Designing A School Greenhouse

An educational greenhouse is a big investment and should be designed with the help of professional greenhouse manufacturers. When planning your greenhouse for educational purposes, this guide will help you make many of those tough design decisions.


How will

Size

  1. How many students will be in the greenhouse at one time?
  2. How will the greenhouse be used?

These two questions should be the basis for what size structure you choose. Allow a minimum of 60 square feet of greenhouse area per student with 30 square feet of bench space per student. For a minimum square footage requirement for high school greenhouses, check with your local department of education. Keep in mind that greenhouses used for hydroponics and/or aquaponics generally require more space than those used for ornamental horticulture.

Location

When choosing a location, there are many factors to consider. The greenhouse should generally have a North-South orientation if possible. Since they require a good bit of attention, consider a location near a classroom so it will be visited more regularly during the day. Also, light levels play an important role in plant development. Pay close attention to the proximity of parking lot lights, football stadium lights, etc.

Structure

The structure should be framed with galvanized steel or aluminum and cover the greenhouse with polycarbonate. Galvanized steel and aluminum last for many years with minimal maintenance, and polycarbonate has good insulation values and excellent light transmission, not to mention it is flame retardant. It is also stronger than glass, offering better protection from hailstorms, rocks thrown by lawn mowers, baseballs, etc.

Other elements of the structure to consider are flooring, benches and aisle widths:

  • Concrete slabs work best for greenhouse flooring, are much easier to keep clean and eliminate the battle with weeds.
  • Expanded metal bench tops provide years of maintenance-free service and allow for good air circulation and water drainage. Benches that can be accessed from both sides can be up to 6 feet wide, but benches that can only be accessed from one side should be limited to 3 feet in width.
  • Aisle widths of 3′-4′ should be maintained to accommodate large class sizes and students with special needs.

Climate Control

An automatic temperature control system is a must. And, although it’s nice to have the ability to monitor and control the greenhouse conditions remotely, it’s not a necessity.

  • Heating: To heat the greenhouse, we recommend gas unit heaters. These can be ordered from either LP gas or natural gas. Electric heat is also an option, but it can be quite expensive in a greenhouse of this size since they require 480-volt 3-phase power.
  • Cooling: Achieve a cooled greenhouse with properly sized exhaust fans and evaporative cooling systems. If the budget allows, energy curtains are also a nice option to have. These function as a retractable ceiling inside the greenhouse and keep the heat down at plant level, thereby reducing heating costs. During the warm seasons it also serves as a shade system.

These are only a few things to consider when designing your educational greenhouse. When you’re ready to get started, the professionals at Atlas Greenhouse are eager to work alongside your team to design and build your greenhouse project.