There are many things to think about when managing a greenhouse construction project. Your business relies on factors such as crop deadlines and financing – make sure your project stays on course and you are making the proper considerations. You can always hire expert project managers like GGS if you don’t want to be involved in all the details, but if you decide to be your own General Contractor here are some tips to help you through the process.
1. A greenhouse structure is a capital purchase – treat it as such
Using your operating line of credit to expand your greenhouse is a classic misstep that has gotten more than a few greenhouse growers in hot water with their banks, suppliers, and sometimes their employees. Operating lines are for operating costs, something you will also likely need to increase if adding substantially to your greenhouse business. Adding a new greenhouse is a capital purchase, and should be approached like one if you intend to have the money to pay for your new greenhouse irrigation system, boiler, and environmental controls.
2. Ask your banker for more money than what you have been quoted for your greenhouse equipment
It doesn’t matter how detailed you are in your planning; major construction projects almost always have cost overruns. At GGS we recommend our customers approach their lending institutes and request 10% more than what they budget. This shows people financing your greenhouse that you build in contingencies, which actually makes you look less risky than if you had asked for less. 10% can go a long way to covering unexpected costs, like new building permit fees implemented by the town, or realizing you forgot to get a quote for your greenhouse poly, or changing your mind and wanting to add an extra loading dock at the last minute.
3. Have a kickoff meeting to establish a construction schedule with all suppliers and contractors
Getting everyone on the same page before any project begins is paramount. Without establishing how everyone will work together, there is a high risk for cost overruns during construction, because someone else may have put their systems where the next person expected to be able to start working. As project manager you need to know what everyone is doing and when they’re doing it. Get the team together early with a kickoff meeting. This first meeting can even be done over telephone or a web conference if you can’t get everyone in the same room. It is important to establish goals and milestones with your suppliers and contractors, ensuring that you record them in your calendar for later reference.
4. Coordinate the flow of funds to match bank draws with supplier payment terms
Most suppliers will want some kind of a deposit, and then progress payment draws are standard in any construction related field. Your bank may require you to provide proof of delivery, or percentage completion invoices to justify drawing down on the load. In order to make sure your greenhouse construction goes smoothly the bank and your suppliers have to be on the same page you are on. It is a lot less stressful to make sure all the payment terms are agreed to before construction begins.
5. Give yourself enough time to execute your greenhouse expansion
No matter how good your greenhouse manufacturer is, or how fast your greenhouse construction company is, no one can deliver a turnkey greenhouse yesterday when you are placing your order today. Proper planning takes time, and crop deadlines are important. Discuss this early with your greenhouse manufacturer and they will be able to assist you in putting together a proper timeline so decision on details like, greenhouse structure, heating, irrigation, and the environmental controls can be scheduled to give you the finished greenhouse when you need it.
6. Have regularly scheduled meetings to make sure milestones are met and delays are brought in line quickly
Don’t assume that just because you have accounted for everything, that everything will go according to plan. Stay on top of the milestones you set in your kickoff meeting, and schedule meetings in accordance with them. For example, if there are delays in receiving materials for whatever reason, you need to be aware so you can push back your construction crew’s schedule.
7. Use technology to keep your project organized
Paper calendars and whiteboards can be useful visual aids for simple tasks and schedules. However, they do have their limitations, and you may want to consider utilizing software to set reminders and organize tasks and meetings. This could be as simple as using Outlook to schedule reminders for your milestones, phone calls, and coordinating with your project team. Or you may want to invest in more robust project management software that allows you to set task dependencies that will automatically adjust lead times and notify your team of changes in order to keep your project on track.
If you need a reliable manufacturer for your next expansion, GGS supplies a wide variety of complete commercial greenhouse structures, including turnkey solutions of the following structure types:
As a greenhouse grower or manager, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities and allow the little items to get missed. When it comes to energy issues, these little items can really add up! Energy conservation has been a popular topic of conversation, but there are many aspects that are often overlooked by today’s growers.
Greenhouse Energy Curtains
Energy curtains have been noted as a quick payback in the energy savings market. Most growers make sure that they are taking full advantage of their impact by tweaking their climate control system from season to season and keeping it in good operational order. But how many growers measure the effectiveness of the curtain itself as it ages?
Manufacturers suggest that the maximum lifetime of an energy curtain is eight to 10 years, and UV degradation can occur after as little as five years. It is common to retain curtains far past this limit as long as they are not showing major signs of damage such as shredding or ripping.
Is this the best way to cut costs or would it be wiser to replace that energy curtain according to the manufacturer’s suggestions? It is best to keep records of the date of installation of all energy curtains with a date of replacement predetermined. If energy curtains are allowed to remain in place after their efficiency is compromised, energy will be wasted.
Any Energy Being Wasted?
At home we are often reminded of energy wasted when lights or appliances are kept running unnecessarily. Why can this not be a concern at the greenhouse? How many times are offices or computer rooms left empty with lights on, air conditioning running, etc.? A grower can be preoccupied in the greenhouse for hours before visiting his office.
It is often overlooked that energy is wasted when electrically powered items are on unnecessarily. A 5,000 BTU window unit air conditioner, for example, can cost upwards of $50 per month in electricity; if there are multiple offices with such cooling units, this can become quite an expense. Be aware of electrical costs and conserve accordingly.
Another problem often overlooked is the heat loss that occurs when doors are left open unnecessarily. How often does someone pass through a mandoor and leave it open for an extended period? Whether it’s in the greenhouse or the warehouse, cold air will infiltrate that area and extra energy is needed to warm it again.
Prevention for this common occurrence is to install door-closing springs on every man-door to avoid them being left open. Take this a step further and make sure that latches catch properly so that the wind cannot fling a door open and the door is properly weatherstripped to eliminate drafts.
