Greenhouse Design - Shapes and Styles of Greenhouses

The basic shape of any Greenhouse will first and foremost be determined by the space available, but within that space, there are a handful of basic styles from which the backyard gardner can choose.

1. The "House-like", or more properly, "Even-Span" Greenhouse:

Taking its design from the shape of a basic house, the "Even-Span" Greenhouse is a symmetrical, four-sided building, shaped like a house, and generally with a pitched roof. It is the most common style of moderately to high-priced greenhouses, and when constructed
with quality materials and proper workmanship, can have a long, useful lifespan just like a house.

The walls of an even span greenhouse are generally vertical, but they may be angled, and they can be constructed of glass, plastic. Some high-end greenhouse may even have the lower portions of the walls constructed from brick, cement, wood, or other such solid material. Cold climate areas are more conducive for building greenhouse with such solid foundations, to help cut energy costs for providing winter warmth for your delicate plants.

Even with partially solid wall construction, even span greenhouses generally admit more light than most styles of greenhouses, their square shape also lets one maximize all inter space for plant and equipment placement, and the basic shape makes it easy to expand should the need
arise in the future.

One thing to remember about this type of greenhouse: A permanent structure, with a foundation and enclosed walls, and in most instances plumbing and electricity, is in fact a new building structure and must not only comply with local code requirements, but if built
from raw materials or if assembled from a kit, rather than being acquired ready-built, is also likely to require a building permit.

2. The "Lean-To" Greenhouse:

A greenhouse that shares a wall with another structure is generally referred to as a "Lean-To" greenhouse. Lean-to greenhouses may share that wall with the main house, a garage, a shed, a fence, or any other structure that has an available wall. Lean-to greenhouses resemble one-half of any of a variety of greenhouses of other styles, such as one-half of an even-span greenhouse. Eliminating the need for one-quarter of the walls means that costs are reduced, while retaining the quality of materials and workmanship.

The walls of a lean-to greenhouse are generally vertical but can be angled, and the walls
themselves are generally glass, or plastic, but they can, just as even span greenhouses, have the lower portions of walls constructed of wood, brick or cement.

When constructing or assembling a quality lean-to greenhouse that features plumbing and electricity, this style also makes accessing those elements easier and more cost-efficient. If that fourth wall is that of a home or sometimes even of a garage, existing plumbing and electrical lines can be extended into the greenhouse, rather than having to search for adequate access lines and power sources, and to either dig trenches for pipes or otherwise extend wires across wide land areas. Existing home heating and/or cooling systems can also be directly connected to a lean-to greenhouse.

If connected directly to one's home, that common wall can also include a window so the gardener can can sit comfortably in his or her kitchen, living room, dining room or den, and view that beautiful fruits of their hard work.

But, alas, there are also disadvantages to the lean-to greenhouse, in particular the fact that eliminating one wall and using as its replacement a solid structure both eliminates much of the sunlight that would otherwise be available and also reduces favorable interior plant space - that space up against the glass, where sunlight enters. Also, as with evan-span greenhouses, lean-to may well run afoul of building codes and permit requirements, as an elaborate lead-to adjacent to a home could well be considered a house addition. A lean-to built adjacent to a house, especially one with a window in the common wall, will also allow the odor of fertilizer and the odor and danger
of pesticides that may permeate into the home.

3. The "Quonset-Style" Greenhouse:

The "Quonset-Style" Greenhouse, named for the design of the classic "Quonset Hut" is more affordable and more easily constructed or assembled than either of the first two options described above. This style of greenhouse consists of a wood or PCV frame, then covered in plastic, which can be rigid, mimicking walls, or soft, more like a canvas or curtain.

The downside of a quonset-style greenhouse is that while the initial costs of acquisition and/or construction may be less than other styles, the nature of the quonset-style makes it more
difficult to ventilate, and thus more expensive to maintain once in operation. Also, if covered in a soft material, there will inevitably be rips and tears that occur, requiring both constant vigilance in finding any such problems, and he cost and labor to repair and sometimes replace the covering.

4. The "A-Frame-Style" Greenhouse:

Also less expensive to construct or assemble than the even-span or lean-to styles is the "A-Frame-Style" greenhouse. This style is popular in areas where "A-Frame" structures generally are poplar, usually in mountainous areas that have heavy snow. The slopped roof design of the A-frame keeps heavy snowfall from piling up on top of the greenhouse, as may occur with a standard roof.

In such areas of heavy snow, care has to be taken that heavy snow does not pile up along the greenhouse's walls, as the weight of the snow can push in against the walls, causing damage and even collapse. A good tip is to construct a hight and solid foundation, such as with brick, so that the sides of the A-Frame greenhouse are a few feet above ground. This also increases the interior space of the greenhouse, not to mention headroom, always an issue in any type of A-Frame, and important with smaller greenhouses, and tall gardeners. As the sloped design of the walls does limit the useable space inside this type of greenhouse, a solid base between ground and greenhouse walls that adds space is second desirable reason for construction the greenhouse in this fashion.

Though the initial cost of A-Frame greenhouses is as stated, less, and assembly lest involved and time-consuming, one other disadvantage is that head is trapped inside at the peak of the "A", and thus good ventilation and cooling is an absolute requirement, adding to ongoing maintenance costs.

5. The "Gothic Arch-Style" Greenhouse:

The "Gothic Arch-Style" greenhouse is very similar to the A-Frame greenhouse, but the less sloped design of the arch provides more interior space for plants and furnishings and equipment. This style is a popular design in less expensive and easy-to-assemble greenhouse kits.<

6. The "Geodesic Dome-Style" Greenhouse:

The "Geodesic Dome-Style" Greenhouse is not only a practical addition to your gardening needs, but it can be a center of attraction in your garden. Constructed of a framework of triangles (or sometimes other geometric shapes), this greenhouse style is also commonly available in relatively inexpensive kit form.

As in those similar styles of A-Frame and Gothic Arch, ventilation is an issue, and even more difficult in a geodesic dome. A problem unique to the geodesic dome-style greenhouse is the fact of the round sides that in order to maximize interior space require rounded benches and shelving, not easy to find, and not easy to build.

Choose wisely among these various choices of greenhouse styles, and pick the one best suited for your garden space, your climate, and your personal needs.

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