This course will teach the design, construction and effective utilization of greenhouses. A survey of structural principles, material limitations, macro/micro environmental design principles, enclosure options, and existing greenhouse archetypes will be discussed in the classroom and in the field as students tour area greenhouses with opportunities for hands-on building and learning. This course will also consider how a greenhouse enclosure can be integrated into, and influence, the interior spaces of existing buildings. Students will get an overview of the environmental principles and guidelines that designers employ in designing buildings that benefit from the natural energies that are ambient in our world. The course begins with an understanding of how the sun’s orientation from dawn to dusk contributes to the solar passive heat gain with respect to the location and orientation of a greenhouse, and concludes with the basic understanding of assembling a home built greenhouse.

Course start time: Saturday, 9am
Course end time: Sunday, 5pm

  • Competency Level: All Levels
  • Sterling College credits: 1 Continuing Education Unit ($130 additional)

Course Objectives

Students enrolled in this course will learn the principles of greenhouse design and be able to apply those principles in order to design a greenhouse to best fit their own design criteria.

Suggested Reading

Elliot Colemans. Four Season Harvest

Materials/Tools to Bring

  • Laptop computer with a free download of the program ‘Google Sketchup', if you can.
  • Camera

Course Schedule


9 am – Intros and Goals

9:30 – 12 : Greenhouse structures – Overview of the many types of greenhouses and season extension systems and the uses, and types of crops possible. Hoop house, arch style, gutter connect, strapping, passive solar, bio-shelter, production, high tunnels . A look at different materials, connections, fasteners, and skin systems will be considered.

Noon: Lunch

1-3 Mechanical systems : from automated vents and convection systems to heating and cooling systems, every greenhouse needs to be able to maintain optimum growing conditions. Slideshow on building active and passive heat storage systems as well as other energy considerations.

3-5: Greenhouse Planning and Design Considerations: Proper planning will make building, and ultimately using and maintaining your greenhouse more functional and cost efficient.


8:30 – 11 : Greenhouse tour – Tour of a few local greenhouses of different construction methods and style of frames. high tunnel, production, wood, gutter connect.

Bag lunch on the road.

11- 5 : Greenhouse Hands on – installation of attachment system and film on a four season tools, rolling high tunnel greenhouse at Unity Farm in Charlotte, VT for Eleven Acre Farm which will be used this growing season for crops. Optional if time allows to go to Eleven Acre Farm and finish elements there.


Start Date: April 30, 2016
Duration: 2 Days
Tuition: $350