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Chinese greenhouses with 3 solid walls raise temperature inside up to 45 degrees  RSS feed

 
Joy Oasis
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Have you read or maybe even tried building one?
http://www.resilience.org/stories/2016-01-05/reinventing-the-greenhouse/
They have 3 solid walls made from brick or clay, and then on the South side wall and roof made from plastic. they claim, that they can even grow warm weather crops there, when it is freezing outside without heating. They do roll down the "curtain" made from straw on the coldest nights to prevent heat loss. Solid walls capture the heat, but of course also reduce the light. it seems to work for them though. I wonder though, if we would need and get  a permit to build it since it has solid walls.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Close, mine was three walls underground, to gain the earths insulation and heat, and one wall as an entrance, with the roof of plastic. I did not roll up and down an insulating blanket on the roof, although I am sure it would have helped. I gained two months of growing time in Wyoming, with just that setup.
 
Joy Oasis
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That sounds great, Miles. Do you have some photos or videos by any chance? What kind of plants did you grow there, and did you find reduced light to be a problem?
 
Greg Martin
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Location: Maine, zone 5
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The permit issue is interesting....any chance it would count the same as an outdoor landscape wall?  I've been planning to build something similar after I finish paying off the house.  The article has some great pointers, thank you very much Joy!  I'm planning on moving my fig collection into passive greenhouses someday.  I definitely want to remove the plastic during the summer.
 
Joy Oasis
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That is an idea, Greg, it could count as a landscape wall, especially, if we take plastic off part of the year. Speaking about it, is there an easy way to do it, if we want to use it again next season? I know people put a shade cloth over it, but I didn't hear about anyone taking it off and putting it back on again.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Around here, the farmer's avoid building codes by erecting tents... The tent poles might stay in place all year round. The tent might have a concrete floor, and electricity, and water. The tent fabric gets put on during the warm months when they have produce for sale.

 
Miles Flansburg
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Joy, in this thread I have posted a few pictures.

Miles Greenhouse

I grew tomatoes, cukes, pumpkin, sunflowers, and winter greens.

I didn't notice any problems from lack of light as the whole roof was "glazed".
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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The Russians took the Chinese design and improved it a bit (or a lot, depending on how you look at it).

Put this in your preferred search engine and look at the images.
Солнечный био вегетарий
It's construction is very DIY friendly, you can figure out sizes of everything by just looking at the images.

Coupling this with underground geo-air heat exchange and you have a winner.
Or just bury it a little and enjoy.
 
Joy Oasis
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Can you give us a few points of how is it improved? I read about geothermal air installations underground, it seems like it is quite expensive and involved project though.
 
Joy Oasis
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Joy, in this thread I have posted a few pictures.

Miles Greenhouse

I grew tomatoes, cukes, pumpkin, sunflowers, and winter greens.

I didn't notice any problems from lack of light as the whole roof was "glazed".

that is a cool looking rock greenhouse. So did you use it in a cold season as well? how much higher the temperature was inside?
 
Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
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Brick greenhouses in China:

China Agricultural University has an experimental farm in Haidian North (Beijing) with several of the greenhouses described above. I am attaching several photo taken of these from inside and out.

This one is attached to the Biomass Stove Testing Laboratory which is run by the CAU College of Engineering at which I am a supervising 'visitor' (grad students, stove design and testing protocols).

The greenhouse is used as a storage facility though there are some biochar experiments going on in the photos. That is why it is not full of plants.  The fuels and stoves are stored prior to testing. All the stoves in the photos are low pressure boilers (hydronic heaters) made in Hebei Province. Testing is part of a clean air initiative for 18m farmhouses.

As described above the greenhouse top and south are curved, with a descending cover. The ropes and handles hanging from the ceiling are to control vents. There is a fan visible in the west wall. The building to which it is attached is occupied by not heated, it is just convenient to use the back was as part of another structure.

I can confirm that it is warm enough to grow things all year though I didn't pay much attention to what, or for how long. The structure was destroyed by the local government who declared that it had been built on 'farmland' illegally. No comment. The 'destroyed' picture shows the West wall, the fan and a bit of the structure - bricks.

The thermal mass of the walls is very large. I did not calculate the heat storage and return, but it is a substantial structure. There is every reason to think it is capable of keeping temperatures above some given value for a given period based on ordinary calculations. The length to width ratio would be important in that if it is really long, the influence of not having light enter on the east side is less important. I suspect the ratio is about 1:4 East:South. Although the West wall shelters the 'house from late sun, light still hits the inside of the East wall so the loss isn't all that much.

