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What are the Commercial Greenhouse Construction Costs per Square Foot?

When constructing a commercial greenhouse, the cost is a crucial factor. This is a detailed commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot guide, to help you figure this out.

A commercial greenhouse is used for large-scale farming. It is the preferred method of growing plants for those in the agri-business sector as many are turning their backs on open-field farming.

This is because, unlike open-field farming, greenhouse farming involves growing crops in a controlled environment. Open house farming, on the other hand, is dependent on many unpredictable and uncontrollable factors. This makes it a not-so-stable affair for those who are in farming to make money.

Commercial greenhouses are helping farmers to rake in revenue because the environment is optimized to achieve optimum yield.

That said, constructing a commercial greenhouse is not a walk in the park. It requires a significant financial investment. Below is a breakdown of the commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot and the factors that determine the cost.

greenhouse construction

Commercial Greenhouse Construction Costs per Square Foot

How much does it cost to build a commercial greenhouse?

As mentioned earlier, the scale of investment required to set up a commercial greenhouse is significantly high. This explains why many people are afraid to take the leap and construct one. For those in the dark, this article will help to shed more light on the Nexus commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot.

Before we get down to the actual cost, it is important to understand the various cost considerations involved in the construction of a commercial greenhouse. And, if you also wish to construct one at home, you can check out our greenhouse cost guide for the same.

Cost Factors for a Commercial Greenhouse

Several factors determine the cost of a commercial greenhouse. The good news is that most of these factors can be adjusted to meet your farming, and more importantly, financial needs.

As a result, you will be able to build a greenhouse that fits all your requirements and is within your budget.

1. Size

The rule of thumb is that the bigger the greenhouse, the higher the cost of construction. The size of your commercial greenhouse determines the type and amount of materials to be used. It will also affect the number of accessories and utilities you need such as pipes, fans, and thermostats among others.

Although there is no specification on the standard size, a commercial greenhouse should be at least 20 feet wide and 6,000 square feet. But that is subject to the farmer’s discretion.

Based on the current rates, the cost of constructing a commercial greenhouse can vary greatly. It may anywhere between 5 dollars and 100 dollars for one square foot.  If we extrapolate these figures, a commercial greenhouse big enough for an acre should cost you between $20,000 and $100,000 to construct.

But in case you just want a simple commercial greenhouse that has few utilities, you can construct one for as low as $2 per square foot.

Fortunately, because of the economies of scale, the cost of construction per square meter goes down as the size of the greenhouse increases. You can take advantage of this to build one that will bring you the highest amount of yield possible with the resources you have.

In terms of structure size, commercial greenhouses can be categorized as follows;

  • Small Scale Greenhouses

Small units are usually 6×8 in size and are mostly used for small-scale farming. It is made of simple materials like transparent fabric and plastic. Because of this, it may not be well suited for commercial farming unless you are working on a very tight budget.

The small size also makes it impossible to incorporate the additional utilities necessary for successful commercial farming. The cost of constructing a small-scale greenhouse of this size is extremely low.

  • Mid-Scale Greenhouses

Mid-scale (usually 12×12) greenhouses are ideal for commercial cultivation as they allow farmers to maximize the greenhouse space for optimal production. These units are larger and can accommodate more plants.

They are usually constructed using glass or polycarbonate. The greenhouse is also fitted with important utilities such as plumbing lines and electricity.

  • Large-Scale Greenhouses

Large-scale greenhouses are the most ideal for commercial farming. Apart from the fact that they are very spacious, they are also fitted with sophisticated features and amenities such as drainage systems, automated watering systems, fans, humidifiers, and even pest sprays.

Naturally, commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot for large units are significantly higher but they offer the best environment for commercial cultivation.

See related: 10 Best Greenhouse Kits – Buying Guide

2. Construction Materials

commercial greenhouse construction

One of the biggest expenses when it comes to the building of greenhouses is materials. The quality of the materials you use matters a great deal because that will determine the lifespan of your greenhouse. It will also influence the maintenance costs.

Even if you are on a tight budget, resist the temptation to compromise on the quality of the materials simply because you want a cheap greenhouse. Instead, go for materials that will effectively serve both your functional and financial needs.

