Arcosanti’s Soleri Office & Drafting Building (Red Room Greenhouse) Undergoes Renovation

We are currently working on a renovation of the Red Room Greenhouse that is located in the Soleri Office and Drafting Building (SOD). This is part of an effort to upgrade and better utilize existing infrastructure. Arcosanti now currently has four greenhouses (Camp Greenhouse Camp Bathroom Greenhouse, High Tunnel Greenhouse and the Red Room Greenhouse) with a fifth one planned as the first section of the Energy Apron Greenhouses (Guest Rooms Greenhouse).

The goal of this month’s renovation and upgrade effort is to incorporate the Red Room Greenhouse into our existing greenhouse growing system.  Our plan involves renovating the space and adding new growing beds to better utilize the space. In addition to the construction aspect, we will adding this space to our existing operations (High Tunnel Greenhouse); germinating, cultivating irrigate plants as well as managing/maintaining the Red Room Greenhouse on a continual basis as needed adding to what we now produce.

Red Room Greenhouse Background

Currently the Red Room Greenhouse is being used for growing and storing a few landscaping plants. The Red Room Greenhouse located in the Soleri Office and Drafting (SOD) building was built as part of a plan to set up an integrated growing and heating system within the SOD building. SOD of course reference to the main uses of the building but the problem is that the building uses have changed over the years. Soleri no longer spends nights at Arcosanti and so the top level is no longer his residence and the Drafting area has been converted over to the Red Room. Only the middle level Office area remains in its original intended use. Regardless, the Red Room Greenhouse currently provides some heat to the office during cold mornings as the greenhouse heats up from the south facing sun. Recently an additional hole was cut into the Red Room ceiling to allow heat from the greenhouse to be vented into the space using a solar powered fan.

Red Room Greenhouse Upgrade Plan & Strategy

As the construction team develops additional infrastructure including the Guest Room Greenhouse, we are renovating and improving existing greenhouses. Our current effort and that of the Arcosanti Agricultural Program is on the High Tunnel Greenhouse located below the Pool and adjacent to the Crane.

The plan to renovate and upgrade the Red Room Greenhouse, includes using many growing techniques and processes that we learned and researched through the High Tunnel Greenhouse experimentation in 2010 (and which continues up to now) and which we plan to eventually incorporate into Guest Room Greenhouse.

This includes planning how the Red Room Greenhouse will fit into the a comprehensive food production strategy for Arcosanti that complements the High Tunnel and eventually the existing Camp and planned Guest Room Greenhouses that are now under construction.

Goals for the Arcosanti Greenhouse Program include:

  1. Provide food for the Arcosanti Cafe/Cafeteria
  2. Supply the Arcosanti Community Supported (CSA) Agriculture Program
  3. Expanded experiences for workshoppers to learn about growing food more sustainably using organic farming practices.
  4. Complete the Energy Apron Greenhouse
  5. Make Arcosanti more of working model of sustainably by incorporating relevant Appropriate Technologies into the design and development of this program.

Current Activities

Recently during this week, the effort has focused on removing the material in the existing bed, repairing the existing bed by removing broken concrete and adding fresh concrete.

The Feb workshop worked with the construction on cleaning out the bed, removing the silt and drainage material on Tuesday. They also set up the forming system on Tuesday and cleaning the rubble to create a clean surface for the new concrete to be added to.

On Wednesday, we inspected the existing concrete, assembled the form using carpentry clamps to hold the plywood we used as a form to the existing concrete structure. Then we made sure the top of the form was in the place to ensure a nice even pour for the top of the new planting bed wall. Finally we poured the mixed the concrete, brought it up to the greenhouse and added a bonding agent to assure a good bond between the new and old concrete and then poured the concrete into the form.

Next Steps

The next steps will be mixing and then adding fresh soil. Then we plan to work with the landscaping dept to move or rearrange many of the existing plants in the greenhouse. Later, we will design additional raised beds to better utilize the space in both the top and lower levels of the greenhouse. The preliminary plan is to use laminated beams as the framing and walls for these new beds.

Rationale & Future Outlook

By actively rebuilding and renovating existing greenhouse spaces we make use of existing resources by upgrading them, while we build the Energy Apron Guest Rooms Greenhouse. It is anticipated that this renovation when completed, will add to our existing High Tunnel Greenhouse growing space and capacity.

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