Designing and building a greenhouse can be complex, especially on a commercial scale. These structures are often expansive, heavily customized and outfitted with the most up-to-date growing systems, so operations can maximize yields and bring costs down, no matter where they’re located or what crops they’re trying to produce.
As greenhouses become increasingly larger in size and growing technology continues to advance, so too do the requirements for pulling off a successful greenhouse installation. With so many details and moving parts to consider, each phase of a project requires careful decision-making and close collaboration between growers and their greenhouse builders.
Although most choices will likely vary from project to project, there are still a series of best practices all growers and greenhouse builders can follow to help them achieve a successful greenhouse installation. Listed below are some of the biggest keys that remain consistent across the industry, helping operations end up with a high-quality, long-lasting structure that allows them to stay profitable over time.
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CHOOSING THE RIGHT GREENHOUSE BUILDERS
At the initial stages of a project, growers will first need to choose which manufacturer they want to supply and construct their greenhouse. While there are many factors that can influence this decision, it should ultimately come down to growers working with reputable greenhouse builders whom they can trust to get the job done right.
From an industry standpoint, this can mean several things. First, the best greenhouse builders will have a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to building codes, not only on a national level, but with local and state level building codes as well. This will ensure a grower’s structure is designed to the unique specifications of their region, and they are less likely to run into any major roadblocks when trying to get their greenhouse plans approved.
Secondly, not every greenhouse supplier is going to have the manufacturing capabilities needed to fit the scope of a grower’s project, particularly with more extensive custom greenhouses. By working with greenhouse builders who specialize in larger greenhouse installation, growers will have the best chance of completing their structure on time and under budget.
CONSIDERATIONS PRIOR TO GREENHOUSE INSTALLATION
Besides selecting the right greenhouse builders, growers will need to make a number of other considerations during the pre-construction phase of their project. Some of those preliminary factors include the time it takes to get permitting, the type of foundation they want, the drainage within the greenhouse and utility access at their site, like electricity and gas hookups, a reliable water source and more.
Additionally, growers should also think about the orientation of their greenhouse. The way the sun travels over their structure during the day will have an impact on the internal sun exposure, so they need to make sure they position their greenhouse in a way that optimizes lighting for their plants.
When it comes to the design of the greenhouse’s interior, it’s a good idea for growers to base their decisions around the crops they intend to grow. From the growing systems and components to the overall layout and floor plan, growers should strive to create a setup that’s best suited to their expected crop types.
That being said, it’s also important for growers to stay flexible with their design. Being thoughtful of any potential new crops or structural expansions at this phase can pay major dividends, helping operations scale their business over time and maintain long-term success.
After selecting their greenhouse supplier and the design of their structure, growers will be able to turn the project over to their greenhouse builders. Prior to actual greenhouse installation, though, these crews will need to prepare the chosen site in order to ensure a smooth construction process.
Just like any building site, there are a variety of factors to consider when preparing a spot for greenhouse installation, starting with soil conditions. Through a geotechnical report, greenhouse builders can determine whether the chosen land has the capacity to support the intended structure, as well as get construction and engineering recommendations. Depending on the results, one outcome might be that growers need a more versatile foundation than traditional concrete, like helical anchors.
Once soil conditions are deemed adequate and a foundation has been chosen, greenhouse builders will then need to focus on grading the construction site. Not only does this mean creating a level and solid building bed, but also establishing the ideal slope to accommodate a system for drainage and rainwater runoff. By doing this, crews can ensure growers won’t have unwanted water running into their greenhouse and damaging crops.
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PRECAUTIONS DURING CLADDING INSTALLATION
The cladding portion of greenhouse installation is crucial, as this material will play a significant role in the overall effectiveness of the structure, including its insulation, light transmission and more. If installed improperly, a greenhouse will likely suffer from various issues, like air leakage and a low R-value. This can reduce the structure’s overall energy-efficiency, as well as make it difficult for operations to maintain their ideal growing environment.
Therefore, it’s important for greenhouse builders to take a careful approach to this phase of a project, especially when it comes to handling and storage. With glass panels in particular, construction crews need to utilize special tools during greenhouse installation, like suction cups. Suction cups are crucial for keeping glass secure, preventing unnecessary movement and ensuring each panel is placed on a greenhouse correctly.
Other cladding options, including polycarbonate panels, don’t require as many unique tools during greenhouse installation, but they do still need to be stored properly to retain their effectiveness. Prior to greenhouse installation, polycarbonate should be stored in a cool, dry location. These panels typically come with a plastic coating on them, so storing them in this manner will prevent that material from adhering to the polycarbonate and causing damage.
KEEPING PROJECT TIMELINES ON TRACK
Greenhouse projects can vary depending on different design elements and outside influences, like the size of the structure, the chosen location and a grower’s production goals. Still, one overarching theme needed for any greenhouse installation to go smoothly is effective communication and collaboration between the project management team, installation crew and grower.
An experienced project manager will be able to keep their crew organized and working efficiently, providing clear direction and overseeing the construction process. In addition to valuable leadership skills, project managers must also schedule the delivery of product and material to the site in a timely manner, staying ahead of the installation team, so they have the components they need to continue moving the construction process forward.
Likewise, it’s also crucial for project managers to have a seasoned installation crew to work with, who have ample experience and knowledge surrounding greenhouse projects. A dynamic team will be able to follow directions, as well as work independently when needed to help keep a greenhouse installation on schedule.
With any type of greenhouse project, from expansive commercial structures to smaller greenhouse kits or attached greenhouses, the installation process can overwhelm even the most experienced growers. However, by working with reputable greenhouse builders and following these best practices, operations should end up with a high-quality greenhouse that stands the test of time and allows them to produce their best crops through every growing season.
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