great and beyond.

Read More
Summerwinds Proven Winners display FEATURE

February 17, 2017

Proven Winners Makes Improvements to Its Retailer Certi…

Understanding the challenges of training new and seasonal staff at independent garden centers, Proven Winners says it is working to equip managers with tools to prepare their employees to better handle customers’ questions and boost their confidence in selling plants this season.

Read More
Tom Foley, WaterPulse

February 17, 2017

Industry Veteran Tom Foley Discusses His New Role as Vi…

Foley, a greenhouse industry veteran who was most recently with EuroAmerican Propagators, will be responsible for North American sales of WaterPulse’s patent-pending capillary mats and associated irrigation systems to nurseries and growers.

Read More
Dan and Jerrys Greenhouse 1

February 17, 2017

Dan and Jerry’s Greenhouse Buys Iowa-Based DeJong Green…

The acquisition will allow Dan and Jerry’s, a bedding plant grower headquartered in Minnesota, to extend its seasonal product offerings and service a new customer base with local distribution.

Read More
Savor New Website

February 16, 2017

Pleasant View Launches Updated Website for its Savor Ed…

The site is designed to offer a friendly and informative vehicle that delivers product information in an easy-to-navigate format.

Read More
Syngenta Obsession Cascade

February 15, 2017

Syngenta Introduces Two New Flower Series for 2017

‘Sunfinity’ Sunflower produces multiple branches with numerous flowers that bloom all season long, while ‘Obsession Cascade’ Verbena quickly fills containers with vibrant flower patterns.

Read More

February 15, 2017

Growers Planning to Invest in Structures in 2017

Data from this year’s Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry survey indicates that growers are planning to make major investments in structures and facility upgrades this year.

Read More
NVAC Greenhouse prototype

February 15, 2017

New Greenhouse Cooling System in Development for Hot-Cl…

Researchers at McGill University in Quebec have developed an alternative evaporative cooling solution for greenhouses in warm climates, and are now seeking commercial partners.

Read More

February 15, 2017

Registration Open for NGMA Spring Meeting

The annual gathering of the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association will feature a look at green industry trends, emerging market opportunities, and more.

Read More