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Zero Energy Greenhouse

Boulder Foothills, Colorado

The challenge: a zero energy, off-the-grid, architecturally integrated solar greenhouse located at the exacting altitude of 7,800 feet. The solution: Each building component strategically addresses thermal and energy performance.

An off-grid photovoltaic system exceeds all electrical loads, while battery storage facilitates 3+ days of autonomous operation in case of continuous overcast conditions. The Greenhouse Earth Thermal Storage (GETS) System turns the earth itself into a thermal mass “battery”, with a buried pipe system that gathers warm air during hot months to “charge” the soil, and distributes warm air from the charged soil into the greenhouse during cold months. This system, in synthesis with optimal insulation, tuned windows, light shelves and shutters, increases performance and eliminates the need for conventional heating solutions.

Although a greenhouse is typically water intensive, annual net-zero water use is targeted with a three barrel 150 gallon rain catchment system.

A comprehensive system of Intelligent Building Controls and Monitoring & Verification (M&V) gives the client freedom and control. Primary performance parameters being measured include indoor/outdoor air temperature, indoor/outdoor relative humidity, indoor/outdoor CO2, soil temperatures, indoor/outdoor solar radiation, and water use.

Intelligent Building Controls enable the autonomous operation of the insulated shutters, the GETS System, and the ventilation system.

This greenhouse is currently in the performance period for the International Living Future’s Institute Living Building Challenge Zero Energy program. We hope to see zero-energy architecturally integrated greenhouses becoming a part of the architectural vernacular supporting independent sustainable lifestyles.

Synergistic Building Technologies served as a Systems Consultant for this project.

New Energy Greenhouse
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