Building a Grand Greenhouse
DESIGN - PLANS - CONSTRUCTION - BUDGET
The plans for our greenhouse came from the Mississippi State University Extension. On their web site are sketches of several different greenhouse designs. We wrote off for the complete plans for the one we liked -- there was no cost. They sent us two large professional drawings. Click HERE to view the plans they have available.
(End elevation from the MSU plans.)
The plans were for a 23' x 48' greenhouse. The greenhouse was built to cover most of the long side of our mobile home -- thus helping to keep it warm during the day in Winter and protect it from the wind and cold at night. Here is a rough sketch of the greenhouse, long side facing to the south of course:
Costs of Building the Greenhouse:
- Foundation: concrete work for footer and stem wall - $1200
- Walls and roof panels: 8 mm twin-skin polycarbonate sheets, trim,
and shipping costs - $2500
- Materials: wood for framing and roof, 2-6' patio doors, nails, and straps - $1950
- Paint (and primer) for all wood - $170
- Additional lumber and paint - $550
- 8' sliding glass door for south facing wall - $330
- Labor: 60 hours @ $20/hr - $1200
- Materials for north facing roof section: 5/8" plywood sheets and rolled roofing - $700
Total: $8,600 ($7 per square foot)
NECESSARY MODIFICATIONS TO THE PLANS: It was necessary to modify the plans we received to include a conventional concrete foundation (12" x 12" x 18" footer and stem wall consisting of two courses of concrete blocks). The plans called simply for wooden posts as a foundation, fine in Mississippi, but not in the Arizona desert where every square inch of ground is alive with termites ready to have your house for dinner. The north facing section of roof is solid (5/8" CDX plywood sheets) in order to shield some of the intense summer sun. The south facing roof section is clear polycarbonate sheets except for a small solid plywood section to support the solar hot water heating unit. In the winter, the sun is low enough to shine underneath the solid north facting roof section. Plywood panels were used at each of the corners of the greenhouse to give the structure added stability, particularly in high winds which occur during the Monsoon season in the desert in AZ.
WAS IT WORTH IT BUILDING
SUCH A BIG GREENHOUSE ?
The greenhouse has produced cabbage, green peppers, many tomatoes, New Zealand Spinach, and several varieties of herbs but much more was possible once the construction phase of Solar Haven was completed and all the construction materials stored there were removed. A greenhouse of this size of course has excellent commercial potential.
The greenhouse provided a convenient place for people meet for classes we held on construction techniques. In the photogrpah below the folks who helped raise the walls of our straw bale have retreated for awhile when an afternoon thunderstorm came up.
Here's a somewhat embarrassing picture of the mess of STUFF we collected and stored in the greenhouse from garage sales, dumpsters, and demolition companies to build the house with. It WAS wonderful to have all that storage space when we needed it!
The greenhouse also serves as the nerve center for our whole operation since it houses the batteries, inverter, and other electronics for the solar electric system as well as the circulating manifold and all the pumps for our radiant hot-water heating system. The solar hot water collecting unit also resides on the roof of the greenhouse above the manifold.
In addition, we built an entire storage room out of straw bales within the greenhouse itself to house the batteries and inverter and protect them better from the heat of summer and the cold nights in winter.
finally, the greenhouse is just plain nice to look at,
both from the inside and from outside in the yard.
"It just feels good..."
© 2000-2013 by Jim Phypers