Check Overhead Doors
Overhead doors can also be a source of wasted energy. If the weatherstripping is worn or they do not close tightly, there will be cold air penetrating, especially on the windy winter days. Take the time to check each overhead door for issues before the cold weather sets in.
A good measure is to educate the staff on how important it is during the winter season to open overhead doors only as long as necessary, have a procedure and post it beside the door as a reminder. It’s unfortunate, but entranceways into the greenhouse are a common cause of energy waste. Scheduling a maintenance person to check each door in the facility for inadequacies annually before the cold weather arrives will conserve a surprising amount of energy.
Too Hot in the Boiler Room?
Boiler rooms are often described as the “hottest areas of the greenhouse.” This does not have to be the case. In fact, if this is the situation, then there might be an insulation issue.
Concerns are often centred on the efficiency of boilers and recovering wasted heat through a flu-gas condenser. The colossal heat loss from pipes that are not insulated is not recognized.
A greenhouse does not need a “hot” boiler room; the heat is required in the greenhouse. If the boiler room is unusually warm, have a look around. Are there bare pipes radiating in that area? Often heat system installations get to a point where everything is working as designed but the finishing touches are left incomplete. Insulating pipes where heat is not needed is usually last on the list and often overlooked. Do your own heating system audit and determine if you need to insulate. The capital cost will be outweighed by the energy savings!
Energy Efficient Lighting
High intensity lights are often necessary in the greenhouse environment and are indeed a burden with their energy requirement, but how much time is spent analyzing how to use them efficiently? Whether the lights are used for creating long-day conditions or as a supplement to solar conditions, there is a risk of energy wastage.
Whatever type of lighting used in the greenhouse (fluorescent, HID or LED), there are decisions that are made that can greatly influence energy conservation. With supplemental lighting, the crop will determine at what external light levels the lights need to be turned on, but the time frame that passes at the low light level before this occurs is in the hands of the grower. HID lights, for example, take a large amount of energy to get to full intensity; you do not want to be cycling on and off unnecessarily throughout the day by having the lights react too quickly. The grower needs to look at a reasonable time span of low light before initiating the supplemental lighting. In the case of additional light for extending the day length of a plant, a grower can look at numerous factors. What time of the evening is electricity the cheapest, and what time does the crop need the additional light? Decrease this supplementary light source as the days get longer. Generally this is looked at seasonally and the daylengths are not considered until it is officially long-day conditions (around March 17). Greenhouse lighting is a big contributor to the total energy bill. Take the extra time to investigate the small details and it will save dollars.
The points mentioned here are but a few of the areas where energy savings are a concern. Today’s grower is always conscious of efficiency, especially when dealing with energy, as it is the second greatest expense of a greenhouse operation. The next time you look at your energy curtain, boiler room, office, entranceways or HID lights, view them with a more critical energy-conscious eye!
The Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) just opened a $10 million state-of-the-art research greenhouse facility in London Ontario, designed and built by JGS Limited, and manufactured by GGS. It is the newest addition to the Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre (SCPFRC). This research facility will greatly benefit growers, as the work done in this laboratory greenhouse is aimed at improving crop quality, productivity, and disease/insect resistance.
At GGS, we are proud to have manufactured such an advanced research greenhouse that will be used to help growers, further the industry, and create better crops. We are also glad we have directly contributed to the creation of jobs and the positive effect on the economy it will have.
The SCPFRC is part of the AAFC's network of agricultural research centres, and does research on pest management, bio-based products, genomics, biotechnology, and soil/water quality. This new facility in London will triple the greenhouse capacity of this advanced researched centre.
"The Centre has a long tradition of working with producers and building strong relationships with industry. Research done here will continue to lead to new technologies and better agricultural practices for farmers," said Minister Ritz. "It is a great example of how scientific advances can strengthen Canada's position in new and existing markets."
For more information about AAFC science and technology, please visit agr.gc.ca/science.
For more information on the Research & Architectural Greenhouses designed by JGS, visit jgslimited.com.
This is the simple question we've been asking growers over the past few months, as part of a contest to win an iPad Mini. The response has been incredible, and we're very happy with the submissions we've received. We have read each and every one of the creative, inspirational, educational, and sometimes humorous responses. But we had to narrow down our list of finalists, and we've chosen 8 submissions to post on our website.
Now YOU have the chance to vote on your favorite response! Which finalist is deserving of the grand prize? Have your say now and help decide the outcome!
Even though we are no longer accepting official entries, we would still LOVE to know why you love working in the greenhouse industry. Please share with us below!
1. Improve our customers’ interactions.
Products and services are important, and GGS will continue to develop new solutions for better growing environments. Equally important is the experience our customers walk away with every time they interact with our company. Whether for a quote, an order, follow up on a construction project, or researching what greenhouse design options are available, we want you to have a positive impression.
2. Reduce the work for our customers.
We are doing this by looking at how we can assist you with more than just the greenhouse purchase. What do you need to do after you have chosen your greenhouse supplier? GGS provides optional turnkey solutions including construction project management for customers who do not want to be tied up managing a greenhouse build and coordinating with all the sub trades.
3. Provide after sales support to ensure our customers are fully satisfied.
At GGS, we make every effort to ensure you get the ideal growing environment for your crops. After the project is done, we fully stand behind our work, and if you have questions or concerns, our sales professionals will continue to work with you until your issues are resolved.
4. Listening to our customers and getting feedback to provide an atmosphere of continuous learning
Of course we love hearing positive feedback about how our structures are improving the quality of our customers’ crops. But we also always want to know how we can further improve – and this industry is all about the exchange of ideas. If you have an idea of how we can improve our products, services, or customer interactions, we want you to share!