A bioshelter can play a lot of roles in a sustainable culture. In addition to expanding the production of a market garden, a bioshelter provides a place for education, social gatherings, and general relaxation. Not everyone needs to garden, but we all need to know a gardener. Neighborhood greenhouses / bioshelters will provide plant material, seedlings, herbs and produce and a green space to socialize in cold months. The colder the climate, the more need there is for sheltered environments to grow greens in the cold seasons. In keeping with permaculture design, making thses places serve multiple functions in the community magnifies their "productivity". The thermal mass in bioshelters also can be multifuntional, from fermentation vats, producing miso, kim chi or wine while stabilzing greenhouse temerpatures.
Many buildings, cafes and restaurants can incorporate bioshelters in their roofs and buildings to provide fresh ingredients and extend the season for fresh local produce.
This has got me thinking about the commercial greenhouses that have been sitting empty in our village since the garden center shifted most of its operations to the neighboring town. As it happens, our new interim mayor is part owner of the garden center. I am wondering if he could be convinced to undertake a community project along the lines you describe. He is above all else a businessman, so I would have to come up with a profit-making side for him...
Any thoughts on retrofitting from standard commercial greenhouse to energy-efficient bioshelter designs? Note that the site is on the flats along the St. Lawrence estuary, they greenhouses (4 or 5 of them, I think) are oriented north-south (more or less) and they get blasted by the same arctic winds as I get on my site.
If the community project is a no-go, what do you think of the chances of some enterprising person (not me) of making a living by converting the greenhouses to bioshelters and setting up a market garden? Our village is a tiny farming community, so the local market would be limited, but there are farmer's markets in the two neighboring towns (20 minutes away).
A bioshelter is a greenhouse managed as an indoor ecosystem, in other words, a Permaculture greenhouse. To me bioshelter implies solar and biothermal / biomass heated, but basically one maintains habitat for beneficial insects, and perhaps toads and frogs. one creates a human managed indoor ecology.
posted 7 years ago
I am convinced that it takes a community to manage a bioshelter and a permaculture farm. By that I mean friends, family and colleagues that work together to develop and maintain the farm. Redesign of commercial greenhouses would likely require insulation, adding thermal mass, perhaps even reorientation to get the most sun and have insulated northwalls, and perhaps east and west walls and partial north roof insulation. There are many possible variations, the most important is to design the interior as diverse integrated systems of perennial herbs abnd shrubsand annual gardens. Functional thermal mass, as in fish tanks, planter beds over rock beds or water drums and so forth is also important. Such buildings would need energy assessment and design to maximize solar heat gain and storageand reduce the needfor back up heat. Sounds like you need to plant windbreaks too.
posted 7 years ago
Thanks for another concise yet thorough answer, Darrell.
I actually stopped by and talked to one of the partners at the garden center today. She said they do use the greenhouses for tomato production in the spring and summer and also for overflow from the other facility, so not exactly idle, in spite of appearances. In any case, they are virtually empty in the winter months, as it is clearly too expensive to run them in their current condition with their current business plan. Seems a waste, but I suppose it is an example of bad design resulting in lack of utility.
I will bear your remarks in mind if they ever look like they are open to major change. Maybe when I get done with your book, I'll bring it over to them to plant a seed, so to speak. (By the way, is your book available in French?) It is an extended-family owned business, so they certainly have the team in place to make a good go of a bioshelter market garden if their current business model ever goes bust.
Zone 3b, Lower St. Lawrence, Quebec
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