West Bloomfield conservatory opens with numerous green features

Sure, every conservatory has plenty of green on the inside -- but landscape firm Planterra has included a slew of green features in its new building.

The new greenhouse, which is selling its inventory to retail customers for the first time in years, has features that range from the high-tech weather station on the roof to simply orienting the building so it faces south to let in light and heat, explains Planterra president Shane Pliska. Facing south allows the building to get by using very little lighting and heating, and having the northwest corner built into the earth shelters it from the elements.

"What this building orientation allows us to do is essentially operate in the middle of the winter, in the middle of the day, without any heat on at all," he says. "The solar heat gain that we can get inside this building is significant."

During the summer, shade curtains and ventilation keep the building cool.  Another feature is recycling both rainwater and runoff water from inside the greenhouse, which goes through the pervious floor into a cistern to be reused. This is not a new technology, Pliska points out, but something farmers used years ago.

A new innovation, however, is a weather station on the roof that controls the vents, shade curtains, and hot water heating, and can adjust to the actual weather statistics outside, instead of trying to control everything from an indoor thermostat. "And, of course, because this is a greenhouse, we have natural light just about everywhere," he says. "We don't even need to use our lights throughout the day."

The new building replaces the old greenhouses that were cobbled together, he says; it's not a square footage increase, but a more efficient use of space. Also, much of the greenhouse was recycled, and some of the wood was used for the interior finishes of the new building.

Pliska, who works at Planterra with the CEO, his mother, Carol, and the chairperson, Larry, his father, calls the new building a "dream facility." Although making the decision to incorporate green technology is good for the planet, he says, in many cases it's practical.

"We do it because it truly make sense to recycle our rainwater," he says. "It's really really good water for our plants, so why wouldn't we want to use that water? For us to have a weather station instead of a thermostat, yes, there's a cost, but at the same time it really makes a lot of sense."

The doors of the $3 million, 23,000-square-foot facility officially open Oct. 5.

Source: Shane Pliska, president of Planterra
Writer: Kristin Lukowski
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