Passive Solar Greenhouse, Root Cellar and Commercial Kitchen

Passive Solar Greenhouse, Root Cellar and Commercial Kitchen

Here is our latest passive solar greenhouse design. To learn how to design these greenhouses check out:

About Rob Avis and Verge Permaculture:
In less than 10 years, Rob & Michelle Avis left Calgary’s oil fields and retooled his engineering career to help clients and students design integrated systems for shelter, energy, water, waste and food, all while supporting local economy and regenerating the land. He’s now leading the next wave of permaculture education, teaching career-changing professionals to become eco-entrepreneurs with successful regenerative businesses. Learn more and connect with Rob & Michelle at




What do you think?


Written by Aleksandar

Video MakerContent AuthorYears Of Membership


  1. How can I get a copy of your webinar? This design looks great. My house faces north, so the greenhouse would have to face south. Does a greenhouse have to face a certain direction?

  2. crazy. I've designed something very similar to this but instead, my structure will be all halfway buried all around and instead of horizontal, I'm using vertical geothermal cooling tubes, (they take up less space and are more efficient with a small inline fan). another difference is I'm using wind power too as a buffer for cloudy days. and I'm currently studying designs and applications for hydro turbines to apply to my design for a small aquaponic pond that will power the turbines + give support to the greenhouse.

  3. All of my wind comes from the south, so I'm going to build a greenhouse with a large quail hutch on the north side. The quail do not require any heat, just protection from the wind. The compost pile is below the quail hutch where the droppings fall.

  4. Sorry, but it is not going to work:
    1. Greenhouse is facing away from the sun.
    2.Front of the greenhouse has big high wall. It will create too much shade and block too much sunlight/heat.
    3. Slope of your greenhouse roof is to gentle. It needs to be sloped at an angle so that winter sun is hitting it at 90 degree angle. This is to maximize sunlight penetration and heat gain.
    4.Roof is too high. All hot air will go to the highest point of the room and plants will be in cold air. Hot air goes up, cold air falls down. U tried to rectify this by using ventilation tubes, that presumably use electric fans to move hot air back to the bottom of the room. Those tubes go partially underground. Ground will only cool them and you will be turning hot air into cold air. Opposite of what you are trying to do. It will not heat room during winter but cool it.
    5.Since front wall is too high, that means side walls are also too high. Because of this your greenhouse will have maximal exposure to sun only around noon. Rest of the day it will be in shadow of your walls.
    6. Your "earth-tubes" wont work. During winter, you designed it to take sub freezing air from outside of your house and run it underground outside your building. No one does this. Your pipes are too long and they have unnecessary 90 degree angles . Configuration is way off. If you want to store heat/cold, they you must create insulated area around these pipes. Otherwise that stored heat/cold would just dissipate into surrounding ground. It would not be stored.
    7. Greenhouse and kitchen are just one enormous room that is nearly impossible to heat or cool economically.

  5. Has this actually been built and tested over several seasons to prove this theory? I also am having difficulty with the idea of ice for the cellar. If cellars are located deep enough, they do not need the earth tubes to exchange. The soil temp beneath the frost line keeps things from freezing in winter and cool in the summer. Humidity is the issue with cellars. I wouldn't build this unless the one with the "theory" has built it, tested it, and proved it. Proof is in the pudding…

  6. About feedback, you not use the space effective for the greenhouse, its less then 50% of the building.
    Put the Kitchen on top of the cellar. You have to dig a little deeper but you can use 70% for Greenhouse space without any trade off.
    Also you reduce your surface witch leads to less energy losses. It just looks a little more boring than your design.

  7. I'm sorry, but there appears to be something not credible about this concept. Can you really store cold in the ground from Winter to Summer? Here is what I don't get: at around 3:00 you talk about pulling cold air through the buried ducts in the wintertime and pre-heat it for the root cellar, but then at 3:30 you say, "so we'd essentially be storing ice all winter long". This is clearly a contradiction: are you preheating air from the ducts in the winter to heat the greenhouse, or are you creating permafrost around those ducts? If there is ice in the ground around the ducts all winter as you say, you will not be able to heat anything. So this does not make sense at all, much less instill confidence in the overall design.

  8. Great ideas. I would put the fish in an aquaponics operation in the space allotted for the root cellar. Have high value small mouth bass in tanks at the back. Half the space in the front for growing nitrogen fixing duckweed to feed “bait” fish like minows or gold fish for your fish eating bass.

  9. Great resource. Had a potentially semi-smart question concerning the height of the south-facing wall. Your design does include windows in that wall but I am nevertheless wondering about the percentage of your overall greenhouse floor space that will be in the shade due to the height of this wall, especially in winter months. Can you elaborate why you decided to make the south facing wall that high? Cheers

  10. Don’t know if this has been asked, or spoken of, but would there be any issue with mold or condensation in the underground tubes due to temperature differences between the the air and soil?

    Love the entire concept

  11. Great video and research. I understand the need for the course and to make a little money, but I would love to do this on my acreage. Can I get your detailed plan? How? Where? Thanks

  12. You are much further along in your design than i am… I am a designer with a passion with edible landscaping. My long term aim is to inform people and families on how easy it is to add perennial veg/fruit that is both orienimental and edible… No matter the size of your land.. Grass is boring… So grow strawberries… Im in ny zone 5 to 6b.. So i think of the greenhouse as suplimental to extend the season… I love your design…

  13. In winter, the greenhouse will be raised in relation to the kitchen due to the frozen ground and a fissure will form between them ? I mean different foundations

  14. VERY NICE. One comment to the illustration, the outside air tubes may be shown exiting at a lower grade to allow condensation to exit the tubes. Are fans used to drive the incoming air tubes? Maybe a solar chimney could be added as a passive aspect for sunny days along with fans on those cloudy days. Sorry I missed the webinar.

  15. Just watching the webinar right now, and I can't join the chat. Quick question since I also live in Calgary, what glazing to do you recommend to withstand the hail we always get?

  16. very excited for the webinar, greenhouses, esp livable ones like at Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute are a great idea, so am excited to see you guys including a sort of living space in it.



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