What is a Geodesic Greenhouse?

Sara Schmidt

A geodesic greenhouse is a structure normally designed in the form of a dome, and built from polygonal-shaped segments, which evenly distribute light to the plants residing inside. The construction material can vary according to the builder's preferences, ranging from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, to all-natural wood. The spherical building is based on the "geodesic dome" concept, patented by R. Buckminster Fuller.

The flooring in geodesic greenhouse may be made from gravel.
The flooring in geodesic greenhouse may be made from gravel.

Many gardeners favor the geodesic greenhouse design for its aesthetic appeal, as well as its functionality. Like other types of greenhouses, the geodesic model creates a warmer atmosphere, in both the air and the soil that the plants occupy. The geodesic design allows this to occur by trapping light energy and heat within the greenhouse, without allowing the outdoor cold to seep in.

Cheaper greenhouses can be constructed with PVC pipes.
Cheaper greenhouses can be constructed with PVC pipes.

Vinyl is typically used as the covering material of a geodesic greenhouse. A standard frame often consists of galvanized steel tubes arranged in polygonal patterns. Several other materials, however, can also be used for the structure, including PVC pipe, various types of wood, bamboo, or other types of metal. Depending upon the materials used, the greenhouse dome can range from a moderate cost to an expensive one.

When building a geodesic greenhouse, many people opt for a tetrahedron design. This standard outline consists of triangular pieces that not only provide light, but a strong framework for the dome. The flooring of a geodesic greenhouse is often made from treated wood or gravel. Plain dirt is another popular flooring material.

Advantages of a geodesic greenhouse are similar to those of other greenhouses. People who reside in areas with brief growing seasons can extend the lives of their plants. This can mean the difference between being able to grow enough food to feed one's family or not. Unlike other types of greenhouses, a geodesic model can be more economical, since it often requires less building materials.

Lacking the need for support beams or other larger interior support structures, the geodesic shape is also an ideal use of space. It can provide the maximum interior area with minimum materials. Since domes are usually very lightweight, they are also easier to move around a yard, or even to a new location, than a typical greenhouse.

The drawbacks of this class of greenhouse structure include the fact that furnishing a geodesic greenhouse can be a difficult task, given its spherical design. Another disadvantage of a geodesic greenhouse is the lack of builders with knowledge or experience with the structures. Assembling a dome is a fairly simple process, but since most buildings are rectangular or square, many carpenters may not know how to custom build a dome, thus requiring greater research on the part of the builder.

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