Passive Solar Greenhouse and Urban Agriculture Social Enterprise


Building on two developing social enterprises (City of Greens and GrowR Schools) this project will continue to develop a Fully Integrated Passive Solar Greenhouse design that can meet the needs of a number of organizations looking to grow their own food. The objective is to create an innovative and integrated design that can solve a number of food production issues at the community, educational and farm production levels and serve as research, education and food production centres to support a developing urban agriculture network in Durham Region and beyond.

By leveraging a number of partnerships already established in the community, this project will take an integrated design and implement it into a number of contexts to immediately support and benefit the needs of organizations in our community. The goal of this project is to build a prototype in collaboration with Durham College that will serve as a model for meeting the needs of these various organizations; from experiential learning environments in schoolyards to community/neighborhood garden projects, to small/medium scale farm operations and viable solutions in food insecure communities.

Passive solar greenhouses use solar and geothermal energy, along with thermal mass and air circulation to heat and cool greenhouse spaces using low energy, low cost and minimally mechanized systems. The glazing and solar aspect of the greenhouse allow for sufficient solar gain. The insulative values of the materials absorb and store heat. The integrated design of the greenhouse takes advantage of natural energy flows to catch and store heat and maintain optimal temperatures for plant growth inside while temperatures outside are below freezing. This allows for year-round growing and greater potential benefits for community projects since there is no off season.

This type of technology already exists and a number of examples around the world are already in operation. This project seeks to build on those examples to design and construct a fully integrated “Field to Fork’ passive solar greenhouse that would include all the elements necessary to grow, harvest, store, process and distribute food all under one roof. The Greenhouse would also feature a dynamic space that could function as a classroom, research, retail, or social space depending on the context. Elements would include:

Seed and Supplies Storage
Potting and Seeding Stations
Germination Room
Growing Area
Washing Station
Post harvest and Storage
Food Processing
Social/Education/Retail Space
Water Catchment Storage

Using lean design principles and cost effective solutions and useful technology, this greenhouse can successfully implement all the elements in an efficient and effective manner, to minimize costs, energy, and space while maximizing production.


As a student at Durham College I have been developing my own social enterprise and urban agriculture farm business. This developing enterprise has already forged a series of local partnerships that could significantly benefit from a passive solar greenhouse and serve as a catalyst for creating a series of community food hubs in the region. I have already partnered with a local farmland owner who has provided use of his land so we can develop an urban agricultural farm and market garden on farmland that would otherwise be lost to urban development. Through Durham College and our Enactus social innovation team we have developed a partnership with the Durham Region Catholic School Board that will see us begin to develop urban gardens/farms with greenhouses on school properties within the region. Working with grassroots organizations like We Grow Food and Durham Integrated Growers I have been building and supporting community and neighborhood garden projects across the city. Recently I have become a board member at the Durham Region Food Policy Council and am hoping to make a difference at the policy level to support urban agriculture and food security initiatives in our region.

My objective is to help change the paradigms surrounding food and farming in our region. Working with these organizations I hope to create a more sustainable, resilient and regenerative food and farming network in our Region. A network that is interconnected from grassroots organizers, through institutional organizations and regional policy makers. A network that can produce healthy, safe and sustainable food, address food security issues, and build better communities. I see these community food hubs with passive solar greenhouses as viable solutions and catalysts for action towards these objectives.

Developing and building a working model of an integrated passive solar greenhouse would be the start of something amazing because it would demonstrate and offer a viable solution for building local self-reliance, resilience and regeneration into our local food networks and community landscapes.

This particular Fully Integrated Passive Solar Greenhouse can:

Create opportunities for students and faculty at Durham College through collaborative design, construction and research among students and the community.

Create opportunities for students at the elementary and high school levels - creating food resilient school yards and experiential learning environments.

Create opportunities for community/neighborhood gardens to grow year-round, addressing food security issues and create entrepreneurial opportunities.

Act as a resilient and functionally integrated farm base for an urban agriculture market garden farm allowing the farm to produce local food year-round in our cold climate.

Be the centerpiece of a developing social enterprise that seeks to address food security issues, and build local self reliance in Durham Region and beyond.

Success Criteria:

(Year 1)
Build the first greenhouse in collaboration with Durham College and the Durham Region Catholic School Board. This will provide opportunities for students and faculty in a variety of programs to collaborate on a building and research project. Then develop an integrated working model for building, maintaining and producing food in the greenhouse that can be implemented in a variety of contexts. Use this model to develop a strategy to leverage these greenhouses as catalysts for social change in the community.

(Year 2)
Implement a greenhouse at already established community/neighborhood garden projects. Educate users on food production and create entrepreneurial opportunities within the community.

Implement a greenhouse at another local elementary or high school to educate students about food production and food security, and empower them to make a difference in their communities.

Implement a greenhouse in an urban agricultural farm context that produces food locally to provide growers with low cost, low energy solutions that make their farms more efficient, resilient and profitable.

Connect these greenhouses and projects into one regional network, to build local self reliance, collaborative partnerships and increase local food production.

(Year 3)
Develop a strategy to build and implement these greenhouses in northern communities and food insecure regions across the province and country.

Measure Success By:

The effectiveness and affordability for community organizations to fund and build a Fully Integrated Passive Solar Greenhouse.
The viability of these greenhouses as solutions for food and farming issues in our community.
The number of greenhouses and garden projects successfully established.
The number of communities and people directly impacted.
The amount of extra food produced locally in each greenhouse throughout the year.
The number of households that each greenhouse feeds and the household savings on food per family per year benefiting from the greenhouses.
The energy and cost savings for farmers/groups who have converted or implemented passive solar greenhouses.
The number of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities created.