The metalwork is modern with modern conventional vents and levers. Nothing is automated except the fan thermostat.

Crispin in Muizenburg
East-wall-from-outside-showing-stove-testing-lab.JPG
[Thumbnail for East-wall-from-outside-showing-stove-testing-lab.JPG]
CAU Stove testing lab, East wall from outside
Cover-partly-down.JPG
[Thumbnail for Cover-partly-down.JPG]
Cover partly down
South-wall-from-inside.JPG
[Thumbnail for South-wall-from-inside.JPG]
 
Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
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Two more photos.
East-wall-from-inside.JPG
[Thumbnail for East-wall-from-inside.JPG]
East wall fron inside
West-Wall-and-Fan.JPG
[Thumbnail for West-Wall-and-Fan.JPG]
Some structure exposed
 
Kathryn Gagne
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Location: Lac-Humqui QC Canada Zone 3b
chicken food preservation
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Joy, in this thread I have posted a few pictures.

Miles Greenhouse

I grew tomatoes, cukes, pumpkin, sunflowers, and winter greens.

I didn't notice any problems from lack of light as the whole roof was "glazed".



Miles, can you tell me the average snow fall/ load you get in your area for the winter season? We had a total accumulation about 7 feet. Of course we shovel our roofs periodically
  .
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Joy Oasis wrote:Can you give us a few points of how is it improved?

The base design is the same with some small changes:
- the size, angles, curvature, etc. is designed to maximize available light for the russian geography;
- the northern part is for storage, shade loving plants, etc. It is not as shady as with the chinese greenhouses;
- there are small ventilation windows on the southern side;
- the northern side has glazing above the wall that contains windows, for ventilation purposes. Together with the southern windows it provides better natural ventilation than usual E-W ventilation;
- the structure is higher. More air means better temperature buffering. More height means larger thermosyphon during hot days leading to natural ventilation.

The other changes are regarding to materials:
- the northern wall is insulated (hollow brick, cement blocks, etc, + EPS or rockwool, depending on cost/avalability);
- the glazing support structure is steel, either plain square / rectangular pipe or trusses, depending on wind / snow load;
- the glazing itself is usually twinwall or multiwall polycarbonate but plain plastic film is also used.

Joy Oasis wrote:I read about geothermal air installations underground, it seems like it is quite expensive and involved project though.

Expensive, well, it depends on how much tubing you need.
For me, it's about half dollar per ft.
For my 600sqft GH i need about 600 ft tubing ~ $300.
Best is to lay the tubing in a trench, about 3ft wide so excavation time + cost is minimal.
But this is all taken into account at design stage.

The russian greenhouses are basically the chinese design made with modern / better materials and an updated geometry to better suit local conditions or needs.
They don't have any geo-air system installed.
 
Adam Hicks
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Took a weekend course from Dan Chiras at http://www.evergreeninstitute.org

He is an excellent resource for passive solar, solar, and Chinese Greenhouse theory and practice.

He has a very detailed book available.

 
Ruby Gray
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Location: Taswegia
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This sounds like a great idea. The Chinese have for thousands of years, been very efficient and inventive users of heat energy and soil for construction.
I get many frosts down to -10 degrees C, and intermittent frosts throughout summer too which is the death knell to many garden crops and my desire to be self-sufficient in food.
However as we do not have snow or a dry cold winter (41 degrees latitude South, Tasmania) but a very wet icy one, I wonder how this would work here?
Cold sleety rain driven by antarctic winds would surely saturate the brick or earth structure, and suck the heat out of it faster than the occasional sunny winter days could restore it.
Any clues?
 
Ionel Catanescu
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Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
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Well, it's simple really.
Treat the north wall's exterior like your house's wall exterior.
I imagine your house does not have issues with the kind of phenomena you describe.

I mentioned that one change the russians did to the chinese model was replacing the materials.
The chinese people were having little resources available so they used those to the max.
But the russians had industrial materials available (like concrete blocks and foam insulation, etc) and used those instead.
Heck, even for me it's much easier to get hold of industrial materials than natural ones.

So, back to the north wall.
Make it massive and, if possible, insulated on the outside, like a house wall.
If you just want to protect it, siding (wood, sheet metal, roofing metal panels or plain shingles hung, polycarbonate or even PE film) will make sure the wet / frozen gusps won't get to the actuall wall.
The sky is the limit.
 
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