Greenhouse MA Community College Greenhouse: Pushing the State of the Art in Sustainable Greenhouse Design?


Recently I have been discussing ideas on how to effectively move forward the Arcosanti Energy Apron Greenhouse Project with David Tollas and other Arcosanti Workshop Alumni on Facebook. This was a discussion David initiated to discuss some of the challenges he was facing in getting the project completed as planned.

Last night, Eric Fedus just made me aware of an advanced greenhouse that incorporates state of the art integrated systems for maximum performance in sustainability. Its Just north of where I am now (Williamsberg MA). The Greenfield Community College Greenhouse is a nearly 600k project that includes a 400k DOE grant and also a large individual donation of 200k.

This project is an example of my assertion in the discussion that research does not always have to be tied to financial sustainability. While that should ultimately the goal of any projects work it may not lie directly in the scope of it. In the case of this project, it sought to demonstrate how its possible to build a greenhouse that provides an ideal growing environment for plants without the use of fossil fuels or other energy sources that emit CO2 into the environment – a Net Zero building.

The design of the project is also noteworthy because it does incorporate something similar to what the Arcosanti greenhouse design calls for: to design a slope to the greenhouse for cooling. This allows a natural airflow to develop between the top and bottom of the structure so that the cooler air coming into the greenhouse moves up as it heats, resulting in a cooling effect that minimizes the use of active air cooling systems that require moving parts and the use electricity.

Besides the design to stimulate a natural airflow, it also includes the integration of infrastructure for photovoltaic, solar thermal and geothermal systems.

In the PR from the college about the facility, GCC President Robert L. Pura states that the project:

will be a demonstration teaching and learning space for our Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Program, support Horticulture and Botany classes and any future coursework in Sustainable Agriculture, and provide another lifelong learning resource for community members through our Community Education Department.

The building was designed by NPS Architects, but the actual engineering systems seem to be engineered by a group from the Wentworth Institute of Technology. This group wrote a paper from 2008 that outlined the basic concept and the engineering behind it titled: DESIGN OF A CARBON NEUTRAL GREENHOUSE FOR GREENFIELD COMMUNITY COLLEGE.

A key question that often comes up with these kinds of project is whether it really had to cost this much to demonstrate a sustainable greenhouse design. The Solviva Greenhouse for example also provided similar designs and for considerably less cost.

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