Ditching Traditional Spray Shade & Glass for an All-In-One Acrylic Greenhouse Solution

"When you go in there, it’s a totally different greenhouse than it was before," says Ryan Dempsey, Project Manager at Prospiant, Inc. (formerly Rough Brothers Inc.), as he reflects on the renovation done to a UC Berkeley greenhouse in California.

Dempsey oversaw the project to its completion in early 2021. The greenhouse, last remodeled in 1987, now features 16 mm ACRYLITE® Resist multi-skin light white acrylic sheet - a first of its kind for the Prospiant, Inc. group out west. The greenhouse, measuring 36' wide by 42' long, sits in Berkeley's Botanical Garden, a 34-acre space filled with more than 12,000 different plant species. The structure serves as a museum for visitors to enjoy the numerous plants growing inside.

Investigating new ways to regulate the temperature within the greenhouse

The previous design, originally built in the early 80’s, was constructed using glass panels. For years, a spray shade was added to the glass annually to help regulate the temperature inside the greenhouse and provide shade for these tropical plants. "Sometimes with clear glass, you’ll run into problems where you’re scorching the plants, kind of like a magnifying glass effect," says Dempsey. Spray shade application is typical for conservatories and greenhouses where interior shade systems were not included within the original design, as it provides proper shade for the plants. This method is not as commonly used on production greenhouses however, as they tend to utilize automatic operable interior shade systems. Such systems feature fabric curtains that sit on retention wires below the glazing where they can be opened or closed, depending on the weather, to adjust the amount of light the plants receive. This automated system can be quite expensive, and it detracts from the visual look and feel of the inside of the greenhouse – a typical reason why most museums and botanical garden greenhouses opt for spray shade instead.

Although spray shade is a common method of heat regulation, having to renew the spray shade on the Berkeley greenhouse was a tedious process and left the exterior looking splotchy as it faded overtime. Separately, the glass itself was no longer holding up either. Slipped glass was causing water to infiltrate in certain spots, making this the perfect time to investigate a new solution that was both practical and appealing to the eye.

 

Before photos

The spray shade created an uneven appearance as it wore off overtime. This left the greenhouse looking splotchy and unkempt. The Berkeley team knew they wanted a more cosmetically appealing look for the outside of the greenhouse and turned to the Prospiant team for a solution.

Before photos

The spray shade created an uneven appearance as it wore off overtime. This left the greenhouse looking splotchy and unkempt. The Berkeley team knew they wanted a more cosmetically appealing look for the outside of the greenhouse and turned to the Prospiant team for a solution.

Before photos

The spray shade created an uneven appearance as it wore off overtime. This left the greenhouse looking splotchy and unkempt. The Berkeley team knew they wanted a more cosmetically appealing look for the outside of the greenhouse and turned to the Prospiant team for a solution.

Before photos

The spray shade created an uneven appearance as it wore off overtime. This left the greenhouse looking splotchy and unkempt. The Berkeley team knew they wanted a more cosmetically appealing look for the outside of the greenhouse and turned to the Prospiant team for a solution.

Ditching the spray shade & glass for an all in one acrylic solution

Dempsey, knowing the challenges they were facing, suggested the switch to ACRYLITE® acrylic. At first the plan was to have clear ACRYLITE® Alltop on the bottom portion of the greenhouse and ACRYLITE® Resist multi-skin light white half-way up the walls. However, the Berkeley team knew they wanted a more cosmetically appealing look for the outside of the greenhouse and opted for the light white material throughout the whole structure, which would provide a cleaner, more uniform appearance for visitors.

Prospiant's and Roehm's technical expertise ensure a successful install despite the odds

The requirements in California around structural review and other architectural requirements are one of the hardest in the nation, which made this project a little tougher to navigate at the onset. However, Prospiant's extensive experience in greenhouse design combined with the continuous support of the Technical Experts at Roehm America, helped move the process along. Roehm’s Technical Experts often support customers with detailed project review questions about the structural capabilities, installation methods, and fire performance of ACRYLITE® materials. With both teams navigating the process, they were able to handle the approvals and push the project forward to completion.

Mid construction

The job site consisted of two staging areas. The acrylic also had to be transported down an access road on top a pickup truck!

Mid construction

The job site consisted of two staging areas. The acrylic also had to be transported down an access road on top a pickup truck!

Mid construction

The job site consisted of two staging areas. The acrylic also had to be transported down an access road on top a pickup truck!

Mid construction

The job site consisted of two staging areas. The acrylic also had to be transported down an access road on top a pickup truck!

Mid construction

The job site consisted of two staging areas. Th acrylic also had to be transported down an access road on top a pickup truck!

ACRYLITE® acrylic proves itself with its numerous benefits & stunning results

The switch from glass to ACRYLITE® Resist multi-skin light white acrylic has brought about significant benefits. The acrylic provides an exceptional atmosphere for the plants to thrive; promoting shade in the hot summer months, and a good U-factor during the winter months to hold in the heat. ACRYLITE® Resist also features a No-Drip anti-condensate technology. For the Berkeley greenhouse, this special coating featured on one side of the material, was installed on the interior. This was decided on as condensation build-up, due to the high humidity required for the tropical plants inside, was expected. This water-dispersing layer causes condensation to flow off as a continuous self-cleaning film leaving the interior looking like new even after a significant amount of time.

In addition, this coating has anti-algae properties to prevent growth on the moist interior surface of the greenhouse – a benefit designed to last throughout the lifecycle of the acrylic glazing. Just the mere design of how acrylic glazing is installed compared to glass panels showed to be of benefit as well. Glass panels tend to be small with a lot of aluminum frames that disrupt the flow of water and create collection points for algae growth. ACRYLITE® panels, by contrast, are available in panel lengths up to 36’, for smooth, continuous walls and roofs.

After photos

The ACRYLITE® panels make the greenhouse look like a completely new structure. It is now a sight to see for visitors.

After photos

The ACRYLITE® panels make the greenhouse look like a completely new structure. It is now a sight to see for visitors.

After photos

The ACRYLITE® panels make the greenhouse look like a completely new structure. It is now a sight to see for visitors.

After photos

The ACRYLITE® panels make the greenhouse look like a completely new structure. It is now a sight to see for visitors.

After photos

The ACRYLITE® panels make the greenhouse look like a completely new structure. It is now a sight to see for visitors.

After photos

The ACRYLITE® panels make the greenhouse look like a completely new structure. It is now a sight to see for visitors.

Lastly, the acrylic provides exceptional strength and longevity. "Our 16 mm product offers a high insulating value and is also strong structurally. For example, if you’re dealing with wind loads, you don’t have to put as much support underneath of it. It’s a tough, strong product which allows designers to place less visually obstructing supports across the acrylic panels," says David Morrison, Technical Engineer at Roehm America. This renovation was a success on all fronts and will be a place of botanical enjoyment for visitors for years to come.

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ACRYLITE® Resist multi-skin


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