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Mountain Meadow Bioshelter Greenhouse (Flagstaff, Arizona, USA)

Credits: Mountain Meadow Farm

Mountain Meadow Farm’s Bioshelter allows us to not only grow organic foods year-round but also to support plant and animal propagation in an ecological, sustainable manner. Bioshelter: A life shelter; a sustainably built and operated passive-solar ecostructure.

The Bioshelter features several major functional zones:

•A greenhouse with raised soil growing beds, plant benches and potted perennials

•A barn for animals, feed, and equipment storage

•A large root cellar

•A crop / food-processing area with sinks, counters, and refrigeration

•A potting and propagating area (we use our own compost in our potting soils)

•An area for cleaning, dehydrating, and storing herbs, vegetables, and fruits

Animals include chickens and turkeys. Greenhouse pests are controlled by mechanical and natural means.


Mountain Meadow Farm Bioshelter Structure

©2009 Mountain Meadow Farm

 At 6,900 feet on 3 acres in Flagstaff, Arizona, Mountain Meadow Farm produces food and other agricultural products for market using sustainable practices, plus it serves as a demonstration site for our community. We intend to satisfy our needs for a variety of nutritious, delicious foods produced without the use of petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Our farm demonstrates permaculture design principles and strategies; through tours, presentations, workshops, and the media, we share with others what we do and have learned. Chuck McDougal, Mountain Meadow Farm’s owner, designer, and farmer, operates this facility with the help of others who also passionately advocate sustainable agriculture and the pleasure of homegrown food.

» Interior dimensions: 40x40 feet; roof peak at 26 feet
» Total area: 2,600 square feet
» Growing area: 1,340 square feet
» Framework: steel
» Walls: South half, concrete block; north half, straw-bale infill
» Orientation: 10 degrees east of south for optimal solar gain » Glazing: Triple-layer polycarbonate

Capturing and storing heat at the Bioshelter
The Bioshelter applies a passive solar design with abundant thermo-mass and insulation for heat storage. Our indoor winter low on sub-zero nights is typically high 30sº F. Major thermomass (heat sink) and insulating components include:
Heavy concrete / sand-block walls around the greenhouse, along with a gravel floor, raised growing beds and water storage tanks
A straw-bale wall system with post and beam framework covered with stucco, and an concrete for with perimeter insulation for the north half / barn area
A glazing system that uses triple-layer polycarbonate (designed and supplied by Stuppy Greenhouse Supply)

Fresh air enters through vents above the front/south row of windows, through large sliding glass doors in the sidewalls, and from the cool barn area. A ridge-vent exhausts unwanted hot, humid, or stale air. Shading systems cool temperatures as needed; fans circulate the air.

Water and electricity at the Bioshelter
We supplement our water supply using a roof-catch cistern system with a 15,000-gallon capacity, but use mainly city water. In the Bioshelter, for plant watering, we mostly use warmed rainwater applied through a gravity-fed hose or watering can. For landscape watering, we supplement with gray water, which we store in a tank. The Bioshelter’s indoor water-storage tanks have a capacity of 1,300 gallons.

To heat our water, we use a solar system, along with a backup propane on-demand water heater. We run some pumps and fans with photovoltaics, although we currently use mostly city electric. We ultimately plan to meet our electricity needs by photovoltaic systems. Wind generation is prohibited by the large pine trees around the property.