DIY Greenhouse Kits vs Engineered Greenhouse Plans

When to opt for DIY Greenhouse Kits, Engineered Plans, or Design Builds?

Depending on the greenhouse size, scale, and purpose, a greenhouse may be designed to meet the needs of a particular crop, or pre-engineered plans may be used that can meet the needs of many different crops. Your business plan will help determine which approach will be best to suit your budget and growing needs. Some greenhouses can be bought in DIY greenhouse kits that are self-assembled. Large greenhouses or greenhouses that are to be custom-built may require the builder to install them. There are endless options to consider based on the amount of labor the owner wants to put in themselves and based on the many material options available.

DIY greenhouse kits are a cost-efficient option for smaller greenhouses that can be self-assembled. These kits are good for growers looking for more basic structures that do not require customization. Engineered greenhouses are best for larger structures and commercial greenhouses that need to be customized to the site and/or crop and will have to conform to building codes. Engineered greenhouse plans generally include site plant, structural plans, and analyses of the site’s environmental factors like traffic and erosion.

Hortitech Greenhouse Options

  • DIY Greenhouse Installation 
  • Professional Contracting
  • Engineered Greenhouse Plans
  • Made to Order Custom Greenhouse Frames
  • Licensed Contractor Installation

Considerations for Planning a Greenhouse Build

The type of greenhouse that is right for you will depend on a number of factors in addition to your budget. Planning and proper site selection are critical for the success of your business and the productivity of the greenhouse.

Crop Considerations

  • Type of crop to be grown
  • Crop growing period and environmental needs
  • Growing containers and growth medium (pots, beds, hydroponic systems)
  • Growing systems (floor, rolling tables, benched)
  • Number of plants

Other Considerations

  • Marketing and sales (wholesale, retail, or both)
  • Budget
  • Size of the site (at least 2 acres recommended)
  • Traits of the site (soil and water quality, climate, topography, infrastructure)
  • Zoning and permits needed
  • Applicable building codes
  • Fertilizer and pesticide storage (away from heat sources)

When planning a greenhouse business, you should create a Facilities Master Plan. A Facilities Master Plan is a framework for the construction of buildings based on a business plan. The plan includes a survey of any existing facilities, evaluates the benefits and constraints of a site and where on the site the greenhouse should be built. The greenhouse itself is one factor, but plans should be made for outdoor production space, parking, storage, an optional head house, and room for future expansion.

Types of Greenhouses

Whether you plan on building your greenhouse from a DIY kit or engineering a customized space, there are many options to consider in the type of greenhouse you build. Gutter connected greenhouses may be best for large commercial greenhouses. These are a series of gable-roofed or quonset-roofed greenhouses that are connected at the gutter. Gutter connected greenhouses are most efficient and economical when they are at least 10,000 square feet in size. Most greenhouse owners will be more likely to start with a single freestanding greenhouse under 10,000 square feet. 

Having multiple freestanding greenhouses is an alternative to gutter connected greenhouses that allows for the greenhouses to have different environmental conditions. Freestanding greenhouses are much easier to shut down for the winter if you are planning on seasonal operation. The main types of greenhouses are classified by the shape of the roof. Quonset (hoop), gothic, and gabled are the most popular. Gothic greenhouses have higher light transmission and are best in climates where there will be snow. Semi-Gable greenhouses are also good for shedding snow and provide a spacious work area. Quonset greenhouses are better suited to seasonal use.

Greenhouse Glazings 

Greenhouse glazings, or greenhouse coverings, present many options. Polyethylene film is the most popular material that comes in a variety of thicknesses and light transmission grades. Polycarbonate is a more durable and rigid material that is also used. Shade screens may be needed in locations where summers can be very hot with intense sun exposure.

Greenhouse Environmental Controls

When constructing a greenhouse, energy efficiency is very important. The costs of inefficient climate control and irrigation can be considerable. Heating, ventilation, and fans for cooling, irrigation systems, and optional automated or mechanical controllers for systems should be considered when planning the greenhouse build. Manual or simple mechanical systems will be suitable for smaller growers. Large commercial greenhouses will likely desire higher degrees of automation, especially if they are in an area with limited labor available.

Influence of Labor Availability on Greenhouse Construction and Operation

Labor will be an important consideration to make when designing your greenhouse. If there are is not an ample manual labor force available greenhouse owners may consider utilizing more automated and mechanized technologies. The size and scale of the commercial greenhouse, as well as budget, will also play a role in determining how much labor or automation is needed. In areas where more skilled workers are available, hydroponic growing systems and mechanization will be more viable since more mechanical aptitude is needed to care for these systems.

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