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

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Benary 2018

April 18, 2018

At CAST 2018, Sakata Captures Consumer Attention Spans,…

More than halfway through the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team had a busy but fantastic day seeing dozens of our friends at American Takii and Benary, and spending time talking about the industry's past and its bright future.

Read More

April 18, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Varieties to Watch F…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from American Takii, Hilverdakooijj, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Sakata Ornamentals, and Ernst Benary of America.

Read More

April 18, 2018

How the Horticulture Industry’s Past Shaped Its P…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says the stories of plant origins help ground our industry to the people and places that have changed us.

Read More

April 18, 2018

Dr. A Weighs in on His CAST Favorites From American Tak…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Dummen-Christmas-Decorating

April 17, 2018

Dümmen Orange’s New Gamechanger, Plants for All S…

Greenhouse Grower's California Spring Trials Team headed north on Day 3, with stops at Dümmen Orange in picturesque San Luis Obispo and Floricultura in fertile Salinas.

Read More
Verwer-Dahlias

April 17, 2018

Syngenta Flowers Acquires Netherlands-Based Dahlia Bree…

Syngenta Flowers has reached an agreement with Verwer Dahlia BV to acquire the company’s dahlia assortment and breeding program. Both companies expect to finalize the acquisition in the coming weeks.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Armitage Scholarship Winner Weighs in on Plant Breeding…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says breeders' persistence in making small and large breeding improvements is a testament to their passion and dedication to excellence.

Read More

April 17, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: Stand-Out New Plants fro…

Check out these new plant introductions from the California Spring Trials 2018 trail featuring breeding from Dümmen Orange , Westhoff, Beekenkamp, and Plug Connection.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Noteworthy 2018 Plant Intros fro…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More

April 16, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Plant Intros from Gr…

New plants from Suntory Flowers, Terra Nova Nurseries, Prudac, Florist, PlantHaven, Anthura, Kapiteyn, Kientzler, 2 Plant International, and more on day two of California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Artemisia-Plant-Display-at-Terra-Nova

April 16, 2018

CAST 2018 Provides Fresh Inspiration for Infusing Marke…

The  second day of California Spring Trials took the Greenhouse Grower Team to GroLink in Oxnard, CA, and then up the coast to Windmill Nursery in Buellton. Here are some of the marketing, display, trend, and people highlights we saw at those locations, as well as some beautiful scenery from our evening in Pismo Beach.

Read More
Lavender-Madrid-Lavish-Green-Fuse-Botanicals

April 16, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Spring Trials Favorites From Green Fus…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Echinacea-Kismet-White-Terra-Nova-Nurseries

April 16, 2018

Terra Nova Nurseries Debuting New Heuchera, Echinacea V…

Terra Nova Nurseries has created profile pages for these new varieties on its website to help growers learn about growing habits, plant characteristics, and other insights provided by the breeding team.

Read More
Danny-Takao-Allan-Armitage-Andrew-Scheldorf

April 16, 2018

Armitage Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Conversation…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, is realizing the power of networking and building relationships in the floriculture industry.

Read More

April 16, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Top Plant Picks From Day One of CAST 2…

The Greenhouse Grower Variety Team at California Spring Trials (CAST) 2018 visited Green Fuse Botanicals, Floranova and Vegetalis, and Ball Horticultural Co. on the first day. Here are Dr. Allan Armitage’s top plant picks of the day.

Read More