Different types of materials are available for both the frame and the covering. They come with different cost implications and also have their own pros and cons as shown below.

Framing

The frame is the backbone of a greenhouse structure. It keeps the greenhouse erect and stable. The framing material should therefore be able to withstand harsh conditions such as high winds, storms, and the scorching sun.

The most commonly used materials for constructing the frame are wood, PVC pipe, or steel.

  • Wood

Wood is relatively cheap and is the most readily available of the three. It offers aesthetic appeal but is not durable.

Wood is easily affected by the high levels of moisture within the greenhouse. As a result, it rots easily. It is also highly susceptible to pest infestations, which is not good for your crops.

Although wood may cost as low as $1 per linear foot, it is not recommended for commercial greenhouses. Also, kindly note that not all types of wood are ideal for the construction of greenhouses.

  • PVC Plastic Pipes

PVC plastic pipes are more durable than wood. They are also cheap and lightweight.  Go for pipes that have UV protection because they last longer. Generally, PVC pipes are relatively economical and might even be cheaper than wood in some instances.

  • Steel

Steel pipes are the best materials for framing commercial greenhouses. They are highly durable and extremely sturdy.

They are also very low-maintenance and can withstand adverse conditions both within and outside the greenhouse.  Steel structures cost between $7 and $12 per square foot.

Wall and Roof Cover

For the cover, you can use materials like polyethylene, fiberglass, or tempered glass. It is important to choose the right materials for the cover otherwise the quality of your crops may be adversely affected.

  •    Polyethylene

Polyethylene is the most affordable covering material on the market. It can cost as little as $0.2 per square foot. However, it wears as quickly and, therefore, the maintenance of the film is tiring. It requires to be hosed down and inspected for punctures frequently.

  • Glass

In terms of effectiveness and durability, glass is better than polyethylene. Unfortunately, it is not ideal for places with adverse weather conditions because it cracks under pressure.  You can buy it at around $2.50 per square foot.

  • Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is the best plastic framing material for commercial greenhouses. Although it is plastic by nature, polycarbonate is far better than glass or polyethylene films. It is more durable, sturdier, and also provides better insulation. An 8×4 sheet of polycarbonate goes for around $55.

Utilities

commercial vegetable greenhouse

Simple greenhouses for hobbyists or small-scale farming don’t need additional features. However, commercial greenhouses need accessories that help to control or maintain the artificial conditions necessary for plants to thrive.

These utilities can significantly drive up commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot. The operating and maintenance costs are bound to be higher as well. Some of the essential but costly utilities include;

  • HVAC Systems

These help in regulating the amount of heat and air within the greenhouse. If your budget allows, you can install the HVAC systems as a single unit. Alternatively, you can break them down into individual elements such as heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning then install them separately.

HVAC systems vary greatly in price depending on their features and capability. They can cost anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $16,000.

If you want to lower the commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot, you can use boilers instead of HVAC systems for the provision of heat. The boilers use natural gas or electricity.

For cooling, use fans. A commercial greenhouse fan can cost approximately $100. You can buy a few depending on the size of the structure per square foot.

  • Lighting

Grow lights in commercial greenhouses are another essential utility and form a significant part of construction costs for a commercial greenhouse. These lights are needed to replicate the open-field conditions necessary for plants to thrive.

Grow lights need to be installed in strategic locations for maximum effectiveness. The cost of each grow light is determined by the amount of power it consumes and the amount of energy it generates.

In addition, some of these lights need specialized fixtures and ballasts. This can also drive up the commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot because of the additional installation expense. One grow light ranges between $30 and $130.

See related: 11 Best Indoor Greenhouse with Lights | Kits to Buy

  • Thermostats and Sensors

You need thermostats and sensors in your commercial greenhouse to monitor and control environmental conditions. You can install either mechanical or electrical thermostats for that purpose.

If you want to keep the commercial greenhouse construction costs per square foot at a minimum, go for mechanical thermostats. They are cheap to buy and install. However, they are not acute.

That is why most commercial greenhouses are fitted with electronic thermostats which are more effective and have superior functionality.

The cheapest electronic thermostat goes for around $600. And the more features it has, the more expensive it is.

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