Best Practices for Commercial Greenhouse Construction Projects

Whether you are building a single hoop house or building a ten hectare greenhouse range, new greenhouse construction is part of building your growing business. For many growers the construction process is exciting full of anticipation as you watch your dreams becoming a reality. For other growers, greenhouse construction brings on a feeling of anxiety as personal and corporate resources must be directed to an area of the business they are less familiar with. After decades of working with thousands of greenhouse growers all over the world, we have come up with our list of best practices for ensuring a smooth new greenhouse construction project. Here are the GGS greenhouse growers’ best practices:

Planning for long term goals first

Very few greenhouse construction projects are built to cover the entire property in one build. In most cases, finances, time, and current market demands are not in place at the beginning for the size you want to become. So by looking at your greenhouse business’ future goals you can avoid some costly layout mistakes, and increase the efficient scalability of your greenhouse. A well-planned layout for structures and greenhouse equipment should include mapping out workflow for the various functions of your operation. Consider in the future how you will automate, streamline, and adapt to your growing business.

Hiring experienced people

Typically we see three types of greenhouse construction projects:

  • Do it yourself builders are either smaller growers who have their hands in all aspects of their business, and work closely with a dedicated team of employees who work in many cross functional areas of the business; or they are larger greenhouse operators who build frequently and have experienced builders and maintenance people on their payroll.
  • Greenhouse owners who do their own project management but hire a professional greenhouse construction company, and other expert crews for installing the greenhouse structure, heating, irrigation systems, etc.
  • Growers who prefer to focus their energy on their business operations and hire greenhouse construction turnkey project managers to organize the greenhouse construction and all the integrated systems.

Use a greenhouse manufacturer who understands how you want to build and has the experience to provide the level of construction assistance that you need. For do it yourself projects, a clear set of construction blueprints and a sales/service department who can answer questions during construction are what you need. On the other end of the spectrum for turnkey greenhouse management you need a greenhouse manufacturer with experience in project management as well as the various facets of greenhouse systems design and installation.

Getting organized from the start with a kickoff meeting

Make sure there is a kickoff meeting to clearly define the different systems that will need to work together. Shade, CO2, irrigation, fertigation, ventilation, heating all need to work together to provide the ideal crop environment in your greenhouse. By making sure everyone on your supply side is aware of the total package you gain more expertise to make sure that the systems work as planned. Greenhouse construction projects that start with suppliers and installers working together have a higher satisfaction rate.

Providing for contingencies in the construction budget

Whether you are going to the bank for a loan, or building the greenhouse range out of cash flow, defining the capital expenses and ongoing operating costs is a necessary element for success. But no matter how good your planning is, on construction projects there are often surprise issues. A contingency in the budget helps reduce your stress and that of your bank.

Building extra time into your construction schedule

Just as with unforeseen expenses, timing on a construction project can go astray. Perhaps, there is constant rain that makes the construction site muddy and slows the crews down, or the employee in charge of the build resigns. Building in time for every possibility is of course not possible, but where it makes sense add extra time to the critical path.

Focusing on quality every step of the way

Your greenhouse structure and the environmental controls and growing systems inside the greenhouse are long term investments that will yield long term dividends. Starting with quality puts your operation on the right path from the start, and allows you to focus your energies on growing your best crop.

New construction decisions include efficient technology

When you are buying quality products for your long term growing success it makes sense to buy products and systems that will maximize operational efficiencies. This list includes:

  • High efficiency boilers and unit heaters to reduce energy costs.
  • Picking carts, robots, and other material handling systems
  • Environmental computers to automate ventilation, temperature, irrigation, etc.
  • More efficient grow lights to reduce electric consumption
  • Rolling benches

Be purposeful in changing anything from what you are familiar with in the greenhouse

Because the complete greenhouse environment requires interdependence between light levels, air flow, temperature, humidity, irrigation, etc., changes in how you have grown in the past need to be done with intentional consideration to the total greenhouse environment.

Keep track of progress as the greenhouse is built

Know the milestones you want to hit, and visit the construction site often checking that you are reaching those milestones, and dealing with any variations as they occur. A good greenhouse construction project manager will have a GANTT chart outlining the start and end times for all the elements that are going into your greenhouse build. If you are managing your own project, this is an easy way of tracking multiple trades. By staying on top of the progress you help keep the project on course, and can rectify minor difficulties before they become major issues.

Growing a successful greenhouse business involves much more than just growing the crop. Greenhouse expansion planning and greenhouse improvements help growers improve efficiencies, take advantage of market opportunities, and provide for employee growth. At GGS we are proud to be a part of your growing success.

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