Step 1. Enroll in the Course
Step 2. Using our step by step method complete your plans from scratch or customize the plans included in the course.
Step 3. Check in with us quarterly to review and improve your design
Step 4. Build your greenhouse
Step 5. Start producing food year round for you and your community
In this 10 week self-study course, professional engineer, Rob Avis, will walk you through the step by step process he uses to design world class passive solar greenhouses for his clients. At the end of the course you will have created a beautiful, functional design, that will the be the beginning of a passive solar greenhouse customized to your goals and your climate.
"As a market gardener I have found my greenhouse to be absolutely integral to the profit of our farm. Now we can produce year round." -Curtis Stone, Green City Acres.
Having a passive solar greenhouse gives you more options in producing your own highly nutritious food and creating valuable products for your community.
Just remember, the most important part of building your greenhouse is making sure your design is perfect before you build so that you don't waste time and money fixing design mistakes later.
After building my own passive solar greenhouse in 2012, I learned a lot about what makes a great greenhouse.
Since then I have helped numerous clients through my engineering firm, Adaptive Habitat, design and build the perfect passive solar greenhouses for their needs.
After helping them design and build their projects I realized I could help more people by creating this course and giving you access to my experience with passive solar greenhouses for a fraction of my consulting fee.
What's better than a beautifully designed greenhouse?
A beautifully designed greenhouse that can pay for itself from the crops it produces.
And no one knows better how to make a greenhouse pay for itself than Urban Farmer Curtis Stone.
Every year, Curtis produces $25,000 worth of microgreens in his 20’ x 50’ Passive Solar Greenhouse.
He sells his crops to local grocery stores and restaurants.
He serves Kelowna, BC, Canada. A population of 125,000 people.
Chances are, you have access to a market of this size.
This means that you can build your passive solar greenhouse and be producing greens for your local market while paying off the cost of your structure.
We have brought in Curtis to teach you everything you need to know to maximize the production of your greenhouse.
I have learned a lot over the years from my experience designing and building my own passive solar greenhouse as well as designing greenhouse for my clients. In this course, I will share everything I have learned with you including the following:
The Importance of Goal Setting
Goal setting is the start of any successful project. If you don’t have a set of realistic goals you will never get anywhere. In this session we break down what these goals might look like, how to set them and how to translate them into design directives that are actionable.
Site Selection, Orientation, Aspect Ratio and Shape
The physical shape of the greenhouse is one of the most important aspects to get right, right from the start. We talk about dome greenhouses, hoop houses, walipinis and passive solar greenhouses. Each of these greenhouses has inherent pros and cons which we will discuss at length. By the end of this lesson you will know how to choose a greenhouse shape and orientation.
Foundation, Kneewall and Ventilation
These three components are crucial to the long term stability and usability of the greenhouse. The foundation design is crucial to supporting the greenhouse but also plays a crucial roll in keeping heat in the building. The knee wall will ensure that your greenhouse is ergonomic and that the ventilation continues to work. Getting the right amount of ventilation will ensure that you have healthy plants that grow almost effortlessly.
Glazing and Light
Plants are super efficient solar collectors, greenhouses should be spaces that enhance solar collection of plants. Glazing is the transparent material that keeps in the heat but lets through the light. Heat and light have an interesting relationship in that the more light the glass lets in the more heat it lets out. Choosing the right glazing is crucial to making sure your plants get enough light energy while staying cozy inside. We will also talk about artificial lights, the different types, how many you might need and how much it will cost you monthly and yearly to run them. We have built a special section in our design tool that makes sizing artificial light a breeze.
Insulation, Thermal Mass and Calculating Heat Loss
In this lesson we will teach you how to use the design tool to optimize the R-value of your greenhouse so that you are using the least amount of energy to keep it warm. We will show how you wall segments translate into the amount of energy and ultimately $’s that you need to spend on a monthly or yearly basis so that you can plan ahead.
Internal Design Integrated Design
Lastly we will talk about elements that you can integrate into the greenhouse that will enhance the space. We love to integrate things like saunas, hot tubs, canning kitchens, root cellars and “relaxation infrastructure” that can make hard winters a breeze!
-Kalista Pruden, former student
We start by identifying your goals and then work backwards from there.
The course is designed to be completed in 10 weeks, although you can take longer if you need to.
Each week you will be working through one group of elements of the design process.
At the end of the 10 weeks you will have created a Passive Solar Greenhouse Design customized exactly to your production and climate context.
With this design you can start building the greenhouse yourself, or give the plans to a builder who can turn your vision into a reality.
Now that you know the broad strokes of what we're working towards, let's look at the outline of what is covered each week.
Week 1 | Goal Setting & Establishing Your Context
Week 2 | Site Selection, Orientation, Aspect Ratio & Height
Week 3 | Shape
Week 4 | Foundation, Kneewall, and Ventilation
Week 5 | Glazing & Light
Week 6 | Building Methodologies, Insulation, and Calculating Heat Loss
WEEK 7 | Thermal Mass, Subterranean Heating and Cooling Systems
WEEK 8 | Heat Systems and Fuels, Internal & Integrated Design
WEEK 9 | Maximize Your Production
WEEK 10 | Refine Your Design
"Rob is very knowledgeable and that came through in all the online sessions and the question and answer times. I feel very fortunate to be on board and to be able to go back over the course content to keep learning. All in all, the online courses that you are providing are great!! It really makes it possible to learn from anywhere in the world. Thanks and hope to meet you in person some day. Susan "
"I was shocked at how much I learned in this class. The opportunity to learn from the personal experience of someone who has built and maintained a passive solar greenhouse for years was amazing. The tools offered in the class combined with experience will save me so much time and money in my future projects it is almost scary. "
"Rob & Michelle - I’m proud of your work and your vision. What a delight to see young people like you embrace and then lend your savvy talents to this movement. "
"Over the past five years I have watched Rob and Michelle build Verge Permaculture from the ground up and I am proud to say that Verge Permaculture is now one of North America’s premier permaculture design and education companies."
