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
To offer consumers an attractive crop, Local Appetite uses high tunnels to grow cherry tomatoes

August 24, 2016

New Food Safety Compliance Resource Available For Green…

The FSMA Wizard from Registrar Corp makes it easy for food producers, including greenhouse vegetable growers, to determine their possible requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Read More
Cannabis Structure

August 23, 2016

5 Factors To Consider In Your Cannabis Structure

Along with the size and specs of your greenhouse, it's also important to focus on ventilation, light deprivation, benching, irrigation, and odor control.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More
Bees And Pesticides

August 23, 2016

Studies Offer Conflicting Views On Neonic Effect On Bee…

How much exposure to neonicotinoids do bees need before their health becomes affected? That’s the question two research teams look to answer.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Chrysanthemum Aphid

August 22, 2016

How To ID And Manage Black Aphids In Chrysanthemums

Growers in Michigan have recently been reporting a higher presence of this pest. Here are some tips on how to control it.

Read More
LuxFlora - feature

August 22, 2016

Check Out Luxflora’s International Adventures In Europe

A new, women-led professional organization provides its members the opportunity to gain insight, develop ideas, and build connections on its annual international trip.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

August 22, 2016

Cannabis Group Stays Focused On Consistent Standards Fo…

The Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS), is an independent, third-party, not-for-profit organization, is in the process of developing cannabis-specific standards for everything from cultivation and extraction to packaging and retail.

Read More

August 22, 2016

Syngenta

Growers have new broad-spectrum fungicide options with new Segovis and Mural, as well as a new systemic insecticide with Mainspring GNL.

Read More

August 22, 2016

PL Light Systems

With the introduction of PL Light System’s new HortiLED light systems, growers no longer have to choose between quality and energy savings. Three different systems, designed for both standard and multilayer application, deliver exceptional uniformity and efficiency.

Read More

August 22, 2016

Emerald Coast Growers

Emerald Coast Growers has answers to the top trends in gardening with Chick Charms Sempervivums, two beautiful and sterile Miscanthus varieties, and the pollinator-friendly Bee You Monarda series.

Read More

August 22, 2016

PanAmerican Seed

The gorgeous large flowers of Megawatt begonias offer high-voltage color in the landscape, pots or baskets. Easily grown from seed, Megawatts come in four colors and are accompanied by eye-catching free retail kits including posters and bench cards.

Read More

August 22, 2016

PanAmerican Seed

PanAmerican Seed introduces exciting new multi-species combos from seed to its Plug & Play combo program. Trialed and proven by growers, varieties are carefully selected to grow and bloom together and make consumers come back wanting more.

Read More

August 22, 2016

How Bad Plant Pricing Can Hurt A Good Retailer

Greenhouse Grower RETAILING's pricing survey finds that the most profitable pricing method is used by only 8% of plant retailers.

Read More

August 22, 2016

IGC Chicago Scores Big With Attendees And Exhibitors

The 10th anniversary of the annual event at Chicago’s Navy Pier drew a record number of first-time attendees, while exhibitors reported higher sales than ever.

Read More
Leaf Septoria In Cannabis

August 21, 2016

Three Diseases To Watch For In Cannabis Production

The development of root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf septoria can damage cannabis to the point of complete crop loss.

Read More
Growers Supply Workshop

August 21, 2016

Learn Tips On Greenhouse Management During Growers Supp…

The hands-on workshops take place Sept. 13-15 in Iowa and Oct. 12-14 in Connecticut and feature new trends and innovations in controlled-environment agriculture.

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