The Living Rainforest Sustainable Greenhouses

G.P.A. Bot, H.F. de Zwart, K. Hansen, A. Logan, H. Witte Groenholland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The Living Rainforest ( is an educational charity that uses rainforest ecology as a metaphor for communicating general sustainability issues to the public. Its greenhouses and office buildings are to be renovated using the most sustainable methods currently available. This will be realised through construction of a high insulating greenhouse covering with a k-value of less than 2 Wm-2K-1, passive seasonal storage of excess summer solar energy in the ground by a ground source heat exchanger and exploitation of this low grade solar energy for heating in winter by a heat pump. In winter the heat pump will produce cold water to cool the ground allowing a passive cooling function in summer via the GSHE. It will be demonstrated that a GSHE is an alternative for an open aquifer in regions with no aquifer availability. The heat pump will deliver the heating baseload, the peak load will be delivered by a biomass boiler, fired with locally-sourced low-cost wood chips. It is expected that the energy saving will be about 75%, resulting in a major cost reduction. The low k-value of the covering is linked to a light transmission of 75 %. This is high enough for the demands of the vegetation in The Living Rainforest. Because the inner greenhouse climate demands are comparable to that of ornamentals, the results will be applicable to commercial ornamental production. In future low k-value coverings will also be available with high light transmission, allowing wider application of the results. This paper focuses on the correlation between k-value, light transmission and energy demand in order to investigate the trade-off between light transmittance (a major energy gain) and heat loss. The effects of these design parameters on storage and harvesting capacity are also considered but appear to have a low sensitivity. The renovated greenhouse site at The Living Rainforest will show that new greenhouses and ecology can be linked to sustainability and this will be communicated and demonstrated to the public.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)765-722
    JournalActa Horticulturae
    Issue number801
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

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