Structural flexibility

Ask the Experts - Structures

Atlas President Mark Davis details the importance of foresight when considering building new greenhouse space.

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November 21, 2019

Photo courtesy of Atlas Manufacturing

When growers consider building new greenhouses, there are a number of factors to consider. Mark Davis, president of Atlas Manufacturing, breaks down growers’ options. 

Produce Grower: What are some of the greenhouse structure trends currently shaping the industry?

Mark Davis: What we are seeing are demands for structures that have much taller gutter or eave heights that incorporate shade screens and black out systems. Additionally, there is an increased demand for positive pressure ventilation, especially within the vegetable market sector. We are also seeing an increase in demand for structures that incorporate insect exclusion into the design. I feel that these trends are [attributed] to the continued growth of the cannabis / hemp and vegetable markets within our industry.

PG: If a grower came to Atlas and wanted to start a new greenhouse build, what are some main factors they should know? 

MD: I think No. 1, the customer should be doing his or her research and trying to do business with a reputable greenhouse manufacturing company, making sure that the manufacturer can help guide the grower on the design and the equipment requirements for a specific crop. A supplier should know the building codes, too. It’s a big deal and the codes are going to vary based on the intended use [of the structure].

If a grower hasn’t expanded in a few years, they may be surprised to know that the codes have changed and find out that the process isn’t as easy as it used to be. A lot of things — submitting site plans, structural and foundational design submitted, etc. — are not what people might be used to. Site prep — water runoff, retention ponds, etc. — is needed too are important aspects of a new greenhouse build that are often overlooked initially but can have a real impact in overall project cost. All of these factors should be considered and discussed.  

PG: Should growers consider what they are growing when building a new greenhouse?

MD: With any new greenhouse build, and because of these emerging markets, I think you really have to think about — and it’s important to think about — what you’re doing today and what you’re building the structure for, what crop it’s being built for. It may differ in the future. You need to know if it’s a) fulfilling your needs and b) limit[ing] your ability to pivot something else. This could affect the structure’s design, the ventilation and heating requirements, the overall site plan and layout. Certainly, being able to adapt — let’s say, for example, you want to switch from ornamentals to vegetables — and you need to think about supplemental lighting, are you going to be able to do that? That applies to other factors, like insect exclusion, blackout systems and shade screens, too.