For educational institutions, non-profits, and other teaching organizations focused on spreading agricultural knowledge, an educational greenhouse can be a hugely valuable tool and learning space.
That’s why it’s worthwhile to ensure your school or organization’s greenhouse is planned, built, and supported for success throughout the setup process—that way, you can be confident from the moment those first seeds go into the ground.
We should know: here at Rimol, we’ve helped dozens of schools, non-profits, and other teaching & learning institutions find success in their educational greenhouse structures. Here’s a look at 6 of the most useful tips we’ve learned through the process. Follow these and you’ll have your school’s or organization’s greenhouse up and growing efficiently in no time.
1. Define Your Greenhouse Needs
Before purchasing your educational greenhouse, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and ask, “What do we really need our educational greenhouse to do?”
This can actually be a pretty tough question to answer—mainly, because it’s easy to get lost in all of the options, capabilities, and features available on a modern greenhouse structure.
If you’re not familiar with the basics of greenhouse design, we recommend starting with a few key considerations to get your plans pointed in the right direction:
- Size: How big should your educational greenhouse be? Will you need room for equipment? How many individuals will need to fit in the greenhouse at one time? How much space can you dedicate to your greenhouse structure?
- Snow Load: Depending on where in the world your greenhouse will be located, you may need to account for significant snowfall on top of (and around) your structure. It’s critical to understand what kind of snow load capabilities your greenhouse will need, even in a worst-case scenario.
- Wind Load: Similar to snow capacity, a greenhouse structure’s wind load capabilities can play a big role in keeping your grow space safe through high wind events.
- Growing Capacity: How much are you hoping to grow in your educational greenhouse? How much physical space will that take to accomplish?
- Accessibility: If your greenhouse is in use in an educational institution, it may be required that the structure is wheelchair and handicap accessible. Otherwise, you may need to accommodate for factors like bolstered safety precautions (if small children are present).
- Environmental Controls: For greenhouse growers all across the world, environmental controls have become a critical part of year-round growing and season extension. If you plan on utilizing your educational greenhouse throughout the year (or just beyond the traditional growing season), you may want to consider whether or not you will need heating, ventilation, and light control.
- Power? Gas? Water?: If you do plan on utilizing a heating system or water in your educational greenhouse, you will need to account for a system for bringing water, gas, and electricity into your structure. Your greenhouse supplier, as well as your builder or architect, will be able to assist in finding the right solution for your utilities.
2. Determine Your Greenhouse Budget
All too often, the best of intentions for an educational greenhouse go unrealized because of one common problem: insufficient budget planning. Fortunately, with the right plan in place, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Here are a few of the most common budgeting pitfalls that educational institutions and nonprofits run into along the way, and what you can do to avoid these problems and get your greenhouse up and growing on time and under budget.
- Approval from State Ed/local building authorities: In many cases, an educational institution may be required to obtain approval for building a greenhouse structure from the State education department, or from a local building authority. These approvals often have costs associated, which should be researched and budgeted before getting started.
- Cost of Utilities: If your greenhouse will be utilizing electricity, water, or gas, you may need to factor in the continuing costs for these utilities into your overall greenhouse operating budget. An accurate estimate of energy and environmental control costs can help you better plan for the long term.
- Construction Cost & Site Prep: Unless you are highly experienced with construction and greenhouse setup, your organization may need assistance and expert support when it comes to getting your structure up and operational.
3. Establish a Plan To Get Growing
The best-designed, most innovative greenhouse in the world won’t accomplish much if there’s not a solid plan behind the crops growing inside it. That’s why it’s so important to create a clear path forward for your greenhouse crops early in the process. That way, you can be sure your greenhouse of choice is the right option for your needs.
When it comes to planning out how your greenhouse will be organized and outfitted, it’s helpful to consider a few key questions:
- What will you grow? The plants and crops you plan on growing in your greenhouse may affect how you construct your greenhouse. This can include how much space you’ll need to be protected, what kind of entries and exits you’ll need for equipment, and what kind of environmental control systems you’ll need to leave space for.
- Will your greenhouse also be a teaching facility? If you plan on inviting students and community members directly into the greenhouse for observation or hands-on education, it’s important to consider factors like floor space, ease of access, and accessibility.
- What is your growing season? Will you practice four-season farming? If you plan on keeping your greenhouse operational and growing crops all year long, you may need to consider greenhouse environmental controls to keep your growing area sufficiently heated, lit, and ventilated through the cold winter or hot summer.
4. Build Your Ideal Educational Greenhouse
Once your plan is in place and your budget is all set, it’s time to get down to actually building your educational greenhouse. This can be trickier than you might think, especially with so many options and added features available to today’s farmers and educators.
Fortunately, we break down the greenhouse building process into just a few easy steps to ensure you can get your school’s greenhouse up and running with confidence.
- Choose your base greenhouse structure. Now that you know what you will grow and what you need from your greenhouse, it’s time to pick your base greenhouse construction. Most greenhouse suppliers offer a wide range of base packages, which a grower or educator can add on to in order to build the perfect greenhouse package.
This will include key considerations like total greenhouse length and width, doors and windows, coverings and exterior materials, and end wall farmings.
- Outfit the interior with the right benches. If you plan on using benches, this is the right time to make your selection. You may need to size your benches specifically for your greenhouse size and shape to ensure a proper fit.
- Construct your greenhouse (with help, if needed). It doesn’t do much good to invest in an educational greenhouse if you’re not willing to get construction right. That’s why we often recommend that our customers work directly with one of our trusted greenhouse builders to ensure everything from the right foundation to a strong and durable construction throughout.
- Set up environmental controls. Installing your heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting systems should be relatively straightforward once your educational greenhouse is in the ground, but it may still help to have your greenhouse builder assist with the installation to ensure proper spacing and operation.
5. Invite The Community To Participate
An educational greenhouse is a great teaching and learning tool for those at the forefront of the latest agricultural techniques and methods—but it will really do the most good when community members are invited into the process. That’s why we encourage schools and teachers to welcome in the neighborhood to get a closer look at your educational greenhouse.
- Bring students & educators in to participate in setup. Having a team of educators, faculty, and students present for the actual construction of the greenhouse may be a useful opportunity to create a personal connection with the new growing space. That can make a big difference when it comes time to use the greenhouse for its educational purposes.
- Invite extension & community members to visit and offer feedback. Your neighborhood growers might just have great insights into how you should go about using your educational greenhouse, and inviting community members and extension students in may help generate positive conversations about your new greenhouse outside of your school walls.
6. Work With A Trusted Greenhouse Partner
When your construction and setup is all set, it’s time to get started on the true purpose of your educational greenhouse: growing crops, and growing the next generation of farmers and industry leaders. That’s when it can be most helpful to have an experienced, dedicated greenhouse partner by your side to help your school or institution navigate the path forward.
- Find a greenhouse supplier & builder with experience and trust. We hear from too many schools about the struggles of keeping a greenhouse in good, working order year after year after year. That’s why we pride ourselves on our continued partnerships with educational institutions, which includes everything from offering insights on how to grow, to providing replacement parts and equipment when needed.
Ready To Get Your Educational Greenhouse Up and Running?
If you’re ready to get started on the path toward providing your students and educators with a dedicated greenhouse teaching space, Rimol can help. We’ve been providing high-quality, durable, and fully-outfitted educational greenhouses to schools, universities, and nonprofits all across the United States for years, and we’ve learned a thing or two about how to get it done right.
Ready to get growing? Get in touch with our team and let’s start a conversation on how to offer the best possible greenhouse for your students. Together, we grow!