"This course was superb. It was worth far more than the cost. It was intelligent, professional, fun and really encouraging. There is tons of value-added information that I doubt you could find anywhere else in one place. Kudos to the team for an excellent job. "
"Rob was very thorough and has clearly given much thought to the subject. The design tool is worth the price of admission by itself. Saved us a ton of research time, simplified the design process and the underlying engineering, and made us think about how we are going to use the greenhouse itself. Well worth the cost and time."
"It was extremely well detailed on how to build the greenhouse and how to calculate metrics on the heating required. Excellent job on the presentations and goal setting. Well worth the money for the course. Thanks again."
We have broken up all of the design work into 10 weeks so that you can give each element its proper focus.
Each week contains multiple units. Each unit with its own lecture.
At the end of each week you will be tasked to complete one aspect of your design and are required to submit your progress to the class.
You will also be encouraged to look at other students' work and provide your feedback.
A good set of plans is the difference between a greenhouse that looks good on the outside and a greenhouse that looks good on the outside AND feels good on the inside.
As you have heard a thousand times before, "The Devil is in The Details."
And that is ABSOLUTELY the case with Passive Solar Greenhouse Design.
To give you the most value with this course, we have provided you with two complete sets of plans that you can use as a basis for your design.
You can choose to build either of these plans exactly as they are or you can modify them to fit your context like a glove.
These plans are perfect as a starting point if you would like to customize them.
To buy these plans independently would cost $500 each, or up to $5000 to have an engineer draw them for you.
Note: The plans are not stamped or certified by an engineer for any bioregion. Plans require final design by a civil engineer for foundation, wall, glazing support and roof design. The greenhouse also requires a local mechanical engineer to certify that minimum ventilation and heat requirements have been met for this greenhouse.
These drawings are meant to speed up the design process and save money in drawing, not provide a final set of plans. Verge Permaculture, Adaptive Habitat and Small Farm Academy take no liability for the bioregional adequacy of the structure or local indoor air quality requirements. All components of this building REQUIRE detail design and customization by a certified engineer(s) or architect(s).
An improved set of plans based on the design Curtis Stone uses to grow 100 pounds of microgreens each week in his greenhouse in Kelwona, BC.
These plans are perfect if you want to build a greenhouse that can provide an income for you as well as significant food security.
A 10' x 20' Greenhouse that Rob has designed, built, and improved over the past 5 years. This plan is perfect if you have limited space and want to make the most of it.
The ultimate in passive solar greenhouse design. After building his own greenhouse and helping clients design theirs, Rob and settled in on this design as the dream Greenhouse.
If you're looking to make a highly productive, multi-use resilience structure, consider building from this set of drawings.
Each week you will be designing a different group of elements of your greenhouse.
Rather than make you perform lengthy calculations we have invested thousands of dollars to develop this spreadsheet based tool that will make your design process drastically easier.
Imagine that this tool is like a mini version of Rob, calculating all of the values for you instantly.
Each week we will gather data and fill out a section of the tool. At the end of the course this tool will give you a report of all of the building details you need to design your greenhouse.
This is optional, but if you would like to find an accountability in the course it can help tremendously in making the most of this course and your greenhouse design.
You have access to all 10 weeks and 10 hours of instruction forever. You will have this course as reference as you improve your design and build your greenhouse.
We treasure our community of students here at Small Farm Academy. You will join your peers sharing your designs and providing feedback on others'. The interations amongst students is where the most learning takes place. Evolving from student to teacher of your peers will help you more deeply understand the principles taught in the course.
We want to help you design the perfect greenhouse. If for whatever reason, this course is not a fit for you, no problem. Just email us, tell us how we can serve you better, and we will happily refund your money.
This course is designed for people who want to invest in a space that can yield an abundance of food they can sell to their community or feed their family with.
Do you want to dramatically increase the production of your farm and/or homestead?
Do you want to extend your season and grow crops you haven’t been able to before?
Do you want a way to pay off an essential piece of resilience infrastructure?
If you are answering yes to these questions, you are exactly who we have designed and built this course for.
If you're still wondering, feel free to send us an email at: courses @ smallfarmacademy.com and we will be more than happy to help you answer any questions.
-Jeremy Zoltan, Edible Landscaper
How long do I have access to the course?
You will have lifetime access to this course. You will go through it in 10 weeks, and after that you can reference it whenever you want.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
If this course is not a fit for any reason, you can have a full refund, no questions asked, within 30 days of enrolling in the course.
Are there any system requirements for this course?
We will be using a spreadsheet based tool throughout the course. You will need to have a copy of Excel or a program that can open and run .xlsx files.
Click the button below to request a call and a member of our team will call you to answer your questions and help you determine if this course is a fit for you.
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